• Introduction
  • Bootblack Stands
  • Mandatory Events
  • Scoring
  • Interview
  • IML/IMBB Contest Finals
  • Bootblack Application
  • Optional Events

Each year, during International Mr. Leather, the IML contest brings with it the annual International Mr. Bootblack competition. Bootblacks come from all over to offer their services of boot and leather-care to IML attendees. Each weekend package contains a ballot, which the holder can exchange for a boot shine or leather conditioning with the Bootblack Contestant of their choice. Ballots may be cast for a contestant without getting one’s boots shined, if one prefers.

In 2013, we implemented a judging system to supplement the balloting system, and we couldn’t be happier with how it integrated into the contest. Balloting still makes up a significant portion of each contestant’s final score, so don’t forget to tuck your ballot in your wallet, stop by, have your boots done, and see why bootblacking is such a big deal for many people. If you’ve never had your boots worked on before, you’re in for a treat. Balloting begins with the opening of the vendor market at noon on Friday and continues during market hours through 7:00 pm on Saturday.

In 2019, we replaced our personality and stage presence category with a speech.  The IMBB contestants will complete a 90 second speech from the stage Sunday night with the top twenty IML contestants.  We also ended ballot voting at close of day on Saturday to provide time for the IMBB contestants to prepare for Sunday night.

The bootblack stands will be open Friday from noon until 6pm and Saturday from 11am until 7pm. You are expected to be at your stand for the duration of this period.  Bathroom, food and smoke breaks are encouraged and should be known to your Den Daddy prior to leaving your stand. 

You, the contestant are expected to maintain your own schedule of customers.  The IMBB staff will not organize this for you.  You are welcome to have a private helper with you as you need. 

Each contestant will be provided with a staging platform and chair, if you wish to bring your own stand it must fit on the staging provided. 

A locked ballot box will be placed by your stand with your name and contestant number displayed.  Attendees may use their ballots to vote for you during the Friday and Saturday stand times.  After the stands close each night you will verify the ballots received with a member of the IMBB staff.

Ballots will be placed in an envelope and sealed in your presence.  You and a member of the IMBB staff will sign the sealed envelope. 

All personal items must be removed from the stands at close of each day.  IML, Inc., any members of staff or volunteers are not responsible for lost of stolen items.

Registration & Orientation

As a contestant in International Mr. Bootblack, you must report to registration/orientation at:

Congress Plaza Hotel

520 South Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605

Thursday, May 25, 2023 at 12:00 PM


Upon arrival, a Contestant Handler will assist you in confirming your application information used in making your contestant badge, the contest program insert, and contestant address list. Bring at least one piece of legal photo identification (driver’s license, passport) with you to Registration/Orientation.

You will be introduced to each judge and various IML staff members and your Contestant Handlers.

You will meet the IML photographer and make a photo shoot appointment with him.

Contestant orientation will be held immediately following registration. Weekend events will be discussed, and your questions will be answered. Each judge as well as various staff members will be introduced to you.

Opening Ceremonies:

Opening Ceremonies is the first public event of International Mr. Bootblack. It takes place on Thursday evening, May 25. Contestants will be given specific assembly time and location at the Thursday orientation.

The purpose of this event is to introduce the judges and the contestants to the public.

You will pick your contestant number at Opening Ceremonies. Your contestant number determines:

  • the order you appear on stage at the IML contest
  • the order you are placed on the bootblack stands
  • the order in which you appear for your interview
  • the order you appear for your speech

What you choose to wear for this event is optional. There will be time to socialize with contestants and judges.

During Opening Ceremonies you will be lined up Alphabetically by last name, you will be introduced and then you will select your number for IMBB.

The specifics on order and stage directions will be covered in your rehearsal time.

These general guidelines may change, but are presented here to give you an idea of the simple staging. Specific staging instructions will be given at the rehearsal.

Contestants are guided by staff to the event, prepared by staff prior to walking on stage, and met by staff upon exiting the stage.

Your choice of attire is optional. This is a more casual appearance, wear what would you wear to the leather bar to make an impression. It is a perfect opportunity to wear a title vest.

Your Den Daddy will advise you where and when to report for your interview before you are dismissed from this event.



Contestants in the International Mr. Bootblack competition will be scored in the following four categories:


Skills – 50% of total score

Judges will observe and evaluate the bootblacks during open stand hours. Evaluation criteria may include: speed of process, confidence, product knowledge, organization, and end results. Judges will also observe and evaluate the interaction between the contestants and their clients while the contestants are working on the clients’ boots.


Interview – 20% of total score

The judges, as a group, will conduct an interview with each contestant. Questions asked during the interview will be devised solely by the judges and will cover any topic the judges consider to be useful in selecting the contestant most suited to the title. Interviews are conducted in private, with only the contestant and judges present.

Speech – 10% of total score

Competitors will be given 90 seconds to present a speech of their own desire on Sunday night.  The competitors will be presented with a timing light from the stage and the microphone will shut off at 91 seconds.  Competitors will be provided a rehearsal time to adjust to the microphone and timing light prior to the contest. 


Ballots – 20% of total score

Competitors will collect ballots during open stand hours of the contest weekend. When all ballots have been tallied, the contestant(s) with the greatest number of ballots will be awarded the full 20% points and the other contestants will receive points equal to the full 20% multiplied by the percentage of the highest ballot total that the contestant collected. For example, if the contestant with the highest ballot total collected 100 ballots, he would receive the full 20%. A contestant who collected 75 ballots would receive 75% of the full 20%, or 15% A contestant who collected 50 ballots would receive 50% of the full 20%, or 10%.


Selection of Winner

The contestant who receives the highest total points will be named International Mr. Bootblack. Ties between two or more contestants for first, second, or third place will be broken by comparing the ballot totals of the tied contestants. In the case that a first-place tie remains following comparison of ballot totals, the winner of the contest will be determined by secret ballot of the judges.

Contestant Interviews are completed on Saturday, May 27th, you will report on the day and time and place specified by your Den Daddy.

All contestants must be on time for thier interview to be presented to the judges as a complete group. 

Contestants will remain in the holding room when not in the interview room until all contestants are finished. 

Only authorized personnel are allowing in the holding and interview room, therefore you may not bring anyone with you.  Water will be available.  You may also bring your own food and liquid. 

Your interview is not open to the public.

Each contestant will be interviewed in numerical order.

Each interview will last no longer than 8 minutes. 

The judges score your performance.

Your choice of attire is optional; wear what you want.  Something that helps the judges to understand more about who you are.

The IML/IMBB Contest will take place Sunday, May 28.

Contestants will be given specific assembly time and location at the Thursday orientation.

Bring all of the gear you plan to wear/use with you when you arrive as you will remain with us until after the end of the Contest. You may plan your attire around the following appearances:

  • Introduction of each contestant (All contestants - your choice of attire; leather recommended, sash, medal, title vest…)
  • Speech - wear what best represents you and your message.
  • Announcement of winners - your choice of attire; leather recommended as this is a press/photography moment.


If there are any changes to these appearances, you will be notified at the Thursday orientation.

The theater dressing rooms are located on the lower floor, so be prepared to negotiate stairs throughout the contest. If stairs are a problem for you, contact Nick Elliott for special arrangements. Other than translators and interpreters, you may not bring anyone to assist you. Staff is present throughout the contest to assist you.

A complete contest rehearsal takes place at the theater. At this time you learn your placements on stage and run through each stage appearance.

A buffet is served. Water is available backstage throughout the contest. You are encouraged to bring additional solids and liquids for your private consumption. Remember to bring any medications you may need since you do not return to your room until late evening.

Each contestant delivers a 90-second speech to the audience on a topic of his choice. A digital countdown clock is visible to you. At 91 seconds the microphone will automatically shut off. The microphone can be removed from its stand. If you do not verbally deliver your speech in English, you have 90 seconds for your delivery, and your interpreter/translator has an additional 90 seconds to verbally deliver your speech in English.

After the contest, you and your gear will be transported back to the hotel. The winners will be brought back separately.

Please use this link to connect to your online Applicaition.

IMBB Contestant Application

  • Early Registration
  • Victory Party at House of Blues
  • Premier Reception
  • Contestant Score Pick-up
  • Black and Blue Ball

Contestants are encouraged to attend the optional registration on Wednesday, May  24 at 7:00pm. By attending this event, you can complete all of the necessary paperwork and schedule your official IML photo shoot prior to Thursday’s Orientation.

One of the biggest parties in Chicago happens at the House of Blues immediately following Sunday's Contest. DJs for this year’s Victory Party will be announced in the weeks ahead. Please let your Den Daddy know if you are interested in attending this event.

IML encourages all contestants to attend the Premier Reception, May 29 at 12 noon. This is an excellent opportunity for you to show your support for and congratulate this year's winners!

Contestant Scores; available in the Contestant holding room Monday at 11:00. If you are unable to pick up your scores and poster please inform Jeff Tucker or Nick Elliott.

IML will not give scores to anyone but the contestant himself. If circumstances prevent you from picking your scores up, contact Jeff Tucker or Nick Elliott, your “Den Daddy” and arrange to have the scores sent to you.

The Black & Blue Ball is final blow-out and the wildest party of IML, and it happens Monday, May 29. It is a time to celebrate the weekend and the men that you have come to know.