Despite Old-Time Feel, Airport Shoeshine Stands Show No Sign of Going Away

Shoe Shine, Dr Martens
A man shines a pair of Dr Martens.
Dosfotos/REX/Shutterstock

In an age of online sales and shuttering brick-and-mortar stores, one surprising old-time relic is still standing very strong.

Shoeshine stands, which have been popular at airports in North America since the rise of commercial aviation in the 1950s and 1960s, are still being used by harried travelers in the digital age, a new Airports Council International study reveals.

According to the study, nearly 50 airports in the US and Canada have some type of shoe shining services, beating the number of nursing rooms, post offices and TSA PreCheck enrollment stations in the same spots. Some type of shoe shining services are available in large, medium and small airports throughout North America.

shoe shine, airport A shoeshiner works at Heathrow Airport. Rex Shutterstock

A traditional shoeshiner typically treats formal leather shoes with shoe polish to make them shine — a custom that often takes us back to the days when people would put on their best outfits to travel. But despite the rising trend of more casual attire, shoeshine stands still show no signs of closing up soon — in fact, many make a particular effort to market themselves to business professionals on work trips.

New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport has shoeshine stands at two of its terminals while LaGuardia had, at different points, at least three.