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This article is about a brand of shoe polish and now watches, bicycles, journals, watch straps leather goods, pet accessories, journals and curated supply goods.. For other meanings, see Shinola (disambiguation).
Logo for current Shinola brand.
A tin of Shinola.

Shinola refers both to a brand of wax shoe polish that was manufactured in the early- and mid-20th century, and to a 2011 company which specializes in watches, journals, bicycles, leather goods, cola, and, as a nod to the former Shinola company, shoe polish.


The original Shinola brand was founded in 1907[1] and gained popularity during World War I and World War II as an effective shoe polish. The original trademark was filed to USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) in 1929 and registered in 1930 by '2 IN 1-SHINOLA-BIXBY CORPORATION' (NJ, USA).[2][3]

Current Manufacturing[edit]

In 2001, the name, Shinola, was acquired by Bedrock Manufacturing, a venture capital firm based in Dallas, Texas. The management at Bedrock Manufacturing chose the name "Shinola" when the World War II era colloquialism, "You don't know shit from Shinola," surfaced in a conversation. Unexpectedly, the joke generated a serious discussion about restoring the Shinola brand.[4]

Today, save for a few exceptions and technicalities, every Shinola product is made in the United States of America.[5][4][6] At the time of the company's founding in 2011, no American watchmaker had produced watches at scale since the late 1960s, with U.S.-based watchmaking relegated to select specialty companies.[7]

The decision to base the company in Detroit derived both from a desire to make watches in the United States and from a strategic decision to anchor operations in a unique city with an established and unshakable reputation as an industrial leader.[5][4] The city of Detroit also serves as differentiator in the marketplace.[4]

The company's headquarters and watch factory are housed within the College for Creative Studies (CCS) on the fifth floor of the Alfred A. Taubman Building in Detroit, a former automotive research lab. Shinola's occupation of the CCS space at first occurred by accident, when Bedrock officials, seeking a manufacturing site after resolving to rebuild Shinola, visited the College and the elevator unexpectedly opened on the fifth floor, which was vacant at the time. They decided to transform the 30,000 square feet of vacant space into their watch factory and company headquarters.[5][4] To build out the watch factory, the company partnered with Ronda, an independently owned Swiss movement manufacturer. Ronda also brought in expert watchmaking veterans to train Shinola's watch assemblers, all of whom had no prior experience in watchmaking. Currently, the factory has the capacity to produce 500,000 watches a year.[8]

Most of the workers assembling watches are local Detroiters, and many of them come from the auto business.[9] Since the company's founding in 2011, it has grown to over 230 people.[10]


Shinola's first watch was released in March 2013. Produced in an edition of 2,500 and available in two sizes, The Runwell Limited Edition 47mm sold out in one week, with the last 40mm watch selling out in under two weeks. The watches sold for $550, and approximately 35% of the sales came from Michigan.[11]

In October of 2013, Shinola released their second limited edition watch, The Wright Brothers Limited Edition watch, the first watch in the Great Americans Series, which was released in conjunction with a limited edition bicycle.[12] The watch was produced in two sizes, 40mm and 46mm, with each size available in a limited edition of 500. Purchase included a leather-bound coffee table book about the Wright Brothers, as well as enrollment in The Foundry, the brand's collectors club.[13]

The next limited edition watch Shinola will make is a pocket watch honoring Henry Ford.[14]

In September of 2014, Shinola released The Lattice, a limited edition wristwatch created in partnership with Oscar de La Renta. The 36mm women’s watch was manufactured in Detroit in a limited edition of 250. Purchase included a hardcover book created exclusively for the project, which compliments the timepiece and offers an in-depth look at Oscar de la Renta and his work.[15]

In 2014, Shinola will release The Black Blizzard titanium wristwatch in 48mm and 42mm as well as the next Signature Series limited editions watch, The Henry Ford Pocket Watch. The company also produces a number of different watch styles on a non-limited edition basis, including The Birdy, The Gomelsky, The Runwell Chronograph, The Runwell Sport, The Runwell Sport Chrono and The Brakeman.[16][17][18][19]


Shinola bicycles include two flagship models, The Bixby and The Runwell. Both bikes were designed by Sky Yaeger, formerly of Swobo, Spot, and Bianchi.[20] The chromoly steel frames and forks are made by Richard Schwinn's Waterford Precision Cycles in Waterford, WI, with complete assembly taking place at Shinola's flagship retail store at 144 W. Canfield Street in Detroit.[21][22]

In addition to The Bixby and The Runwell, Shinola produced two limited edition bicycles, including the The Wright Brothers Limited Edition Bicycle and The Shinola Runwell Di2 Limited Edition, as well as a one-off Twinn Tandem bicycle and brass-plated Runwell bicycle.[13][23][24][25]


Shinola makes journals in partnership with Edwards Brothers Malloy, an Ann Arbor, MI-based company.[26][27] The journals come with paper, soft linen or hard linen covers, with a price point of $12-$20 for a linen covered journal.[28]

In popular culture[edit]

Shinola was immortalized in colloquial English by the phrase "You don't know shit from Shinola" which first became widely popular during World War II.[29]

In the 1979 film comedy The Jerk, the character Navin R. Johnson (played by Steve Martin) is tested by "Daddy" (Richard Ward) on whether he knows the difference between shit and Shinola before leaving home.

Ween released a 2005 compilation album titled, Shinola, Vol. 1 that plays on the colloquial phrase mentioned above.

Dolly Parton wrote the song "Shinola" - which also uses a lyric that plays on the colloqial phrase - for her 2008 Backwoods Barbie album.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e Muller, Joann (26 July 2013). "In Bankrupt Detroit, Shinola Puts Its Faith In American Manufacturing". Forbes. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c VanderMay, Ann (9 July 2013). "Think you know Shinola? Think Again.". CNN Money. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Gomelsky, Victoria (1 June 2013). "Shinola Puts Motown Watches in Motion". JCK Magazine (Online). Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Hicks, Jesse (18 September 2013). "Shinola is Bringing Watchmaking to Detroit". The Verge. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Vanhemert, Kyle (7 November 2012). "How An Upstart Company In Detroit Is Building An American Heritage Brand". Fast Company. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Glor, Jeff (28 October 2013). "Watch company Shinola is investing big in Detroit". CBS News. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Haimerl, Amy (9 February 2014). "Canvas Watch Co. plans to dial in sales with timely design, Kickstarter boost". Crain's Detroit. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Shinola sold out of limited-edition watches". Detroit Free Press. 
  12. ^ "The Wright Brothers™ Limited Edition Runwell Bike from Shinola". George Hahn. 
  13. ^ a b "Shinola's Great Americans Series Debuts With Wright Brothers Limited Edition Watch & Bicycle". Forbes. 
  14. ^ "American Ingenuity Returns". The Huffington Post. 
  15. ^ Elliott, Hannah. "Shinola And Oscar de la Renta: Motown And Madison Avenue Make A Watch". Forbes. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  16. ^ Adams, Ariel. "Shinola Black Blizzard Titanium Chronograph Watch". A Blog to Watch. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "Shinola at Baselworld 2013". Worn and Wound. 
  18. ^ "Detroit's Shinola Brings Watchmaking To The Motor City". Forbes. 
  19. ^ "Hands-On With The Shinola Runwell Chronograph 47mm (Live Pics & Pricing)". HODINKEE. 
  20. ^ "Buyer’s Guide: City Bikes". Bicycling. 
  21. ^ "Found: Shinola Handmade Chromoly Bicycles from Detroit, by Way of Wisconsin". Bike Rumor. 
  22. ^ "Shinola to open flagship retail store in Midtown this June". ModelD. 
  23. ^ "Shinola Runwell Di2 Limited Edition - first look". BikeRadar. 
  24. ^ "Shinola Create a One-Off “Twinn Tandem” Schwinn Bicycle". Selectism. 
  25. ^ "A one-off, brass-plated Shinola". BikeRadar. 
  26. ^ "Made in Detroit". iW magazine. 
  27. ^ "Shinola Factory Visit". The Scout. 
  28. ^ "The ultimate Ann Arbor area buy local holiday shopping guide". MLive. 
  29. ^ Doesn't know shit from Shinola

External links[edit]