(Redirected from Shoe shiner)

Shoeshiner or boot polisher is an occupation in which a person cleans and buffs shoes and then applies a waxy paste to give a shiny appearance and a protective coating. They are often known as shoeshine boys because the job was traditionally done by a male child. Other synonyms are bootblack and shoeblack. While the role is denigrated in much of Western civilization, shining shoes is an important source of income for many children and families throughout the world. Some shoeshiners offer extra services, such as shoe repairs and general tailoring. Some well-known people started their working life as shoeshiners, including singers and presidents.

A boot polisher on a railway platform in Mumbai, India.


The earliest reliably dated photograph of a person, taken in spring 1838 by Daguerre, shows a person getting a shoeshine.

Very large households in Victorian England sometimes included a young male servant called the Boot Boy, specializing in the care of footwear. Hotel staff for this function were commonly called The Boots. (A Boots was one of the crew in The Hunting of the Snark.) Branded shoe polish appeared early in the 19th century: Charles Dickens was employed at age 12 in Warren's Blacking Factory in London in 1824.[1] Since the late 19th century shoeshine boys plied their trade on the streets, and were common in British cities. The earliest known daguerreotype (photograph) of a human, View of the Boulevard du Temple, features a man having his shoes shined in the lower corner of the print.[2] Though the image shows Paris' busy Boulevard du Temple, the long exposure time (about ten or twelve minutes) meant that moving traffic cannot be seen; however, the two men at lower left (one apparently having his boots polished by the other) remained still long enough to be distinctly visible. Shoe shine posts were common in public places like railway stations throughout the 20th century, as featured in Fred Astaire's dance number A Shine on your Shoes [3]

(video) A shoeshiner in Japan, 2016
The Independent Shoe-Black by John Thomson, 1877.
Shoeshiner at work in Tepotzotlan, Mexico.
Shoeshiner at work in Porto, Portugal
Shoeshiner in Istanbul, Turkey
Shoeshiner at work in Havana, Cuba, 2014

Modern professionEdit

The profession is common in many countries around the world, with the revenue earned by the shoeshiner being a significant proportion of a family income, particularly when the father of the family has died or can no longer work.[4] In Afghanistan some children will work after school and can earn 100 Afghanis (around £1) each day.[5] Many street children use shoeshining as their only means of income.

Some cities require shoeshiners to acquire licences in order to work legally. In August 2007 shoeshiners in Mumbai, India were told that they could no longer work on the railway stations due to "financial irregularities". Every Shoeshine Association was asked to reapply for their license, with many worried that they would lose out to a rival.[6]

Famous shoeshinersEdit

Several high-profile figures worked as shoeshiners at one point of their lives:

Portrayal in popular cultureEdit

Shoeshiners have featured in:

Film and televisionEdit

Literature and publicationsEdit

The actor W. J. Hammond as Sam Weller blacking boots (1837)


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Christopher Hibbert, The Making of Charles Dickens (1962), chap. 2.
  2. ^ Easby, Rebecca Jeffrey. "Daguerre's Paris Boulevard". Retrieved 8 January 2014.
  3. ^ The Band Wagon (1953)
  4. ^ HASCO. "Poverty forces Afghan children to quit school to work". Accessed 20 August 2007.
  5. ^ BBC News. "Photo journal: Kabul's street children". Accessed 20 August 2007.
  6. ^ Yahoo! News India. 6 August 2007. "Mumbai plans to 'polish' off its shoeshine boys[permanent dead link]". Accessed 20 August 2007.
  7. ^ Cartwright, Garth. BBC News. 2007. "Mahmoud Ahmed". Accessed 20 August 2007.
  8. ^ Rogers, Richard. WRDW. 25 December 2006. "James Brown: Legend, believer, Augusta son". Accessed 24 August 2007.
  9. ^ Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau. "James Brown Boulevard Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine". Accessed 24 August 2007.
  10. ^ Smith, Rodney. BBC News. 13 January 2003. "Brazil braces for testing times". Accessed 20 August 2007.
  11. ^ BBC News. 8 April 2001. "Toledo: Shoeshine boy turned economist". Accessed 20 August 2007.
  12. ^ Cooper, Kenneth J. The Boston-Bay State Banner. 16 February 2006. "February 021606-03.htm Malcolm: The Boston years[permanent dead link]". Accessed 24 August 2007.
  13. ^ SparkNotes. "SparkNotes: The Autobiography of Malcolm X". Accessed 24 August 2007.
  14. ^ Copley News Service. Three Democrats battle for party's nomination for governor. March 9, 2002.
  15. ^ Congressional Record, V. 144, Pt. 14, September 9 to September 21, 1998
  16. ^ Preminuo čika Mišo,legenda Sarajeva
  17. ^ Petrie, Juliette (1977). Quand on revoit tout ça! : [Le burlesque au Québec, 1914-1960] (in French). Jean Leclerc. [Montréal]: [Productions Vieux rêves]. ISBN 0-88604-006-X. OCLC 6144424.
  18. ^ Allan May. "The Lufthansa Heist Revisited: The End of Tommy DeSimone". TruCrimeLibrary. Retrieved 12 December 2010.

External linksEdit