What is shinola, as mentioned in a certain old saying?

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Brown shoe polish and shoes
Photo by Nejron/Envato

In that old expression, “You don’t know s*** from Shinola?” — what the heck are they talking about?

If the shoe fits…

Ah, yes. Nowhere near as popular or common as it used to be, this expression still pops up here and there, especially among folks who have had more life experience — especially those who remember the ’40s & ’50s.

Shinola was a brand of shoe polish, popular in the early to mid-20th century. The original trademark was filed by the “2-in-1 Shinola-Bixby Corporation” in 1929.

Vintage tin of Shinola shoe polish

So why in the world would anyone not know the difference between, er, scheiße (pardon my Deutsch) and a shoe polish?

Well, that was the whole point — that someone could be so dumb as to be unable to discern feces from the stuff you rub into your wingtips. Some additional research revealed that Shinola had a color and texture that was not completely unlike human biological waste.

Isn’t this a lovely discussion? You’re never going to look at your loafers the same way again.

So now the next time you tell someone this, feel confident in the knowledge that you actually know what you’re talking about — or if someone says it to you, put them on the spot and ask if they really know the difference.


Your shoes are showing! Shinola ads from 1946

Embarrassing, isn’t it? You need Shinola.

1) It’s not that your feet are too big — it’s just that your shoes always show. Might as well break down and keep Shinola on hand. In addition to the way your shoes look, there’s the matter of wear. Shinola’s oily waxes help preserve leather.

It pays to KEEP ‘EM SHINING WITH SHINOLA. In summer, SHINOLA WHITE is the thing to ask for. It’s tops for all white shoes, leather or fabric. Easy to put on — hard to rub off.

2) In addition to the appearance angle, there’s the matter of longer wear. Here’s how Shinola Shoe Polishes help: Shinola’s scientific combination of oily waxes helps hold in and replenish the normal oils in leather — helps maintain flexibility — and that means longer wear.

You don’t need a full-length mirror to see that your shoes are showing . . . you know they are. So why not make it a habit to KEEP ‘EM SHINING WITH SHINOLA?

Shinola for shoes - Vintage ads from 1946


Shinola shoe polish for furniture (1945)

Shinola Shoe Polish really does a job on scarred-up furniture!

If you’ve ever tried Shinola for covering up nicks or scratches on furniture, you know what a really professional-looking job it does. You apply it as you would any wax.

As simple to use, and inexpensive, too. Whether the furniture you want to touch up or refinish is old or new — cherry, maple, walnut, mahogany, or pine — there’s a Shinola colored wax to do the job.

Shinola Waxes are swell for preserving linoleum … for finishing airplane and ship models, too. Keep these extra uses in mind when you’re buying Shinola Shoe Polishes. Shinola shoe polish for furniture 1945

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