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There are really only three essentials: a neutral shoe cream, something to apply it with and a shoe brush (some like to use a brush to apply the cream as well, but I personally don't). At least those are the only things I use 99+% of the time. In addition it's useful to have a cream in matching colour, in the event of accidents leading to larger scuffs. I have those too, but I'm pretty sure I haven't used any of them since sometime in 2016.

To apply the cream I use old t-shirts (or cheap new ones, after a round in the washing machine) which I cut into suitably sized pieces, but obviously any soft and at least somewhat absorbent material will do just fine.

As far as the brush is concerned any decent horse hair brush will do just fine. If you know of a local cobbler I would just get them there, or buy something sensibly priced on-line. If the pairs are different colours I would obviously get a brush for each. There's really no need to spend a lot of money as you'll be very hard pressed indeed to notice any difference in performance unless you cheap out too badly. The only question is really whether you prefer your brushes large or small, soft or hard. That's something only experience can answer though.

To sum up: Saphir Medaille d'Or Pommadier in neutral and suitable colours, one or more decent shoe brushes (suggestions: Saphir medium brush, Saphir oval brush, Dasco brush. The very cheap Dasco performs just as well as the Saphirs and is my brush of choice), an old t-shirt and you're good to go.
 

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Perfectly normal. Ordinary shoe cream isn't for creating parade gloss, for that you need a wax or a more specialised cream. A cream will generally give you a semi-gloss or "satin" finish and will indeed make new shoes look less shiny. Personally I find that a good thing, as I detest parade gloss on shoes unless they're actually to be used on a parade ground.
 
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