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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Shoe Shine Boy: Cultural Icon and modern Cinderella

Shining shoes was a respectable urban living in the past and gave many successful business types their first foot hold on the corporate ladder. Such notables as pilitico’s, presidents and past presidents , Malcolm X, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil) and Alejandro Toledo (Peru). Musicians, James Brown , Paraguayan composer José Asunción Flores, and influencial Ethopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed. Other notables include, African American film maker Oscar Micheaux, professional golfer, Lee Trevino and motivational speaker Dr Adolph Brown III . By far the most controversial shoe shine boy was Dick Rowland, who innocently was the catalist of the 1921, Tulsa Race Riot.
Before the Depression, no bustling city street in the US was complete without fleets of shoe shine boys armed with their homemade wooden shoeshine box, cheap black and brown shoe polish and old cotton rags, all in an eternal quest for nickels and dimes. Shoe Shinning parlors were commonplace in CBDs all over North America, opened for business from early in the morning until very late at night. After the Second World War the enterprising business went into steep decline but personned, shoe-shine stations can still be found in main airports and big city underground garages etc. Shoe shine boys still operate in many parts of the world including South America, Africa, India and other parts of Asia. Many street children use shoeshining as their only means of income but care is always required because some are petty criminals in disguise.
Many of the street urchin shoe shine boys are pray to extortion and need to bribe officials to keep access to prime spots. Railways tender different stretches to shoe shine agencies who then supply “official shoe shiners. ” They may be charged extra day rent by the Railway and need to pay for the privilege of working as an agency shoe shine boy. Many take loans from moneylenders to pay contractors and become desperate to work. Shoe shining has become a modern metaphor for ‘rags to riches’ and is featured in popular culture from around the world. Doug Stumpf’s novel, Confessions of a Wall Street Shoeshine Boy, follows the adventures and observation of the humble immigrant shoe shine boy who is privy to shady workings of the share market. The best known is the fictional life of a Mumbai, shoe shine boys, in
Yash Chopra‘s movie
Deewar (1979), starring Amitabh Bachchan. But there are others including; Shoe Shine Boy (1943), Italian film, Shoeshine (Sciuscià) (1946), the Hindi film Boot Polish (1954), and El Bolero de Raquel (1956) a film from Mexico. Crooners, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra have both recorded Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy, and Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty sang Shoe Shine Boy when they performed as the Humbelbums . Next to the recording studio used by Fats Domino in the fifties was a shoe shine parlour and the big man had to squeeze past as he entered and exited the building. Clearly this subconsciously influenced his thinking and singing because he had more hit songs about walking than any other artist. The concept of the respectable shoe shin boy as an asset highly prized by their customers (and society) has become a strong metaphor suffice in western street talk, ‘shoe shine boyz’ is a term of endearment referring to all young men and women who take personal pride in whatever job they do, regardless of how humbling the experience. Shoe Shine Boyz is a recording label and clothing line which encourages young people to be all they can be. Shoe Shine Records is an independent record label in the UK.

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