Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On the Street….Shoeshine, Buenos Aires

I watched this typical “street shoeshine” scene from my car while we drove to an appointment in Buenos Aires.

Nothing particularly special…until!…the shine administrator wrapped a plastic cuff around the left sock of the client to protect the client’s sock from the shoe polish.

So thoughtful!

This might be common practice in some communities but I, personally, have never seen that maneuver.

Recently there has been a big, bordering on huge, trend towards old school barber shops opening in New York City. I would love to see an equal re-emergence of shoe shine stands. Maybe they should be inside the barber shops (hint, hint). I mean, I’m doing nothing but looking at old magazines while I wait for my turn anyway, why not get a shine!


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    November 3, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Great photo! I Love shoeshine stands!

  2. Lucas Oman

    November 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Interesting you mention shoe shine stands in barber shops; right in downtown Savannah–on Bull near Broughton–is a small, old-style barber shop with an old shoe shine guy who has become a fixture. It's a shame you didn't notice him when you were here; he has a classic, Black Savannian style and a fascinating face.

  3. Patricia L

    November 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    haha!! so the one that we have here in GRAN VIA (madrid) is lying huh? he says… EL MEJOR LIMPIADOR xD they all should be like him!!

    mee :)

  4. Damian

    November 3, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Take the subway or an airplane and you will still see plenty of shoeshines.

  5. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Yes! And a manicure, neck and shoulder massage and light lunch, haha.

  6. Filipa

    November 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Hello, in Oporto (Portugal) we still have some "street shoeshine", nowadays there are only a few, but I know that they use the same plastic cuff around the socks

    Really interesting blog, I follow every day


  7. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    I am 23 and love to have my shoes polished. Airports are usually the spot for me, but always keep my eyes peeled for a nice spot on the street. The plastic cuff for protecting socks (and pants too) is nothing out of the ordinary. I'd say it depends on the quality of polisher – if he has quality materials & equipment, etc., expect the cuff.

  8. Cecille

    November 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    i didn't belive it still existed shoes polish man!

  9. Sheila

    November 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I would really like to travel there :)

    Check my blog, I have written about you! :)

  10. Amalia

    November 3, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I'm back in the 30's now :) How cool this still is a service…much cooler than people using their children to beg for money…

  11. The Prestige

    November 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    What a cool picture. Stuff like this makes a community/city special.

  12. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    If you look, you can find plenty of shoe-shine stands in NYC, especially near the courthouses.

  13. Jon Plummer

    November 3, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Whenever I would get a shine in San Francisco, the gentlemen doing the shining would slip a couple of playing cards between my shoe and sock. It seemed to do the trick.

  14. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Totally agree, these old practises are so full of charm… and useful! (I love the idea you had to photograph people on the streets for their style. It's brilliant!)

  15. Brad

    November 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Really? Are you kidding me? This guy is getting his black tennis shoes polished? Real sartorial.

    Also, the sock protection is pretty standard.

  16. John

    November 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Here here for more shoeshine stands outside of airports and some hotels. I am relagated to going to the nearby Nordstroms for a shine. Good work but there needs to be more.

  17. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    It is very courteous…especially when someone is stopping to have their sneakers polished. :-)

  18. tiffany.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    LOVE the colors!! :))


  19. Susana

    November 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    In Portugal this kind of practice is very common, including the protection of the sock.

    Your blog is fascinating!!

  20. Aliona

    November 3, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    What's truly striking about this photo is that he is getting his SNEAKERS shined. What a fastidious gentleman.

  21. jimjims

    November 3, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    man, this guy is working hard!

    love how there are shoe polish guys at almost every corner of those busy streets in BA.

    must have been a trek driving a car through the city. the thought never even passed my mind when i lived there.

  22. Rachael

    November 3, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I agree! Love the picture too!

    I ‚ô• Buenos Aires!

  23. marijn.'

    November 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    This is beautiful, but still painful for my heart..

  24. VOZnewyork

    November 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Warm comments… It is so nice to see any workers in any positions who give respects to clients and who do skillful jobs in an old fashioned way. You can feel the passion…

  25. christina

    November 3, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    V interesting post xxx

  26. Kate

    November 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    very thoughtful!!!
    amazing picture.

  27. Serena P.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:18 pm


  28. Catherine

    November 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    There are shoe shine stands in Grand Central. And some shoe repair stores in the city even have the raised up shoe shine chairs inside the shop. I know my shoe repair guy in Astoria has one that I always admire.

    Sadly, I don't think it's common practice for women to use shoeshine stands . . . a little unladylike I suppose.

    - Catherine at Littlehouse of Style

  29. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I like the idea that the shine administrator managed to use some old coca-cola case for the customer's other foot to rest on. This photo says a lot about daily life.

  30. pili

    November 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    In Lisbon you can see them everywhere and they also use the sock protection.

  31. Editors at Style Section LA

    November 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    love how he is getting his black sneakers shined! too funny.

  32. RenaissanceWoman

    November 3, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I totally agree about shoe shines in the barber shop. Hmm…

  33. - GraceCarolina

    November 3, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I'm South American and these shoe-shining stands are very common. I love how a country such as Buenos Aires remains so authentic…it's the city version of a vintage store.

  34. La c√°mara l√ļcida

    November 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    this is my city! and i become you're fan!


  35. P

    November 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I love how he is getting black runners polished. That has class.

  36. tamara

    November 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Maybe my sense is wrong, but I always feel quite uncomfortable about the class discrepancy and weird servile dynamic of getting one's shoes shined. I'm a woman and as another commenter noted, women don't seem to get their shoes shined, but even if they did, I don't think I'd feel comfortable receiving one.

    Great photo, though, as always.

  37. Paula

    November 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I love this post! Especially because it has some words, beyond the picture…

    Thank you S.!!!

  38. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    wonderful !

  39. Antonella

    November 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Mexico City has the best shoe shiners in the world. The other day my friend @ErickIslas was walking on the street with this adorable pair of brown shoes when this super stylish 'bolero' stopped him, kneeled down, pulled his box-stand up front and started shining Erick's shoe. Out-of-nowhere. He goes 'look at the way you've got your shoe, sir.' Shaking his head in disapproval, expressing a serious concern with this gentleman's look. How about that kind of treat?

  40. Istanbulboy

    November 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I see this kind of scene in Istanbul everyday. And here they look so wonderful in their traditional uniform and the still beautifully old-fashioned tools. The good old days from the good old world…


  41. athena

    November 3, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    ¬°love your work!
    you are the best, honestly..
    i mean, you delight me everyday with every picture you take.

    kisses, from capital federal!

  42. Vivian

    November 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    In Sydney's strand arcade they have a stand for shoe shiners, and they wear uniform !

  43. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Get the cool… get the cool shoeshine!

  44. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I knew a wonderful man named Milton that did old school shoe shine in Portland for years at hotels. I always wondered why more people didnt do it. He told me that it used to be common but people today feel like it is cruel or demeaning to have another person shine their shoes.

    So everyone who hesitates – go get your shoes shined, enjoy it, & tip well! ;)

  45. a Broad

    November 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    They do so many things in charming "old fashioned " ways here ( Buenos Aires).. The way tailors fit you when you need alterations, the way shoemakers repair things, down to the way they wash the sidewalks early every morning ..
    I remember Nordstroms in the US used to have a shoe shine man in the mens shoe dept.

  46. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    this concept exists in NYC check it out here –

  47. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    What I find interesting is that the sneakers look like the K-Swiss ones that I am wearing now.

  48. Ronisha

    November 3, 2010 at 7:48 pm

  49. Ronisha

    November 3, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I remember seeing this when I was a little girl :)

  50. JUMZA

    November 3, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I live in Argentina, and its really common to see shoe shine stands that make the same thing, they really have thought their business through!

    Most of them are on the streets, but i¬īve seen one in a mall too.. while we buy, men get their shine!

  51. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    they also do that in mexico! i never had tought of it before, i guess i had just taken it for granted…

    but how do they manage wothout it?

  52. Maryanne

    November 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    have seen shoe shiners in penn station at the shoe repair shop.

  53. UESman

    November 3, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Totally agree. I'd love it if Paul Mole got some well-trained shoe-shiners. Certainly would make for a full experience: cut, shave, shoeshine. Very rejuvenating, powerful stuff indeed!

  54. James

    November 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    I agree, in Australia people are starting to understand quality in footwear and one shop in particular has embraced that. The Cloakroom in Brisbane offers shoe shine services as well as making made to measure suiting and shirting!!

  55. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Get the cool… get the cool shoeshine!

    wonderful ¬°¬°¬°¬°¬°¬°
    kisssses from Palermo C.F

  56. Mom

    November 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Here in Brazil the "shiners" do the same way.

  57. Click on Styles

    November 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Great pic!! in Uruguay, my country, there are many "street shoeshiners"…we are "old fashioned" in the Rio de la Plata!!
    did you take photos of street styles in Buenos Aires?? I love the pics you posted of the city!!!

  58. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 10:42 pm


  59. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 10:43 pm


  60. Anonymous

    November 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I'm in Michigan right now and we have an amazing place called the Gentleman's Choice, an old style barber shop with an in-house shoe-shine stand. Unbeatable.

  61. Mens Style 101

    November 4, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Got one of my first old fashion shoe shines this weekend. Something I will be doing far more often.

  62. arshad

    November 4, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Hi its really very nice blog,very useful information..Mobiles

  63. diana kang

    November 4, 2010 at 2:12 am

    I was born and raised in Buenos Aires! This post is lovely. Thank you!

  64. f.

    November 4, 2010 at 3:37 am

    in portugal, we still see a lot of this.

  65. Anonymous

    November 4, 2010 at 6:03 am

    Dear Scott
    Have ever had yours shoes polish in Brazil… when they start polish promply with a cloth …you can hear a swing sound like samba!A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

  66. Anonymous

    November 4, 2010 at 6:05 am

    If you really liked this you should come to Portugal.
    Here's lots of uncommon things as you said.

  67. 82Brute

    November 4, 2010 at 7:35 am

    The idea of a shoeshine in a barber shop is brilliant. I've always thought it would be nice to have a foot massage while getting a haircut, but I'm not sure I could work myself up to that much entitlement.


    November 4, 2010 at 8:20 am

    absolutely love this pic…very street

  69. FH

    November 4, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Great situation ;-)

  70. carl

    November 4, 2010 at 8:46 am

    sure the idea ideaof shoe shines around barbers and subway stations is great.
    the "leather"(esp. the sneaker type) used for ordinary shoes is coated with resin-laquer that will not allow wax to osmote into the materials surface..
    only the handmade ones allow that.
    former employees of lehmans no in the polishing business should carry hand soap and sponge and soft teeshirt material+nano shine for car detailing to shine modern shoes.

  71. Christal Coração

    November 4, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Great idea. Here in D√ľsseldorf (Germany) I know one or two shoeshine. They are traditional and also wrap something around the socks.
    Great Picture!

  72. fern

    November 4, 2010 at 9:52 am

    romantic and useful both, but in nyc barber shops? who would pay a decent wage to have a shoeshiner….

  73. Anonymous

    November 4, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I love you Scott. You keep romance alive.

  74. joseph / jaime (creadores)

    November 4, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    in mexico city, its a big big practice…. i will send you a couple of classic corners were they do it.
    they always give a newspaper and offer you a cigarette.

  75. Anonymous

    November 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks for keeping the romance alive, Scott! So many insightful little acts of measure across the world that we can put into practice here in America – hopefully!

    - Vanessa

  76. Anonymous

    November 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I'm getting my shoes (Mr.Hare shoes!)polished once a week at the Burlington arcade, London and I enjoy every second of it. Takes you back in time!

  77. Anonymous

    November 4, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    I love this idea. I used to shine my own shoes regularily once a week to keep them in good trim. Back in my '20's. Now, I don't have time, but I love the look of shoes that are well-maintained.

  78. Anonymous

    November 4, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    They use them in Spain and Mexico.

  79. Autilia Antonucci

    November 4, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    your pictures are truly inspiring !

  80. ceci

    November 4, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I can t believe you were in Buenos AIres! Mi city! I always dream that you find me on the street en shoot me with your camera!!! When i was in Florence thaught it could happen, but my tourist-like look wouldn t catch your attention.

  81. Anonymous

    November 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm


  82. Sol

    November 4, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    This picture makes me love my city even more (if possible). Old school charm! I see them everyday, they're in every corner in the Courts/Law firms area!!!

    And he's getting his sneakers polished! never seen that! amazing!

  83. dotLIGHTdot

    November 4, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    how come you didn't even mention the guy's not even gettins his SHOES done.. they are sneakers!!! leather sneakers, that's all!!

    i grew up and live here in buenos aires, and this is so common to be seen.. there's a stand INSIDE a very luxurious mall, "galerias pacifico"

    you should've get your shoes done while here!!

    well, maybe next time =)

  84. Anonymous

    November 5, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I agree that shoe-shining stands should make a comeback, but it's a practice best left to those wearing dress shoes. Shining sneakers is a bit tacky and obsessive.

  85. holliegeorgiax

    November 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    lovely image, very nostalgic, i love it.

  86. Anonymous

    November 6, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I was just writing earlier this week about how i would love to see some of the pictures you would take in Buenos Aires. I love some of the fashion trends here! Bs As is stuck in the 80's!
    Did you maybe take this on Lavalle or Florida?
    Post more pics of Bs As!


  87. Anonymous

    November 6, 2010 at 2:36 am

    There's a show shine in Trim Salon in Nashville, TN on the guys side. You should visit!

  88. Yosi

    November 6, 2010 at 8:18 am

    In Dominican Republic u can find them every morning in any public park, ready for anyone. But the idea shoe shine mix with old school barber sounds pretty good. Greeting from Barcelona!!!

  89. Anonymous

    November 6, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    The "King" at Fader's Cigar shop in Baltimore used to protect your sock…best shoeshine I ever had. Cigar, the paper and a shine. Heaven.

  90. Anonymous

    November 7, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    It's so interesting to see how something shoe shining can still be done in these modern times.

  91. Ariane

    November 7, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    this man is so full of charm… BsAs too…

  92. kelly

    November 7, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    I've lived in BA for 5 years and to date the best shoe shines I've even received are from here- courteous, attentive, professional, friendly. I don't agree with the comment made that "it breaks her heart." Why? Just because you don't want to shine shoes, it makes it a bad job? In my experience the men who shine shoes here are proud of the work they do, as it is often a tradition in the family. And secondly, as this photo proves (they are just sneakers), there is often very little or no class difference between the customer and the shoe shiner- it isn't and shouldn't be an uncomfortable situation.
    Beautiful photo. I'd love to see more from BA!

  93. Anonymous

    November 7, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    love to see you came to Buenos Aires. I live there ! hope you enjoyed ur stay. xoxo

  94. Annie de E.

    November 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I can't believe you were in Buenos Aires!! And no other pics? I thought you would find interesting styles around, let us risk, San Telmo.

    Our shoe-shiners are very thoughtful indeed.

  95. Annie de E.

    November 8, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    By the way, in Buenos Aires we call them "lustra-botas" (boot polishers)

    Some poeple take more tan one pair at a time to collect them later, al shining as new.

  96. Anonymous

    November 8, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Just like you, I was quite surprise to see this kind of activity in Buenos Aires. One day I was at the 9 de Julio Subte station and I saw in one of the halls, a place where they cut your hair and shine your shoes at the same time. It was unbelievable and very cute to see.

    I finished my time with a beautiful tango show that an Argentine friend recommended me. It was an outstanding Tango Dinner Show at Esquina Carlos Gardel that I book trough it was such an incredible experience that allowed me to know more about Buenos Aires culture and traditions.

  97. theshopwindow

    November 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    That plastic … is a very common practice in M√©xico. Great shot!

  98. Fede

    November 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Magic B.A.

    I love my city and thank u for visit us.

    Tango, "limpia botas", boca and love!

  99. Tiger Fodder

    November 10, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    The practice is common in my native Colombia, as well.

  100. joho257

    November 11, 2010 at 11:32 am

    One reason I like getting my shoes shined at airports is that most of them use the plastic sock guards. So simple and so effective.

  101. Fashistanbuller

    November 12, 2010 at 3:55 am

    When I look at this photograph, the first thing I notice is how the difference of socio-economical status reflects on our bodies. I don't feel that it is a coincidence that the customer is a well-fed gentleman and the polisher is a tiny man.

    I'm just trying to say that this picture speaks many more 1000s of words than it looks. More than thoughtfulness, more than fashion…just more.

  102. Readmagazines

    November 12, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Classic! What a cultural photo

  103. Anonymous

    November 14, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    POR FAVOR give us more pictures from Buenos Aires~~ Europe and NYC are great, but I'd love to see looks from the global south!

  104. oliver Prout

    November 15, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Is it me or is that old guy the guy who owns Harrods. What confuses me even more is that he appears to be wearing trainers.

    fashion photography

  105. nahual

    November 15, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    This practise has nothing special! In Mexico it's very common.

  106. pumpkin kid

    November 19, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I'm from Mexico and I have never seen a shoe-shiner who doesn't do that. It's part of the process.

  107. Marcia

    November 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    We have the same in Brazil. And they also have the sock protection stuff.

  108. Anonymous

    January 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    In NY, there are a few barber shops with shoe shine boys. Check out the barber shop on E41 between Park and Lex, or on E27th between Park and Lex. Super hot. Also, new shoe shine place in the Met Life building above Grand Central has a shoe shine/barber shop in the lobby. You should check out the Hurricane Club — get a shoe shine while you are having a mojito!

  109. Birds in the Garage

    January 14, 2011 at 4:16 am

    I love the politics in this photo.

    The two men is wearing the same outfits. The roles might been switched.

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