These Boots Were Made for…Shining?

I’ve been boot shopping lately. Shoe shopping is one of the few forms of clothing shopping that doesn’t drive me completely insane, but I’m totally a functional footwear kind of gal: I live in moccasins and Sanuks and Tevas most of the year. But lately? It’s chilly: it’s been in the teens several mornings this week in Western Washington. I don’t really need snow boots, but even indoors at work, it’d be nice to have something that comes up over my ankles. I went in search of casual boots yesterday, but wasn’t happy with the offerings. I mean, how do people walk in some of those contraptions? And why would I pay hundreds of dollars for things that feel like they’ll tear if you frown at them too hard?

As I was expressing my disgust with the available fashion footwear, a fellow vet reminisced about combat boots, which set me off, too.

I loved combat boots. I admit it. I loved BDUs and combat boots. If I could get away with wearing them to work these days, I totally would. It was AMAZING being able to get up every single day knowing exactly what I was going to wear, and knowing that I wasn’t going to be dressing any better or worse than anyone else. (I have zero sense of style, so this was, again, amazing.)

I didn’t like ironing uniforms so much. I wasn’t all that good at it, for one: my creases had a way of ending up in the wrong place, so I looked more like Quasimodo than Airman of the Year. The creases in my pants would end up pointing outward, for example. But I did my best. And I did it routinely. Even now, thinking about it brings back the smell of starch and steam rising from hot fabric.

Two things got me through the tedium of ironing. First of all, every Sunday night, Sky One (a British channel they gave us access to in the barracks) had a Star Trek double header. (And yes, I just revealed myself to be a total geek.) For awhile it was the original series followed by an episode of The Next Generation. Later it included Voyager or Deep Space Nine, which weren’t as good, though I did forgive DS9 for being Star Trek the Soap Opera for the sake of several characters I had crushes on. (Mmm, Dr. Bashir…)

Secondly, once I finished the ironing–usually just about as the first Star Trek episode finished–I got to polish my combat boots. That, I loved. That, I was danged good at, if I do say so myself.

There are probably almost as many ways of polishing boots as there are military personnel who wear them. Mine involved cotton balls (real ones–the fake kind were too scratchy), good ol’ Kiwi black paste, water, and lots of elbow grease. I’d wet a cotton ball and twist one side to give myself a little handle, rub the other side in the shoe polish, and then rub in little bitty circles on the boots, on and on, a tiny bit at a time, until I had a glossy, near mirror polish built up. A bit of time to dry and a quick swipe with a soft cloth did the rest. You could just about see yourself in the toes and heels. It was a ritual. It was soothing. I miss it.

Almost makes me want to go buy a pair of combat boots, just for the sake of polishing the things.

While watching something suitably geeky, of course.


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