Shoes Tell Your Story | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

A jazzy music from the ’30 was filling the air of San Francisco’s street the other day. As I got closer, I recognized the music of Duke Ellington playing from of a boom box sitting on the pavement next to a shoeshine stall. I looked around and suddenly I was catapulted in a different time in a different country.
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Shoeshine(Found on: http://wilmingtonian9.rssing.com)

The colors of the street turned sepia colors and I was a girl in Italy walking together with my father, in a time when men took a great care of their exterior appearance and just like women, men too went into extensive hours of grooming to achieve a polished look. In my vision, shoeshine stalls were at almost every city block, ice cream vendors screamed to have the best ice cream of the entire city and bicyclists filled the streets with only a few cars, but the sound of San Francisco’s cable car returned me to reality. The magic of being in another era lasted a few seconds.

The street shoeshine stalls are disappearing in Italy too, as people find more convenient to polish their shoes at home. However, there is a majority of people in Italy still cleaning their shoes before leaving home. Italian people wear leather shoes more often than tennis shoes and the “dandy” affected look is still very much a high game in Italy. To have dirty shoes is a sign of sloppiness and uncaring to make bella figura, the Italian art of looking good in the eyes of others.

Sciuscia'
(Photo from the film Sciuscia’)

Kids shined shoes of American GIs during WWII out of necessity to make extra money. Italian film-maker Vittorio De Sica took inspiration from this new street activity to produce a film called Sciuscia’, which was the word kids shouted to American soldiers to attract their attention and let them know they were open to shine shoes. It was the way English sounded to them Shoeshine – Sciuscia’. They served only men and continued to these days.

An Italian shoeshine is a colorful street character. The man who wants to shine his shoes will be asked to sit on the high chair while the shoeshine will sing at him some Opera Aria or any well-known pop music, otherwise the two men will start talking about politics and sport, two favorite subjects men talk about in the street with strangers. A shoeshine might not be a highly educated person, but can speak four or more languages easily. At times, I heard them babble in Japanese, Chinese and Arabic, aside from the common European languages they have mastered well and mostly learned in the street from tourists. Rest assured that at the end of his service, the shoes are like brand new and the customer leaves amused.

saphir-shoeshine-starter-kit2

Every home in Italy owns one elegant wooden box with all the necessary items to shine shoes beautifully and if not they have the basic creams and brushes lose in a drawer. I have a cedar box my mother left me and every time I go out the door, I polish my shoes and remember.
Now, it’s September and as every September it’s time to go through my shoes, get rid of the pairs I don’t want anymore and polish all the winter shoes. My shoes are well kept and someone else will have the chance to enjoy them the second time around.

©Shoes-A

Feet are the end of our body and often are not the prettiest part. They support the weight and the beating of the walk. We make them swollen and tired, the least we can do, is to make them look good. Shoes tell the story of who we are and men with polished shoes have my attention! Ciao,
Valentina
Open this link and scroll down the page to find my Fashion Services
https://valentinadesigns.com/services

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val WorkingValentina Cirasola has been a lifetime designer in fashion and interiors. Her extensive knowledge of colors and materials led her in both directions successfully. Vogue Italy and many prominent publications in California featured her work. Among designing and remodeling homes, designing custom-made furniture and writing books, Valentina is now teaching etiquette, table manners, table setting and life style. Check out her latest book Red-A Voyage Into Colors on the subject of colors, available on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Palladian Traveler
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 11:55:49

    Valentina — Nice story. I used to shine my dress shoes regularly, but now I wear mostly tennis shoes and thrown them into the washing machine every now and then. Buona Domenica!

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  2. MisBehaved Woman
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 02:45:13

    The last shoe-shine man in town retired a few years ago so now we have no choice but to shine at home. I cheat…I use one of those sponges that give them a nice shine with just a rub. 😉 The best shine I ever got on a pair of boots was from a street cart across the border in Juarez but well, that’s not a practical trip to make regularly so cheating it is for me!

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    • Valentina Author
      Sep 10, 2013 @ 18:14:55

      Rebecca, I have a couple of Mexican guys near by me who make boots from scratch and repair any shoes. I also think they are the best in the shoes care business. They will disappear soon, as their kids went on to do something else, instead of continuing the art of making shoes their fathers are so proud of.

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