Times have changed for Chattanooga shoeshine boys since the release of the hit 1950 song "Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy."
For starters, Jacob Meyer isn’t a boy and, though pleasant enough, is not a "bundle of joy."
Instead of setting up his stand at "Fourth and Grand," Meyer does his shining inside Burns Tobacconist at 723 Cherry St.
His new company is Dapper Sole (get it?), and his services include a luxurious personal shine atop an antique stand or a drop-off service for patrons on the go. Having only been in operation for a single week, Meyer has already seen a steady increase in customers for his service, especially with the business clientele frequenting the luxury cigar boutique.
Sammy Sosa, James Brown and Malcolm X all worked as shoeshiners before achieving success.
Meyer takes his job seriously and hopes to capitalize on the nostalgia of a traditional shoeshine.
"Shoeshining, in particular, is something that requires meticulous attention to detail," he said. "It really is an art form because you’re juggling so many different things at one time."
Far more than just a spit and polish of the shoe, Meyer said the experience of a Dapper Sole shoeshine is a luxurious and therapeutic experience.
He enjoys offering a service where individuals (not just men) can relax, smoke a cigar and read a book. But he also seeks to promote the importance of regular shoe care, especially for high-quality leather shoes.
"A regular cleaning and shine accomplishes the task of nurturing the shoes and lengthening the overall lifespan," he said. "But it also gives the customer a definite sense of pride and ownership that will carry into their daily lives."
It's all about the shine.
Meyer said the difference between a home shine and a Dapper Sole shine is about ergonomics.
"I don’t know if you’ve ever sat at home and shined your own shoes, but it can be rough on the back," he said. "Instead of curling over a shoe, the shoeshine stand puts you in a position of relaxation. You’re not hurting your back, and it’s not too bad for us to do it."
Meyer enjoys working with his hands and anything involving fine attention to detail, which are necessary attributes for a professional shoeshiner.
The technology of a shoeshine hasn’t changed much throughout the years, and the price is affordable. The process takes about 10 minutes for a "premium" shine. A more luxurious, detailed "deluxe" shine is available. Prices are $7-$13, depending on the size of the shoe and the length of the shine.
Meyer will first invite guests to ascend the antique shoe stand. Two shoe legs lock the shoes into place.
"That’s kind of your first indications that this is an experience," he said. "You have a place to put your feet. It almost glorifies it. You’re putting the shoes you wear that collect dirt on a sort of pedestal."
Once secured, Meyer will go to work cleaning the shoe, brushing away any visible debris. He will then select the appropriate cream and polish, depending on the color of the shoe.
Meyer hopes to add a number of cream and polish options to his arsenal in the coming weeks.
Once cleaned, polish is applied to the shoe and then left to "set," according to Meyer. He rotates between shoes to keep the process moving.
The real grunt work starts once the polish has dried. An "off brush" is used in quick, lateral motions to scrub loose the polish and build heat.
"There’s still a learning curve with this," he said. "Shoes with more scuffs are going to be more difficult to get a polish on."
The final step involves a nylon sock to "buff" the leather to a fine, glossy shine.
Meyer said he gets great satisfaction from a job well done.
"[Shoeshining] reminds us of an older, sharper time," he said. "It’s about continually trying to uphold your experience."
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