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In this guide, we are going to look at how to polish your shoes (or boots) properly. Keeping your appearance above 100% will never hinder your ATC cadet career, and having perfect, shiny shoes will make you stand out from the rest of the cadets as someone who cares about their uniform and wants to achieve something in the ATC.

The method I am going to describe to you is standard polishing, very similar to the "spit and polish" method.

To polish your shoes properly, you will need the following items:

Shoes and cleaning equipment
  • Yourself (You should polish your shoes yourself, don't get mummy or daddy to do it for you)
  • Kiwi Shoe Polish (Black) - I recommend you use Kiwi; it's the best polish around. You may also want to buy Kiwi Parade Gloss as it is good for getting a nice deep shine.
  • A duster, soft rag or cotton wool. - What you will be polishing with. If you use cotton wool I recommend that you use pads rather than cotton wool balls. (And if the rag isn't soft it will scratch the surface of your shoe and you will be doing more bad than good.
  • Water - in a bowl, cup, whatever. Some people will use warm water because it helps to work the polish into a nice smooth shine, but if the water is too hot it will melt the polish off your shoe and you will have to start again.
Cotton wool pads, fold it in half, and in half again, polishing with the straight part Once you have these items you are ready to polish. Be warned, Polishing will take hours, literally, at the beginning, a good pair of shoes is not something that can be achieved in 20 minutes. It will take you hours to get your shoes up to a high standard, and yes, it is quite hard, but follow this guide and you can't go wrong.

To begin with, you must make sure your whole shoe is free of mud and dust. Pick up your duster and wrap it around your index finger so that the cloth on the top of your finger is smooth and has no creases. If you are using cotton wool pads, fold it in half, and in half again, polishing with the straight part.

Next we need to wet the cloth. Dip your index finger into the bowl of water, so the top part of your finger is wet. Squeeze of any excess water. If you are using a cotton wool pad, dip that in too.
Gently rub the cloth or piece of cotton wool along the shiny surface of the polish

Now we need to get some polish onto the shoe. Gently rub the cloth or piece of cotton wool along the shiny surface of the polish. You are aiming for something like this:

Now we are ready to start. Gently rub the polish into the toe cap of your shoe in circular motions, covering the complete toecap, including the sides. Keep repeating these circular motions until all the polish has disappeared and does not smear when you rub over it. If the surface of the shoe becomes dry, wet the duster or cotton wool again.

When you first start polishing, you will feel that the surface is rough. You will need to repeat the process above until the surface of the shoe is smooth, and remember to use plenty of water.

The circular motion is a vital part of the process

The circular motion is a vital part of the process. The motion works the polish into the shoe and allows the polish to settle onto the surface of the shoe.

By now, you should have a smooth surface. Compare your polished shoe to your unpolished shoe. You should be able to tell between which has been polished, and the polished shoe should be much darker than the unpolished shoe.

Now it is time to finish your toecap. It is basically the same process as above, but with a few small changes. This time we will use only a small amount of polish and a little more water. These "small" layers should only take about 30 seconds to apply, and you will need to apply only a few of these layers to attain a shine.

Many people with good, polished shoes will not stop at the toecap. I myself polish my complete shoe, even the underneath. Before an inspection, I will put one small layer of polish onto the rest of my shoe, including the rims of the shoe. I will also polish my "smiles" which is the underneath portion of the shoe. The polishing method is exactly the same, but do not use lots of polish, use only one layer, otherwise there will be no distinction between the toecap. Here are some photos of my shoes being polished all over.
Polish the rest of the shoe, including the rims. You can also polish the underside of the shoe

Congratulations!! Now you should have a decent polished shoe. Repeat the process for the other shoe and make sure you spend the same amount of time on each shoe.

You should aim to get your shoes looking like this:

Your shoes should looking like this It takes a lot of time to get your shoes to look like this but it’s worth it

But it does not end there. You will need to maintain your shoes. If you do not maintain them they will loose their shine. To maintain them, simply put a few small layers of polish on your shoes before and after you wear them. If you do not do this, you will have to spend hours polishing your shoes in the future. It is easier and simpler to keep them in a high standard all the time.

Remember to always work on your shoes, as I said it is not something that will happen over night, you must keep at it. It is worth it to have shiny shoes.

Top Tips:

  • Do not cheat! There are people out there paint or varnish their shoes. The people who do this are lazy and do not have the right sort of attitude towards their uniform. Cheating is wrong!
  • At camps, and other places where cadets meet, you will probably hear some weird methods of polishing, which include using household objects such as spoons and irons. DO NOT USE THESE METHODS. I never have and I have had the best shoes on the squadron for a long time. These methods are probably also hard to use and will probably mess up your shoe if you do not poses the skill to use the method. It is risky, do not take the risky path, use the one which you know and you will get to your target eventually.
  • Do not use any instant shine pads. They will leave your shoe oily and your shine in your shoe will get really dull after a while, it simply isn't worth it.
  • Replace your cotton wool and water regularly.
  • Store your shoes in a box somewhere where they cannot get filled with dust

Stripping your shoes

Once in a while you will do something bad to your shoe(s), maybe drop a large heavy object onto your toecap which will leave large dents in the polish. And after a while the polish begins to flake off your shoe. To get around this, you will need to "strip" your shoe. This means getting all the polish off your shoe.

Before you "strip" your shoe you should do everything you can to try to save the mistake, only use this as a last resort.

There are various methods of stripping shoes, the easiest is the one I will now describe. Please note there will be no pictures as I am not going to ruin one of my perfect shoes for the sake of this guide.

For this you will need:

  • Hot water - but please do not scold yourself, it hurts.
  • A rough cloth, maybe an OLD t-shirt.

Place your rough cloth into the water being careful not to scold yourself. Rub the cloth along the shoe. You will need to be vigorous in order to remove the polish from the shoe. You will also need to replace the cloth every so often in order to get the maximum effect from the method. Some people may use MILD house cleaners to help the polish come off, but I do not know the effectiveness of this as I have never tried it before, I suggest that you stick to using just hot water.

Well that's about all I have for now. Remember, maintain your shoes and polish them each time you wear them.

Remember, wear your uniform with pride.

If you need some help, drop by the forum and ask me or another NCO to help Or you can come to me on a parade night and I will be happy to answer your questions.



Guide written by:
Cpl Mckeown
121 ( Nuneaton ) Sqn
02 August 2005

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