Seeing that a lot of time spent in national service was dedicated to polishing boots to the point of being as shiny as a newly minted coin, perhaps it’s not that surprising that the world’s best shoe shiner is a Singaporean man.
John Chung, 26, emerged as top dog in the World Championships in Shoe Shining 2018 last month — an actual annual competition organized by leading authorities on classic men’s shoes at the London Super Trunk Show. The founder of Singapore’s first artisanal shoe shine bar Mason and Smith went head to head with fellow finalists from UK and France, and it was Chung who impressed the judges on color, shine, and finesse.
It’s the first time a Singaporean has won the World Shoe Shining Championship (even though the competition just started last year).
According to a profile piece by Business Times, Chung started his foray into classic shoes by acquiring second-hand shoes to sell in local vintage flea markets before he dived into the world of shoe-shining. Like any other millennial, he learned the basics through the internet.
“I did not have a specific teacher when it came to shoe-shining,” Chung told BT. “Most of the stuff and techniques, I picked up from the Internet such as YouTube videos, Facebook and Instagram, as well as other shoe-shine artistes.”
As anyone would expect, his achievement in the little-known world of shoe-shining wasn’t really spotlighted here — at least until a Vocativ video clip about the competition went viral on Facebook.
Today, Chung’s hard-won plaque sits on the countertop of the Mason and Smith shop in Telok Ayer. Shoeshine services by the world’s top professional in the industry and his team start from as low as $18 for a soft glaze, or $60 for a military-grade mirror shine with 50 layers of wax.