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Shoeshine Man

Don, the Shoeshine Man
IMG: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Do you care what you look like?  Do you take pride in your appearance?  There is a man who works on a street corner who believes you should care.  More than that…he can read you in about three seconds flat.

Don, who goes by only one name, works as a shoeshine man at 6th Ave. and the Avenue of the Americas in New York City year round. Don is out there rain or shine and in the dead of winter.  Possibly because his job is so people-oriented, he can tell a lot about you just by talking to you for a few seconds.

According to Don, “You can tell a man who really cares about his personal appearance. I can tell a lot about a person, alright.  I could tell if he’s cheap, selfish, inconsiderate, don’t give a damn…You could tell if he’s got some money.  You could tell if he’s pretending to have money.  All that is a three second read.  I could pick that up just like that.”

That all may be…but what does it take to put a man in his shoes?  Don went to culinary school to become a chef.  He said he felt like he really wanted to succeed. Yet, after putting in the time and money, he just decided it wasn’t the job for him.  It’s not easy to admit that you were wrong about your ambitions.  However, many more people have multiple careers over their lifetime than there used to be.  The average American will have had 15-20 jobs over the course of their life.

What are Don’s words of encouragement?  “I live my life with no regrets,” and “you can’t look neat if your shoes look beat…When your shoes look good, you feel good.”

Most surprisingly of all, Don calls out to people he believes need style advice.  He called out to one man to start caring because he had on a nice shirt but ugly shoes.  Maybe Don’s advice is really about more than shoes.  He advocates for taking care of one’s self, having confidence and a tidy personal appearance.  Perhaps his advice is about life.