I walked out of the store, frustrated yet once again. No matter where I went, the salespeople had no idea what I wanted. “Why would you want to put polish on your shoes?” was a common response. When I answered to make them shiny, most just stared at me, although one young woman actually laughed.
“Dude, you’re wearing running shoes. Why would you want them to be shiny?” She asked. I started to answer, but she had already tapped her phone so I simply turned and walked away.
Maybe that’s the reason most men in southwest Florida wear dress shoes that look like they were worn while cutting down invasive pepper trees or wrestling alligators. Men here simply don’t need shiny shoes. I noticed it from my first meeting with the business owners in Port Charlotte over twenty years ago. The men simply didn’t shine their shoes. I interfaced with the county government for a while as well, and noticed the same phenomena. From department heads to county commissioners, shoes were obviously not a conscious choice when dressing for work or meetings. Insurance agents, realtors, even the media people I met wore shoes that appeared to have never been shined. Weather forecasters and news anchors on television, anyone shown standing, wore shoes that looked like they had been worn for a long, long time.
I began to get self-conscious. I quit shining my dress shoes and began leaving them on the back porch in an attempt to “age” them so perhaps no one would notice I wasn’t from around here. It was a new, uncomfortable time for me, having been a fanatic for shined shoes ever since I had been a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol back when I was fifteen. I was a member of our squadron’s drill team, competing in National Drill Competition in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza. Believe me, our shoes shined. They were “spit shined,” a lengthy, tedious process reminiscent of the “waxa on, waxa off” shtick from an adolescent karate movie. I would use all of my mother’s five-day deodorant pads to lock in the fantastic shine once I thought the mirror-glaze would pass inspection, a habit I kept through eight years of serving in the Air Force. I joined the business world after returning home, joining a company famous for its black, wing tip oxfords. My shoes fit right in until I finally retired and moved to Florida’s southwest coast.
The answer of course, was to wear walking shoes, made mostly of colored fabric with rubber soles. I decided once I quit wearing a tie, I would dress down permanently. “Casual Friday” would be my standard for years. But then, maybe my decision was subliminal actualization. Maybe, somehow, I instinctively knew they don’t sell shoe polish here.
My old, brown loafers will just have to wait until I find some of that strange stuff on Amazon. I hope it gets here before we go out of town.