How to wear men’s suede shoes

brown suede brogues on a wooden surface

Suede is suave, stylish and practical
Image source: Classic Cheltenham brogues in mid brown suede

Suede shoes offer a stylish alternative to leather which works particularly well in smart casual settings. Dressing down? Suede trainers combine beautifully with your favourite jeans. Want to take it up a notch? Suede brogues or Chelsea boots provide a slighter smarter option. 

An all year-round shoe for men of discernment, tactile suede looks good with woollens in the winter, or your crisp chinos in the summer. Here’s your ultimate guide to wearing men’s suede shoes.

What is suede?

Classic Penny loafer in brown suede from Samuel Windsor

Suede is a soft and tactile material made from the reverse side of leather
Image source: Classic Penny loafer in brown suede from Samuel Windsor

Suede is leather with the nap – the inside of the hide – facing out. This gives the finished product a soft, textured finish. To create suede, the hide is first tanned then split through the middle to expose the grain, which gives suede its texture. At this point the leather is dyed ready for use.

Although making suede from animal hides is an ancient craft, it was Edward, the Duke of Windsor, who first popularised suede shoes in the Roaring Twenties. For a wayward Prince who would later abdicate the throne amid much scandal, it seems fitting that the footwear would match the man – sporty, daring, and just a little bit dangerous. Edward wore dark brown suede shoes with his sporty navy suit – a serious fashion faux pas at that time. Later taken up by ‘teddy boys’ in the 50s and rock ‘n’ roll stars like Elvis Presley, colourful suede shoes were immortalised in song and quickly became an enduring part of popular menswear culture.

How hard-wearing is suede?

Classic dark brown suede shoe from Samuel Windsor

Specialist products will clean and protect your suede shoes
Image source: Classic dark brown suede shoe from Samuel Windsor

Salt damages both leather and suede, but the widespread belief that a few spots of rain will damage a pair of suede shoes is a fallacy. Suede is far tougher than that – in fact with the right care, suede will last many years without losing any of its good looks.

Darker suedes absorb stains more readily than lighter colours, but why let your shoes get dirty at all? Simply brushing with a rubber suede brush after each use and applying a suede-protecting spray maximises the life of suede and stops dirt and stains from accumulating. As always, the maxim that prevention is better than cure proves to be true.

Storing suede shoes? When it’s time to put your favourite lightweight suede shoes away for the winter, always place them in a breathable bag – a pillowcase will do. Put them in a dry spot so the damp won’t get at them, and they’ll be dust-free and ready and waiting for you as soon as the weather warms.

Suede boots from the deserts of North Africa

Prestige crepe soled desert boots in grey from Samuel Windsor

From the Cairo Bazaar to a modern staple, a pair of desert boots is a must
Image source: Prestige crepe soled desert boots in grey from Samuel Windsor

Soldiers stationed in North Africa during World War Two swapped their heavy army-issue footwear for light suede boots bought at the Cairo Bazaar. The boots, which were initially reserved for officers, were perfectly adapted to the searing heat of the desert and, brought back to Britain by returning soldiers, quickly found their way into mainstream men’s fashion.

Desert boots are now a menswear staple and a design icon well worth adding to your summer wardrobe. With a wide range of colours from which to choose, match yours with chino shorts, jeans, or summer weight chinos for a classic look that never fails to impress.

Suede brogues for the man about town

Classic Cheltenham brogue in dark brown suede

A pair of dapper suede brogues highlights your look
Image source: Classic Cheltenham brogue in dark brown suede

For a more casual alternative to black or brown leather shoes, why not give suede brogues a try? These stylish shoes have a uniquely summer vibe, but with a real touch of class.

A softer take on the concept of ‘smart’, suede brogues look best with that other menswear classic, chinos. But don’t stop there, because suede brogues are also the perfect way to accentuate the texture of your summer weight tweed suit, and even look great with a jeans and shirt combo.

Suede loafers offer relaxed charm

Classic penny loafers from Samuel Windsor

Preppy penny loafers are an elegant choice
Image: Classic penny loafers from Samuel Windsor

Penny loafers get their name from 1950s college students who used the slot detail to store pennies, which they’d need to ring girls from pay-phones. A symbol of youthful virility, the penny loafer continues to define the preppy style.

For a truly authentic look, wear your penny loafers with traditional chinos and button down shirt. Add a cashmere-mix sweater or a seersucker jacket for the ultimate in Ivy League charm, and top off with a pair of classic sunglasses – Clubmasters or Wayfarers will do the trick.

Casual suede trainers

Prestige suede trainers in navy from Samuel Windsor

Suede trainers make a dapper alternative to sports shoes
Image source: Prestige suede trainers in navy from Samuel Windsor

If you thought trainers were for the gym and nowhere else, here’s something new. While your sports shoes should indeed, never see the light of day outside circuit training or your daily run, a pair of suede trainers offers a way to dress casually without abandoning your fashion sense.

A pair of suede pumps is perfectly in keeping with a casual ensemble of jeans, t-shirt and jumper. Top with a bomber or Harrington jacket and you’re good for relaxing at your local cafe or doing the weekly shop.

The best suede shoes for winter

Prestige Chiltern boot in brown waxed suede from Samuel Windsor

A suede winter boot that’s hard to resist
Image source: Prestige Chiltern boot in brown waxed suede from Samuel Windsor

While traditionally, suede is more of a summer leather than one for the wet, grimy winter streets, a quality protective spray will enable you to extend your suede season considerably. Just be sure, use your suede brush after every wear, and dry your shoes thoroughly between use – always putting them in an airy spot at room temperature.

For those who want to push the envelope to include full winter use, your best option is a pair of waxed suede boots. These lovely boots offer excellent weather protection, keep your feet warm and dry and their chunky style is the perfect companion for rugged cords, a plaid shirt and fisherman’s sweater.

Suede is such a good looking, versatile leather, we know you’re itching to add more of it to your wardrobe. In fact, we’d love to see how you wear your suede shoes – share your photos on our Facebook page.

Posted in How To - Shoes.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Samuel Windsor's men's style guides

What's your thoughts on the subject?