The Airport Shoeshine: A Tradition Worth Supporting

shoe shine
I’ve been dimly aware that it’s possible to get one’s shoes shined at airports the world over for many years. That said, I’m a chick, and despite my boot obsession, I usually travel in Chuck Taylors. I don’t know from shoeshine, other than my love of Johnny Cash (“Get Rhythm,” anyone?).

A couple of months ago, however, I found myself with time to kill at Denver International Airport (DIA), en route to work a trade show. A deep, syrupy voice called out, “Shine your boots, ma’am?” I looked down. I was wearing my favorites, a pair of motorcycle boots I’d scored on Ebay. They looked like hell after tromping around in the mud and snow.

“How much?” I asked the kindly-looking black gentleman wielding a clean rag. “Whatever you feel like contributing,” he answered.

Seconds later, I was perched atop the adult version of a booster chair, observing the frenetic energy of the airport. I learned the gentleman in question’s name was Leonard, and he’d lived in Denver for over 30 years. As we talked about how the city had changed, and waxed poetic about why we’d both chosen to relocate to Colorado, he brushed, polished, massaged and buffed my boots until they glowed. He sealed the seams along the soles, and meticulously attended to the areas beneath the buckles and straps.

Ten minutes later, I was boarding my flight with glossy, weatherproofed boots (my version of business casual), and a vivid mental picture of early ’70s Denver. Leonard had some cash in his pocket, and I like to think that he, too, came away from the encounter richer not just financially, but emotionally.

Having a genuine, non-self-absorbed conversation with another human being at an airport is all too uncommon these days. Let’s face it: most of our exchanges consist of requesting a specific size of latte, or bitching about our lack of upgrade.

Now, whenever I’m at DIA, I get my motorcycle boots shined, both to extend their life, as well as for the connection, however fleeting, to another human being. And yes, I like that I’m supporting hard-working people earning an honest living. I haven’t seen Leonard again, but I never fail to have an interesting conversation, and learn a little something (many of the people working for this particular company, Executive Shine, are immigrants). If only I could travel in my high-heeled boots more often.

[Photo credit: Flickr user jag9889]

Gadling Gear Review: Adidas Choleah Laceup Boots for Women

I like traveling in cold weather but you’ve got to make the sacrifice of checking a bag and bulking up your gear. Good footwear is critical year round, but you’ll be downright miserable if you have cold feet while stomping around a twee alpine village or a dirty snow urban landscape.

Moon-boot styling is kind of back, isn’t it? But they’re a lot lighter than they were the first time around, and they’re made out of considerably better materials. Adidas Choleah Laceup is a surprisingly lightweight, warm and weatherproof boot.

I have one minor skepticism about the way the boot is pitched but that’s because I didn’t have icy conditions in which to give it a try. The sole on the shoe is supposed to offer great traction – I can’t confirm or deny that. The tread looks a little shallow – but I could be wrong. If you’re really going to be on the ice, you might want some ice cleats.

Unknown traction issues aside, these are darned cute boots and who doesn’t like a pair of cute winter boots that keep you warm and dry? They’re about mid-calf height and have a fluffy fake fur lining around the uppers. That makes them a little bulky up top; you’re not going to be able to pull your skinny jeans over the outside but you can tuck them in and lace them up.

They’re also very warm and dry. They have a light synthetic fill as insulation and the shoe is lined with fabric that holds heat. They’re made of all kinds of technically named stuff – PrimaLoft, ClimaProof, Adiprene – which may not mean much on a brand name basis, but it actually does make a boot that keeps your feet warm in cold, wet weather.My winter gear tests involve the slightly above freezing and raining conditions of the Pacific Northwest winter. When I put these boots on to go out into an unpleasant December day, I had cold feet. It took a while for me to warm up, but once I did, I was very happy with how toasty my feet were. And yeah, style is subjective, but I think they look swell. Yes, you could wear them with some tights and a skirt and you’d be quite the adorable urban snow bunny. They also offer exactly the kind of wear you’d expect from an athletic shoemaker; they’re very comfortable for a long day’s walk.

Adidas originally listed the Choleah for $150, but I’ve seen them listed for half that online. They come in two colors, a very dark gray (almost black) with black laces and a burgundy with white laces. They’re cute, comfortable, great for bad weather and surprisingly lightweight. I’d say they make the cut for winter travel.

[Image courtesy of Adidas]

Video Of The Day: Men Embrace Pointy Boots in Mexico

The Origins of the Mexican Pointy Boots

If you plan to travel to Mexico soon, look out for the latest fashion craze young men are embracing: pointy boots. Said to have originated in Matehuala in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, the fashion trend has men elongating the toes of their boots as much as five feet, curling the tips upwards toward the knees. Men who can’t afford to have their boots extended by a shoemaker will stretch out their boots themselves, using pliable PVC, garden hoses and tires as extensions. The boots are then painted, sequined and otherwise embellished, sometimes going so far as to incorporate blinking lights and disco balls.

To further accentuate the boots, skinny jeans and cowboy shirts are also in vogue. The easiest way to spot the shoes is in nightclubs, where troupes of men in matching outfits show off their boots (and dance moves) to the sounds of tribal guarachero music, a mixture of pre-Columbian and African sounds mixed with electronic beats. However, the boots are becoming so widely worn that the dancers are being asked to perform at weddings and other events. The above video gives a more detailed primer into the trend, which is now making its way up into the United States and farther south into Central America.

Gadling Gear Review: Heat Holders Socks

I suffer terribly from cold feet; it’s why I don’t cheap out on socks. It’s also why I have one of those electric heater mats on the floor under my desk (a gift from my mate who sometimes just nails the gift giving with weird yet supremely likeable prezzies). Socks are way low on the scale of glam gear down with quick-dry underwear and refillable three ounce bottles, but they’re essential, and having warm feet can really make the difference between a lousy day or a good one.

Because of my terminally chilly paws, I was keen to see if Heat Holders are any better than the merino brands that stuff my sock drawer (SmartWool, IceBreaker, Dahlgren, and Darn Tough Vermont) at keeping my feet warm. (I am a fan of good socks, you may have guessed.) The short answer? Well, sort of.

I have a strong preference for natural fibers, it’s a “less plastic stuff” thing. I’m not totally naive; I do know that sometimes, the synthetics are the way to go. I’m just not that keen to spend a couple of hours waxing a canvas raincoat because I want to go with heavy cotton over far superior modern materials like GoreTex or PolarTech. Heat Holders are an acrylic poly blend; there’s nothing particularly natural about them.

They feel fine, though. They have a deep pile fleecy inside, they’re kind of cuddly, furry, even, a little bit like the inside or your lambswool slippers. (No, I don’t have those. The husband does and they’re sweet.) Outside, they’re, uh, a little plastic-y. I’ve been spoiled by merino, which I tend to prefer. But it’s the outside of the sock, who cares?

Here’s my issue with these socks. They’re really bulky. All that fluffy really does work to keep your feet warmer, and they’re great for sleeping in. But I couldn’t get them in most of my shoes. I’m not totally sold on the idea that adding bulk is the best way to stay warm. I get it — loft is how you hold heat and the loft that these socks somehow manage to provide, even after a full day’s wear, works. They worked great in my wellies, which are a little big, but I couldn’t wear them with many of my other winter boots. I’m wearing mine around the house and with my rain boots out in the wet, but for travel? Nope, too bulky.

The marketing text on the elaborate packaging says that these socks are “seven times warmer than your basic cotton sock.” That’s probably true. But I’m not sure they’re seven times warmer than some of the wool or alpaca fiber socks I’ve got, and that’s a more useful comparison.
Heat Holders socks come in a few styles: stripey, long, and in a slipper sock. Their original sock goes for just just under $20.00.

SkyMall Monday: Rechargeable Heated Slippers

What do you wear to stay warm? A hat? Some mittens? Perhaps a pair of boots? You’re a fool. When temperatures plunge below freezing, you can’t rely on down and wool to keep you from dying of hypothermia. And body heat alone won’t suffice when you’re lost in the wilderness. If you’re going to keep frostbite at bay you need to bring your own heat to the party. This week, SkyMall Monday looks at the latest in feet-warming technology with this gem from SkyMall: Rechargeable Heated Slippers.Did you see that video? These slippers literally light snow on fire! They’re like the Back to the Future DeLorean of rechargeable heated slippers. And despite most people defining slippers as footwear that you enjoy indoors – where you presumably would have access to a radiator or fireplace to keep warm – these slippers are also for outdoor use. And they’re fashionable because they look like you made them from your sleeping bag and a car tire.

gadling skymall monday rechargeable heated slippersThink that a good pair of boots with some wool socks will keep your feet plenty warm? Believe that the best heated accessories necessitate nuclear reactors? Well, while you’re losing feeling in your toes we’ll be reading the product description:

The Volt heated indoor/outdoor slippers provide you with hours of soothing warmth for numb toes and cold, tired feet. Designed with a built-in thermostat control that automatically regulates heat temperature for optimal comfort.

Enjoy between 110 to 135 degrees of pulsing heat for up to 6+ hours per charge.

Much like we all have our own sleep number, we also have personal optimal foot temperatures. My feet are happiest at around 118 degrees. Anything hotter than that and it starts to resemble a French cheese shop down there.

Gear up properly for winter lest you lose some digits to the elements. Leave your Freaky Freezies at home and graduate to a new level of warmth with these Rechargeable Heated Slippers.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.