What’s in a Shoe?


Joe Robinson

By Benjamin Jeffers

For professionals, more than you think, say three local leather engineers


Call them professional shoe-shiners, bootblacks or leather engineers. But whatever title you choose for Buddy Holmes, Joe Robinson and Willie Reeder, realize that these men know their way around a good pair of shoes.

Holmes of Buddy’s Shine Services has shined the shoes of the rich and famous in New York City. He said men such as Lyndon Johnson, Kirk Douglas and Johnny Carson used to stop by his shop. With a congenial personality and knack for cracking jokes, Holmes takes pride in providing the best possible work for his customers.

Robinson, 80, said that as a child he would often talk to Joe Jackson outside his liquor store. Robinson spent time in the military and worked in a factory in Greenville, shining shoes throughout his life.

He’s now retired but shines shoes at the Westin Poinsett Hotel during the week. Shining shoes, he said, provides him an opportunity to meet, talk to and study people.

Reeder learned how to shine shoes at age 12 from his uncle. He used the trade as a way to make money in high school. As an adult, he worked as a welder but also shined shoes on the side. Now he works as the shoeshine professional at Frank’s Gentlemen’s Salon on Coffee Street.

UBJ recently met up with these men to ask about a topic they all know well—shoes.

Buddy Holmes

What’s the No. 1 problem you see with people’s shoes?

JR: People don’t shine them.

WR: Not getting them shined. When I’m anywhere, I’ve got a habit of looking down at people’s shoes. To me, nothing looks worse than a man dressed nice and his shoes look like he’s been plowing in them. I was brought up that you always want your shoes looking good.

BH: Their shoes are dirty, first of all. I feel when a man is dressed well, he’s dressed from head to toe, not head to socks. If you’re a businessman or you’re a preacher or you’re a lawyer or you’re someone that’s up front, you need to look good from head to toe, which means your shoes need to be polished.


How often should people get their shoes shined?

JR: They should get their shoes shined at least once a week if they want them to last. Don’t go over two weeks.

WR: A dress shoe, I’m going to say, at least twice a month.

BH: Monthly’s not a bad policy, every four to six weeks. That’s not asking a man for so much.


What are some tips for people to help them take care of their shoes?

JR: When they get muddy, let it get dry, and then wipe the dirt off.

WR: Keep shoe trees in them, and that really helps the life of a shoe. The life of a shoe is shoe trees and keeping them shined. Also, if you wear your shoes out in the rain, you should let those shoes dry out anywhere from 24 to 48 hours before you wear them again.

BH: Sometimes it’s better off to pay someone for what you need than to mess it up yourself. The worst thing to do when you get grease on something is to put water on it. If you put water on it, it’s finished.


What’s one thing that people don’t know about shoes that they should?

JR: When you get a new shoe you’re supposed to get it shined.

BH: There’re guys that come in here, and they think that just because they have a new pair of shoes they say, “Well I don’t need anything. I don’t need a shoe shine.” You know, that’s when you really need it, when it’s new, because it doesn’t have any preservatives on it. It’s a finish on it from the factory.

Joe Robinson


What type of shoes do you consider classic?

WR: Wingtips are, I think, a must for a businessman. My weakness is shoes. I hate to tell you, I got 35 or 40 pairs of shoes of my own. I got suedes. I got skins, some alligator, some crocodile, snakeskin. But everybody’s not into shoes like I am. You need a black, a tan and a brown, and you can wear that with just about everything.

BH: Cap-toe has always been a classic look. It’s always been a businessman look.


What brands of shoes do you recommend for a businessperson?

WR: Alden, Allen Edmonds, Cole Haans.

JR: Johnston & Murphy, that’s a really good shoe. Bally, that’s made in Switzerland. If you buy some, make sure you get the ones made in Switzerland.

BH: I do like Guccis, which is a fine shoe. Ferragamo is a beautiful shoe.

Buddy Holmes


1115UBJShoeShineWillieReeder3GregWinter’s coming up. What’s the best type of shoe to wear in the wintertime?

WR: A good leather shoe. You can’t go wrong with a good lace-up for the support.


Do you think shoes are the secret to success in the business world?

WR: I do. I believe a man, if he’s about anything, success or trying to be successful, look down at his shoes and you can tell it. To me, if his shoes ain’t shined, he’s slack.

JR: Nope, keeping your shoes shined, that’s the key.


Buddy’s Shine Services located inside The Barber Centre

637 Congaree Road

Shoeshine: Starts at $7

Hours: Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-2 p.m.


Joe Robinson at Westin Poinsett Hotel

120 S. Main St.

Shoeshine: $7

Hours: Monday-Friday 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.


Willie Reeder at Frank’s Gentlemen’s Salon

5 E. Coffee St.

Shoeshine: $7

Hours: Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Willie Reeder







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