Most people, me included, prefer to use some kind of cloth to apply shoe cream when shoes are being polished, and possibly take an application brush for the space between the sole edge and the upper. In the case of embossed grain leather, however, there are great advantages of using the brush on the entire shoe.
Most who have polished shoes with embossed grain leather using a cloth have experienced that it may be a bit hard to get the cream applied evenly over the shoe. It often accumulates in the depressions in the pattern, and the cream don’t go into the leather in the same way as with regular smooth leather. What we call grain leather today is basically exclusively about hides where the leather has its structure by being pressed in a pattern press, instead of being flattened in the rolls that are used for plain smooth leather. There are a few suppliers of “natural grain leather” that work for shoes, but it’s relatively unusual as it is often very uneven in how deep the wrinkles are and so on. However, some grain leather is made where you shrink the skin so that the natural creases are strengthened, usually called shrunken calf. What can be interesting to know is that generally poorer quality hides with cosmetic flaws, for example, many stretch marks, tear marks, insect bites and the similar, are used for embossed grain leather, leathers that simply wouldn’t look good as full grain smooth hides where this would have shown. A bit generalized, one can say that the best hides become smooth full grain leather, the skin with too much cosmetic damage becomes grain leather, and hides with both cosmetic damage and poor elasticity and other defects are being corrected grain leather.
But, back to the actual topic. When you apply cream with a cloth it’s easily collected in the folds, it is no problem to brush off the extra with the larger brush when you go over the shoes. However, to spread the cream more evenly, it’s excellent to use an application brush. It’s really logical, a brush is easier to get into the cavities with and get the cream out evenly everywhere. So if you’re not already doing it, try using an application brush on your shoes in grain leather next time, and you’ll notice how much easier and faster it’s. For polish, however, it’s still best to use cloth also on this type of leather, and her also the toe part where you mostly use the polish is relatively smooth for grain leather as it stretches so much there.