Key Project

On Blundstones and Vanity: Keys 1165 – 1172

I was so vain about my boots. 

About a year ago I purchased a beautiful pair of Blundstone boots (Blundstone 1308 – Chisel Toe in Rustic Black to be exact). Finally I was wearing something cool! I could even feel some of that coolness seeping into me. I loved those boots – not just trendy but comfy too! Qualities increasingly harder to find as I get older, my feet get wider, and my arches get fussier. 

I particularly loved their  rustic look: not quite suede but not a hard polish either. A soft brushed finish that wasn’t really one solid colour but a mystery of gentle blacks. Oh I was so vain about my boots! I could wear them with anything – skirts, pants, jeans , dressy, casual…they looked so good and felt so great!

Last month I was in the Toronto airport on my way to the magnificent city that is Halifax. I wandered by the shoe shine stand and wondered what it would be like to get a shoe shine. Looked pretty nice. Something the men did. Sit around and talk about important things while getting one’s shoes spiffed up. Many days later I was back in the Toronto airport. Invigorated by my East Coast experience…with more time on my hands. Too much time. The airport was hectic. Except at the shoe shine stand. Hmm. $8 for a suede boost. I’ll try it…

They’re suede I said as I sat down. “I’ll make them look good my friend” or words to that effect. “My friend, my friend, my friend…” Over and over again from the big burly man who was more interested in getting another customer than in making my boots look good. 

It was weird to sit in that shoe shine stand. Walter’s. Established in 1893. That’s cool I thought. This business has been around for over 100 years. They must know what they’re doing. 

The seat was very uncomfortable to me. Not physically but “energetically” as my step-mother would say. The shoe shine stand design separates the feet (for ease of polish I imagine) but also separates the legs. This meant that I was sitting with my legs wide open and a strange man standing in between them. Was it years of training in keeping my legs together that made me so uncomfortable or did I instinctively know that I was opening my energy in too intimate a fashion? Eventually I shut my knees and decided that sitting awkwardly was better than feeling my space invaded by “my friend” whom I was rapidly beginning to dislike. 

There was little to no care put into the shining of my beloved  Blundstones.  

Just the repeated slapping on of goop that got onto everything followed by an electric buffer. Not at all the attention to detail my Dad put into his work when he shined up the shoes in our house when I was little. (Thanks Dad for those happy memories of the joy you took in polishing the clopper-hoppers or whatever weird rhyming name it was you used for boots and shoes!)

An electric buffer. That’s probably not at all good for the “rustic” finish. And what’s with all that whitish goo and the black polish?

The thing is, I couldn’t really see my boots as they were being polished; what with the angle of the chair, the placement of my feet, and the holding together of my knees. 

I knew it wasn’t going well but I said nothing. I sat in that awkward chair and let a person I didn’t know and will probably never see again wreck my boots. All because of – what? Politeness? Fear? Not knowing how to ask for what I want? 

Not only did I sit there and put up with something I didn’t like I paid the guy for doing it. Keep the change I said as I handed him a ten and leapt off the stand. I just wanted it to be over. And it was. Sort of. 

I looked down at my beloved (beloved!!) Blundstones and hated what I saw. 

They looked so different. No more mysterious soft black colour. Even the chisel toe shape seemed polished out of them. And they reeked of polish. Great. Whoever sits beside me for the  three hour plane ride home is going to hate me and my no longer cool and trendy boots. 

I tried washing off the polish. But polish in Toronto (and probably everywhere else) is waterproof. I tried wiping it off. Nothing. Luckily the smell seemed to dissipate by the time I got on the plane. 

I tried wearing my boots a couple of times after I got home. Every time I looked at them I saw ugliness and felt the gross energy of you’re-not-really-my-friend coupled with my failure to speak up for myself. I thought about just giving those boots away. After all, their beauty was dead to me. Scrubbed off by an electric buffer on a hair dryer and then suffocated in layers of goo. 

I bought some new boots. Rustic Brown this time. They look great. They feel great. And I’d been wanting a pair of brown boots for the last six months or so…


What to do with my original pair? They still felt OK. Who am I kidding they felt great. 

I decided to put keys on them. 

Really, they’re my boots. I can do whatever I want with them. Dye them, paint them, chisel into them, burn them, brand them, throw them away…

I did a bit of reading about cleaning suede and leather and discovered that some people use isopropyl rubbing alcohol to clean off unwanted finishes. So I bought a nail brush, dug out some rubbing alcohol, and set to scrubbing. 

Slowly the bad energy of the show shine experience  faded and my beloved boots returned to me. They’re a little more “mysterious shades of grey” then “mysterious shades of black” but they are mine once more. 

I had a set of antique keys that I picked up at a flea market last year. I dipped them in black and pewter paints and then “printed” them onto my boots. Some of the prints were more successful than others. I went over the prints with a black pen and then a silver one to give them more shape and definition. I used nail polish remover to clean up my spills (it sorta worked). 

initial print
keys in progress

I’m not sure what I think of my new boots. I’m a bit self conscious about the keys. It will probably be awhile before I wear them with anything other than long pants that cover the prints/drawings. But I’ve reworked them enough so I’m declaring these keys finished. 

Here they are in all their glory:

Key 1165
Key 1165 close up
Key 1166 (1167, 1168)
Key 1167, 1168
Key 1169 (1170)
Key (1169) 1170, 1171
Key 1171 (1172)
Key (1172) 1172





4 thoughts on “On Blundstones and Vanity: Keys 1165 – 1172

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