For those who want a really good shine on their shoes it’s standard to use wax polish, which main features are just to produce shine and protection. However it’s possible to get really nice shine by just using cream, here’s a small crash course on how to do with the help of Hiroto Kawaguchi at Waltz Shoeshine Saloon in Tokyo.
In Japan, there are several who use this technique, using only shoe cream and still getting a “spit shine”. The one who started with it was Mikoto Chiba who has a shine saloon outside Tokyo called Chiba Special. He trained Shinichiro Matsumuro who then developed the technique and made it widely known, at least in Japan. He has the Maestro shoe shine service (which mainly meets customers through two of United Arrow’s stores in Tokyo or by courier), and also owns the Waltz Shoeshine Saloon. It is located in a department store in the Akihibara district, and here Hiroto Kawaguchi is working. Using what he told on a visit there and from an article in the magazine Last Magazine where Matsumuro learn more about the technology, I will try to explain the basics.
They use both their own special shoe cream and Saphir Medaille d’Or pommadier, either or, plus a special liquid to soften their own cream. They switch between the softer cream and the regular one. Here we only go through how to do with a regular cream. Start by wiping off shoe, then use a neutral shoe cream that you rub with a cotton cloth properly. It dissolves old cream, especially if you use the same products throughout on shoe. Then you take a brush and put on a foundation with cream which you brush in properly.
Then follows the more demanding process where you put on a thin layer of cream with a cotton cloth, with mostly vertical movements and very hard pressure. Then a thin layer of cream, but there you first put a few drops of water on the shoes with your finger tip. This is repeated until the desired shine is reached, and as with wax it is usually done primarily on the toe cap and possibly the heel cap. Finish it off by going over the shoe with quick motions of a soft brush and/or a nylon cloth. As mentioned it’s about switching between a looser and slightly harder cream to best build up in the pores of the leather and have a smooth surface (thus the same as you usually do with wax). This, along with the hard pressure, allows you to get a surface that looks like a regular wax spit shine, with training and the right technique, one should add. I have tried and got an ok result, but would have to train much more to find my way of achieving a better shine.
The benefits of using only cream is that you can add a higher gloss over the entire shoe, even the parts that move (still less than toes and heel, but more than wax which is forming a harder surface) without the surface cracking. It should also, especially if you are using the same products over and over, provide more continuous care. Worth a try for those who are curious.
Below a movie where Japanese style blogger Daisuke Yamashita’s shoes are polished, the first time I’ve seen the technique in reality, where you can get a bit more sense of the technique: