"Take care of your equipment, and your equipment will take care of you" is a famous saying that every soldier, sailor, or Marine has heard time and again. We all hear it all the time when it comes to guns. You must clean your weapon after a trip to the range. I know that carbon and oil can make a sticky mess that, over time, can begin to impede the smooth operation of a gun. So, I have always followed the adage, and cleaned my weapon after each trip to the range. It has become a routine, and with the right substances and tools, takes maybe half an hour to do.
The same thing applies to shoes. Today, I notice most men do not seem to polish their shoes frequently, often showing up in a nice suit, but wearing worn looking, unpolished shoes. But a good pair of shoes will last decades if properly cared for, and polishing is part of the deal, along with resoling when necessary. I polish a pair of shoes after each wearing. I try not to wear the same pair day after day, but to let them air out and dry out for a day. To keep shoes in shape, a pair of cedar shoe trees placed in the shoes will keep them fresh and keep the shoes in shape. I would also note that with harder times coming economically, we are going to have to return to our grandparents way of doing things, repairing our stuff, and keep using it rather than throwing it away and buying new. Get a good pair of shoes, and keep them looking nice.
As far as shoe polishes go, I haven't found one brand better than another. I have used Kiwi Shoe Polish, as well as Griffin paste wax, and few other brands. Many professional shoe polishers seem to like Lincoln polishes. In my area, Kiwi is generally available. All of them work and I can't really tell a lot of difference in performance. Kiwi is somewhat harder than Griffin, but the level of shine seems the same. The purpose of shoe waxes, which is what shoe polish is, is to protect the shoe from some water and dirt, and keep the leather finish supple and looking nice. You may want to use a shoe conditioner if you haven't kept up with your polishing. Shoe conditioner adds oils back to the leather surface that have evaporated out. You can, if you want, bring a pair of shoes to a high luster by "spit shining," but a well done brush shine is all that is needed for providing the basic protection of your shoes. I don't use shoe cremes because these are not as protective. For the same reason, I don't use much liquid polish. But, I must admit that liquid polish does come in handy in special circumstances.
As far as polishing equipment goes, you will need an old tooth brush, a horsehair dauber brush for spreading polish onto the leather, and a horsehair polishing brush for smoothing out the polish and bring up the luster. A polishing cloth can be useful for adding that finishing touch. You should have one set of daubers and brushes for each color of shoes you polish. A trick I learned is that if you use a women's nylon hose to lightly polish the toe caps and quarter panels, you can bring a brushed shine to nearly that of a spit polished shine.
Steps to follow in polishing a pair of shoes are:
1/ Brush off the shoes to remove any dirt, dust, or mud. A little water may be needed to get mud off, but be sure to dry them thoroughly before polishing. While you do this, examine the shoe for any damage. Look at the soles, and if they are wearing thin, now is the time to take them in for resoling. Depending on your particular wear patterns, you may have to put new heals on more frequently than soles. In any case, taking them in before they actually wear through will save money in the long run. Also, at this time, take out the shoe laces so that you can polish the tongue of the shoe and get in around the eyes. If you haveshoe trees keeping them in while polishing will make the job easier.
2. Using an old tooth brush, take a dab of polish and run it along the top of the welt between the welt and the upper. Make sure to have polish on the stitching here, as this stitching takes quite a beating. Now polish the out sole and heal with Leather Sole and Heal Dressing. You can also use liquid polish in a pinch, but edge dressing is better. Let that dry.
3. Take you dauber and swirl it around the polish can one time. You don't want too much, Better to do two coats of polish than one thick one. Now begin smearing the polish on the shoe, making sure to get polish into the seems and tight places. Take the shoe in sections, doing the quarter panels and sides, the tongue and top, and finally the vamp. Let the polish dry to a haze, about 10 minutes. While one shoe is drying, do the other shoe.
4. Now, begin brushing the shoe vigorously, Move around, and polish both side to side and up and down. What you are doing is smoothing out the wax on the shoe, The smoother you can get it, the shinier the shoe becomes. You are not taking the wax back off. For a high luster, buff the shoe with the buffing cloth (or use an old nylon hose.) your shoes have a good shine, and they are protected from weather and the stuff you may step into. Now, if you want to become a shoe snob, take a look at this you tube. You can find others, but you don't have to go to these extremes. You can keep your shoes looking nice in about a twenty minutes.