I sucked at shining my boots when it mattered most — during my time as a cadet at a local public police academy. I was a complete failure at putting a proper gleam on my boots, and I paid the price at inspections in getting yelled at and doing pushups.
Since then in the course of my present employment my results have improved. Given how bad I was before, I’d say they’ve improved a staggering amount. By no means am I saying I’m the best. I’m just saying I’m far more satisfied with the endgame than I’ve ever been. Shame I couldn’t have figured this out when it counted.
My tools: Latex gloves. Saddlesoap. Angelus Polish. Heat gun. Kiwi Parade Gloss Polish. Water. Soft cloths. Horsehair brush. Elbow grease.
The boots: A pair of A.T.A.C. 8″ Shield Side Zip-up 5.11s, straight-outta-the-box.
My method? Credit where it is due: I owe a debt of gratitude to an area shoeshine establishment known as Code 7. They used to have a location much closer to my Los Angeles home but have long since shuttered that place and now operate about 25 miles away. For $10 (a bargain at twice the price; not including tip), they are masters, but a 50-mile roundtrip is just too far for me to travel even for such unparalleled and affordable excellence.
So I did the next best thing: imitated them. While I can no longer find it on their website, Code 7 used to have a webpage that listed the series of steps involved in their process. Based on that here is what I do, as shown in the accompanying 90-second timelapse (realtime: 60 minutes):
1) Saddlesoap lathered on, dried, and buffed off
2) Angelus polish hand-rubbed on and then melted with heat gun
3) Let cool and repeat Step 2
4) Let cool and repeat Step 3
5) Let cool and repeat Step 4 (yes, I bake in four layers of base on new boots)
6) Allow boots to cool completely
7) Kiwi Parade Gloss hand-rubbed on
8) With water, cloth and elbow grease, dab-dab circle-circle until shiny
9) Clean up work surface
10) Horsehair brush finish
Before and after (click to biggify):