I wasn’t sure that I was actually seeing this .. I mean, Shoe Shine boys? In 2016? In LA, which has more sneakers-per-mile than almost any place on earth?
But yep, here they were. Two grown men, shining shoes at $7 a pop, in the heart of Los Angeles.
It felt like a throwback to a bygone era, and in a way, it was.
Shoe-shine boys were a feature at Union Station in LA until the ’70s .. but for about 40 years, they were just a memory – until about two years ago, when the powers-that-be decided it would be a good idea to bring them back.
Marco (that’s him bent over the shoes of the guy on his mobile phone) says he’s been a “Shine” for most of his adult life – mostly at clubs downtown, but now back at Union Station.
And can he make a living doing shoeshines at a railway station?
“It pays the mortgage”, he says.
He also says that while lots of people, like me, wear runners or sneakers, many of LA’s hipsters might spend upwards of a thousand dollars on their casual shoes – and they want them looked after.
That may be so – but I suspect there’s also a component of “lording it up” involved: the guy in the chair, on the phone to a colleague while a ‘servant’ polishes his shoes in public? Stick a cigar in his mouth, and he’d look the archetype of Mr Moneybags from an earlier age.