Midway through Folsom Street’s dark Powerhouse leather bar, you’ll find the bootblack, toiling away with a kit of rags and polish — break out your Stompers for a sublime shine. “What I’ve learned is that for me, bootblacking is religion,” says seven-year bootblacker Ms. V. “What I do is simple, slow, and uncluttered — and it reveres the authenticity of the boot and shoe above all.” She was first introduced to bootblacking seven years ago at Folsom Street Fair. “What a mystical experience seeing this polish-smeared wizard at work,” she recalls. “I wondered if I could do this with a female sensibility.” Bootblacking has long been the purview of males, but Ms. V embarked on her journey to learn the craft from leather community members and old school shoeshine experts anyway. She picked up a protege, Luna, with whom she teams up to keep leather footwear in prime condition. It’s a business transaction, driven by passion, power, and polish. “There is a dance that goes on between the customer and me,” says Ms. V.
Bootblacks Ms. V, International Ms. Bootblack 2007, and Luna, International Community Bootblack 2011