While in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan earlier this week, my husband and I stumbled across a store called Shinola. What a delight. Beautiful leather goods that I couldn’t stop petting. Gorgeous watches. A veritable rainbow of journals and planners. I restrained my purchases to just a new journal, but mentally compiled an extensive Christmas wish list.

The next day I told my daughter about the store. I explained the name as being like that expression, “You don’t know shit from Shinola.” All I got back was a blank stare. Huh. It turns out that today’s youth may not be familiar with this colorful saying. My curiosity piqued, I set out to discover its origin. Imagine my surprise to find a very direct link between the saying, which has been around since WWII, and the modern Shinola company.

Shinola was a line of shoe polish that apparently had an appearance very similar to fecal matter (production stopped in 1960, but a newly reformulated version was launched in 2013). The phrase refers to someone who is too dumb to tell the difference between poop and polish. The brand was given new life in 2012 by the original founder of Fossil, who wanted to bring watchmaking back to the U.S. Shinola has quickly established a reputation that is characterized by uniqueness, quality and luxury. How Shinola Went From Shoe Polish to the Coolest Brand in America tells the story. Clearly, there’s no mistaking shit from today’s Shinola.


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