In a brightly lit room at Travers Mahan Apparel, 8146 S. Lewis Ave., leather specialist Al Bogans spends his Saturdays working on his craft: shoe shining. He charges $6 for shoes and $8 for boots.
Bogans was born in 1946 in Waco, Texas, and learned to shine shoes as a child. “My grandfather, he showed us how to do shoes … and we kept his shoes cleaned,” Bogans recalls. He did more shoe shining in his teens, working a summer job at a Waco hotel.
“But when I really gained my experience in doing shoes … was getting drafted into the Army,” he says. In January 1967, Bogans reported for duty in the Vietnam War. “If you were around a headquarters or a company, you’d have to keep your shoes clean.
“That was part of my life’s education. There’s education in just about everything you do, if you accept it that way,” he says. Bogans relocated to Sapulpa in 1977 with his future wife.
After retiring from the L. E. Radar Juvenile Detention Center in Sand Springs and working for some time as a truck driver, Bogans found work shining shoes in a space inside home decor store Little Bit of Country (124 E. Dewey Ave., Sapulpa), and he launched Steppers Shine Shoe Cleaning in 2009. He’s there on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
In the decade since, he has learned leather conditioning beyond shoes — his expertise extends to boots, saddles and attachés. What started as a way to bolster his income gradually evolved into what he now calls his craft.
“It’s not as widespread as it used to be,” Bogans admits. But, as far as he’s concerned, “so long as people wear leather, it’ll need maintenance.”