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March 10, 2023

Shoe polish stands begin to vanish, lose their shine

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — On a recent winter weekday at Penn Station Shoe Repair and Shoe Shine, men hop onto shoeshine chairs and pull out newspapers and phones to read while shoeshiners get to work applying polish and elbow grease to loafers, boots and other leather shoes. When finished, these customers hand over $8 in cash at a counter where a sign reads “We're not God, but we do save soles.”

Shoeshining has a long history in the U.S. In the 1860s, Horatio Alger popularized the “rags-to-riches” American narrative with his book “Ragged Dick” about a shoeshiner (or “bootblack”) who works his way up to wealth. “Shoeshine boys” (and occasional girls) have over the decades been depicted in countless movies and TV shows ranging from classics like Vittorio De Sica's 1946 “Shoeshine,” to racist caricatures of Black shoeshiners.

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