The shoe whisperer

Mar 21, 2013

Shoeshine UKThis is a story that begins as thousands of others do. Over a decade ago, in 1999, Steven Skippen lost his job. Sometime later, waiting for his stewardess girlfriend in the great hall of the London City Airport, the newly unemployed man decided to treat himself to a shoe shining, because there is nothing better to do when you wait for someone in an airport. In between two shots of nourishing cream, the Shoe Shiner offered to hire him. It's a safe bet that most people would not even have raised the proposal, but Steven agreed, and instead of despair over his fate, decided to become the best in its field. A year later, he set up his own business. “I started Shoeshine UK in October 2000”, he tells us, “originally at London Hilton Metropole but quickly transferred to The London Hilton on Park Lane. I brought a style of shoe care that the UK had never seen before and have cared for many icon’s shoes”.

For 12 years his big red chair has been installed in the lobby of the Hilton Park Lane, close to Hyde Park, and his hands had the opportunity to dwell on the shoes of the Sultan of Brunei, Mike Tyson, the King of Jordan, Jean Claude Van Damme and the great football star, George Best. Each time, the technical manual which is divided into nine stages is incredibly precise, and very far from basic brush issued around the world, Skippen explains that “brushes to me have no effect. If you applied cream to your face would you use a brush? I like to penetrate the leather giving care and a deep shine at the same time”.

 

Shoe shining

A lover of his work, Steven seeks to change the public perception of what it should be to care for a real shoe, and not just an art fig leaf, “why use a service that gives you a result that you could get yourself at home when you could use a service that would change your perception of shoeshine forever? The public are not aware of the differences and this is why shoeshine is sadly at the lowest it has ever been. Its time people saw what shoeshine really could be like”.

In fact, the service offered by Steven brings a real plus to shoes, and obviously allows them to last much longer. It begins by feeding the leather with a special product, then a leather massage, followed by applying a multitude of colors at each location of the shoe; this can darken and lighten at will to emphasize the slenderness of the foot. He even repaints the front of the shoe, often grazed by hours of walking. After about twenty minutes of treatment, the shoes are like new and even a little better because the patina is made of the highest quality. It uses 18 colors all come from products by Berluti, Saphir and Angelus. He cannot bear others “I have to say Kiwi and Cherry Blossom are the worst there is and as soon as you open the tin all you smell is petroleum”.

Leather shoes treatmentLeather shoes treatment 

Close to his work area, two pairs of shoes are placed properly. His two favorite pairs, though he almost never wears them to avoid blemishes. One of them is also signed Berluti, his favorite brand. “My favourite shoes are not following the grain and go against the general British opinion. The two above are Berluti, a Franco-Italian brand, and Weston, French. Followed by English companies like Edward Green and Cleverly, Anglo-Italian and French-English, as Gaziano Girling and John Lobb and Italian as Stefanobi, Santoni and Artioli. And many others ... "

Despite his admiration for the work of Berluti, Steven has twice refused a job as a colorist in the company house. He prefers to remain independent, hoping to continue to grow the business and make our shoes more beautiful. Until you spend the time in London to visit him in the lobby of the Hilton Park Lane, feel free to visit his website www.shoeshineuk.com, to learn more about his techniques, and to contact him on Twitter @shoeshineuk! 

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