What have the Dalai Lama, Mike Tyson, George Best and Brenda Blethyn have in common? They have all had their shoes shined by Steven Skippen ‘The Shoe Whisperer’
|Yours truly with Steven and the famous wing back chair|
As I stepped off the tube at Green Park in my skinny black suit and leather loafers, the warm Autumnal air wafted past and the sun shone through the trees creating a dappled effect on the grass. I took up temporary residence on an old Victorian bench and whiled away a few minutes as joggers ran past and people on their lunch breaks sat in deck chairs and enjoyed their sandwiches.
|The entrance to the London Hilton|
Meet The Shoe Whisperer
Upon entering the lobby at the Hilton Hotel I was greeted with a big smile and a firm handshake by Mr Steven Skippen, the guy who shines the shoes of the rich and famous.
|The Shoe Whisperer: Mr Steven Skippen|
Using his bare hands to apply all the products Steven has honed his skills over the past 14 years after seeing a shoe shine at a London airport while collecting his wife. After getting his shoes shined there a number of times he was offered a job and accepted.
While shining shoes at the airport the Manager of the Hilton Hotel became a customer and it was shortly after that he accepted a job shining shoes in this iconic hotel. Steven told me he really enjoys working at the Hilton because there is a good mix of people and great management.
Steven is passionate about giving top notch customer service when plying his art and refuses to use brushes to shine shoes “Brushes to me have no effect. If you applied cream to your face would you use a brush? I like to penetrate the leather with my bare hands giving care and a deep shine at the same time”
After a quick clean with bees wax, which also moisturises the leather Steven can also apply Mink Oil before applying polish in small circular motions with his thumb. He applies the polish and smooths it out before reapplying and repeating the process building up layers particularly on the toe and heel, being careful not to apply too much which could result in the polish cracking. He refers to his hands as the tools of his trade and likens them to a Swiss Army knife.
|The personal touch: My loafers get some attention|
|Buffed to perfection|
This personal and dying art isn’t as expensive as you may think. At just £7.75 for a polish its not out of reach for the majority of us. For £12.50 he will give your shoes a high shine on the toe cap and for £15.00 you can get a deep shine all over.
“He has extended the life of my shoes four times” says Graziano a regular of over ten years who gets his shoes shined by Steven three to four times a week. “He is the best in town. I have tried others but always come back”
|Graziano gets his shoes shined by “the best in town”|
Steven uses a large range of products and even has some of his own. I asked him if he planned to extend his own product range and he told me that it’s something he’d considered but has put on the back burner for now.
Apart from Renovateur Mink Oil he prefers Lord Sheraton as a base cream, Angelus wax polish as a base and Saphir as a full colour.
|Steves tool box, filled to the brim with lotions and potions of his trade|
Colour Me Good
Speaking of colour, Steven does not only polish shoes but is a recolouring expert, changing an ordinary pair of shoes into a stunning work of art and giving customers a uniquely coloured pair of shoes. Steve very kindly agreed to re-colour a pair of leather brogues which have seen better days. Watch this space for full details of this coming soon. You won’t believe the result!
This is a little known art form here in the UK and Steven wants to share this great way of turning your old shoes in to something new and unusual. While he loves re-colouring shoes and is a leader in his field, he calls his company Shoe Shine UK and not Shoe Colour UK as he feels the concept would confuse people.
|Steve removes the dirt from my old brogues before he begins his colour magic|
Among his clients he includes Harry Redknapp, Rugby player Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike Tyson, and the Dalai Lama who even blessed him on the lobby of the hotel. He has also met The King of Jordan and Prince Harry. He can now add That Dapper Chap to this list.
The Future for Shoe Shine UK
I asked what Steven wants for the company, where he is planning to expand and how. He said his dream is to open a shop in Green Park and sell a range of his own shoes which will be coloured to order.
He may also extend his own range of shoe shine products but he feels the market isn’t too good for that at this moment in time.
|That Dapper Chap in the famous chair|
Shoe Advice From The Expert
Who better to ask shoe advice but a shoe expert. Steven is currently a fan of Edward Green both to wear and to shine. He loves to play with colours on Jeffrey Wests and he is also a fan of Crockett & Jones and Santalum. I asked him his thoughts on Grenson and his disapproving look told he that they are not his favourites. He doesn’t like they way they are going stylistically and he really isn’t keen on the thick white soles that he is seeing on a few of their range.
|The Dapper Chap and The Shoe Whisperer|
I asked Steven what five pieces of advice he would have for TDC readers and he shared the following snippets of advice:
- Moisturise – Drying out is death for leather. Never let your shoes dry out
- Use unvarnished cedarwood shoe trees to soak up any moisture and keep your shoes in shape. Don’t bother with the plastic ones, they are pointless.
- Don’t wear anything but black shoes in the rain. Brown shoes show salt damage more prominently which is like cancer to shoes.
- Do not buy the waterproof spray that they try to upsell it to you in the shoe store. its meant for suede only not leather.
- Get your shoes polished regularly, add more moisture in warmer weather and more polish to protect in wet weather.
Find The Shoe Whisperer
London Hilton on Park Lane,
22 Park Lane,