Spit-shining Shoes                    
                                "Ah, yes, I remember it well…."  :)   
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By Bill Bahr, U.S.M.A. '69,  Best Of The Line

First find a suitable work area, preferably a desk, and lay out some newspaper to avoid accidents. 

Next, prepare your hands and fingernails.  Rub your hands lightly with hand lotion. Take a bar of soap and run the fingernails of your polishing hand over the bar, so as to accumulate soap and prevent polish from later getting under your nails.  Some will prefer not to do this in the belief that the hand lotion and/or soap will possibly affect the polishing cloth and interact with the polish, thus reducing the shine.  If this is the case, consider using thin, latex-rubber gloves.  Obviously, if  you're not worried about staining your hands, just omit this step.

Then grab a piece of soft cloth from a sheet, t-shirt, or washed diaper about twelve inches by twelve inches (or larger).  Fold the cloth in two.  Pick up the cloth, holding it from underneath by your first two or three fingers.  With your other hand, grab the cloth from underneath tight around your polishing fingers, giving it a twist.  Then, while rotating your hand, bring the tail of the cloth over the top of your polishing hand and grab it between your thumb and the rest of your fingers.  You will thus be left with a nice smooth surface under fingers 1-3 with which to polish.

Dip the cloth into polish, then dab polish onto the toes of the shoes or boots.  Some folks let the first application dry for about five minutes or so (some do this is in sun or under a little heat (radiator, hairdryer, or heatgun) so that the polish is slightly soft). Then remove the polish with the cloth (DON'T use a brush on the toes!).  Then dab polish onto the shoes again.  This time continuously work it in, in a circular motion, adding more polish as necessary.  Every once in a while, dip the end of the cloth into water (you can put a little into the lid of the polish can).  This will hopefully encourage the polish to stick to the leather instead of the cloth.  On each successive application, use less and less of both polish and force so as not to dissolve or rub away the layer(s) of polish you have built up.  On the final pass, you may want to use cotton balls dipped in a little water to give your shoes a mirror shine.  Obviously, you will need to repeat this process quite a few times to get results you and your cadre will be happy with.  Realistically, this may take several hours per shoe/boot.

Note:  My son Chris Bahr '07 uses a light coat of neutral polish for the final layer.  Others, for the final layer, occasionally breathe heavily onto the shoes/boots while still others actually use spit (hence the name "spit-shine").  For other spit-shine ideas, you can checkout www.cadetstuff.org (which includes pictures), http://usmilitary.about.com, www.bahrnoproducts.com, and other websites.  I would strongly advise against any "instant shine" efforts.  Not only is it likely that your military superiors will quickly detect them, but they may they actually damage your shoes/boots.

Bill Bahr
U.S.M.A. '69, Best Of The Line….  : )
Copyright 2004-17

P.S.  One day during a Beast Barracks Saturday AM Inspection at West Point, I had the reluctant pleasure of having Colonel Alexander Haig (later General and Secretary of State) inspect my rifle.  He said it was the best he'd seen all day!  That was good, because my shoes at the time weren't all that great.  Though you can't easily see my much improved shoes in the following picture, taken right after plebe year while visiting my dad with his military counterparts in Korea, check out my belt buckle!   :) 

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