Best work yet for the Pawlowski and the Cougars

College of Charleston baseball coach John Pawlowski's Cougars are currently tied with Western Carolina for first place in the Southern Conference.

I judge a man by his shoeshine.

If he doesn't care enough about his appearance to keep his shoes shined, it makes me wonder how he takes care of other things in his life.

A good shoeshine is an outward expression of the inner soul.

It speaks to your ability to take care of the little things.

It reflects your image of yourself.

It's a matter of pride.

You can wear an expensive suit adorned with matching shirts and ties, but all the money you spent is wasted if your shoes do not reflect the same effort.

Because having shined shoes takes personal effort. They say more about you in two seconds than you can say in a 100-page resume.

They might be the first thing somebody notices about you when you enter a room, or when you cross your legs, or when you get up to leave.

But, believe me, they're noticed.

Take it from a shoeshine boy.

Shoeshine boy

My first paying job was shining shoes. Allowances were scant and did not fulfill the social requirements of an up-and-coming 11-year-old.

So I built a shoeshine box, stocked it with brown and black polish, tore up a few of daddy's old undershirts, found a horsehair brush and hit the streets to make my fortune.

I quickly learned it took only a few dimes to cover my overhead and pocketed the profit. But more importantly, I gained the courage and confidence it takes for a skinny little kid with a homemade shoeshine kit to walk up to grown men, take a look at their scruffy shoes and muddy boots and ask them if they wanted a shine.

If they said yes, I'd show off my skills of popping the rag and applying a hint of a spit shine that might earn me a nickel tip.

It was, I learned, all in the presentation.

Brush strokes

I later perfected my skills in the military, where shine is appreciated.

To this day, I still haul out an old shoe box filled with stained rags, worn brushes and the tins of shoe polish that carry the smell of pungent paste and the ancient secrets of shine.

On yesterday's newspaper, I spread it all out, line up my shoes, black, brown and cordovan, and work them in order - applying the polish, letting it set, making sure the soles are blackened, the edges perfect, then bring them all to a luster with brush strokes, short and fast, until light bounces off the toes like a star in the midnight sky.

I do it because I still believe it matters. That if you want to know somebody, take a good look at their shoes. They are the mirror of the man.

Reach Ken Burger at or 937-5598. To read previous columns, go to