Getting one’s shoes shined used to be a regular occurrence for most men. Back when most workplaces were formal, suits, ties, and business shoes were the daily costume of every working man, from CEO to junior accountant.
After decades of erosion, the very foundation of men’s business dress was on the verge of collapse until reason and style began to slowly regain a foothold in the boardroom. As dressing well makes a comeback so, thank goodness, does the shoe shine stand.
Getting your shine on is not only a welcome, albeit brief, respite in a busy day; it is a practical investment in preserving the longevity of your footwear. Leather shoes are vulnerable creations. Water, salt, dirt, grime, and daily wear all conspire to soak, dry out, and eat away your shoes’ natural defenses. By giving your shoes what they need – a soapy cleaning, polish or crème, and wax – they will pay you back in a glossy shine noticed by women with taste and men with an eye for detail.
In some places where the suit, or at least dressing to some standard of formality never died, the shoeshine remains a pattern of daily life. Washington, D.C., is one of those places. Shoes shine stands can be found in many hotels, restaurants, clubs, and those ubiquitous franchised operations that haunt airports everywhere. There are two shoe shines stands however, that stand out from the crowd. One is the savior of Amtrak commuters and the other buffs the shoes of power.
Washington’s Union Station
In my personal opinion, one of the best shines in D.C. can be found in Union Station, overlooking the Amtrak train gates. The three elevated seats stand high in the rear concourse, roped off in a small square close enough to the gates for travelers to keep an eye on the Acela Express. These guys do such a good job that a number of commuters from New York tell me that they wait until they get to D.C.for a shine! That says something; as Nicholas Antongiavanni points out in recent issue of Classic Style magazine, there are dozens of excellent stands throughout New York.
My second choice for an excellent shine is located just a short stroll away. In the basement of the Russell Senate office building is the United States Senate Hair Care shop. In so many ways this place is a throwback to the classic barber-shop–cum-clubhouse of the 1950’s. With the witty and talented staff working on the heads of senators, house members, Supreme Court justices, and everyday folks, there is almost always someone interesting wandering in or out of the place.
Russel Senate Office Building
The shoe shine stand is tucked up against the hallway which leads to the men and women who sculpt our fearless leaders’ coifs. While the shine itself is excellent, the real the treat is to see who is waiting for a cut or a quick buff of their requisite Brooks Brother’s tasseled loafers.
The best part of all is that it’s open to the public; anyone is welcome. If you want to get a haircut, just make sure to call for an appointment as it can get pretty busy in there.