Soggy in bad weather with 50s rock music connotations, it’s not surprising many people avoid suede shoes. But don’t dismiss this humble piece of footwear just yet.
Just what is suede, how should you wear suede shoes and can they survive the rain?
How is suede made?
Suede is made from cow-hide, just like leather, but unlike leather, the underside of the hide is used, which gives it a softer texture.
First, the hide is treated with lime and tannins in order to get rid of hairs and to ensure the material doesn’t decompose. After further treatment with oils and salts to increase durability, the hide is ready to be split.
Traditionally, the hide would be split by hand, meaning that a small slip could result in a lot of waste. Modern methods use machines that can cut the hide to less than 1mm accuracy.
Splitting the hide, reveals the fibres inside giving suede its special texture. After some colouring the material is ready for use.
How to wear suede?
Suede shoes are lightweight and have a fabulous texture. But if this looks a bit formal for your tastes, why not try a suede trainer instead? Pick a bright pair to jazz up a plain outfit. But remember to relax the colours in the rest of your outfit – you don’t want to look like a rainbow!
Suede brogues and Oxford shoes are suitable for formal attire, so long as they aren’t too garish and don’t clash with the rest of your outfit. Black, brown or navy colourways are great versatile options that can be worn with a suit, and on the weekends too.
Robert Johnston of GQ, believes that grey suede can be worn with grey jeans for a “chic” look. But with any more grey you may look like a cast of Lord of the Rings.
How to care for them
Salt will ruin leather and suede, but the fear that suede shoes will be damaged with a mere drop of rain is unfounded.Indeed leather is sturdier, but with care and attention, suede shoes can be worn over and over.
Simply brushing off dirt after every use, and applying a suede protecting spray, can maximise the life of suede and fend off nasty stains. In fact, some stains will disappear into the nap, or the fibres, on darker pairs of suede shoes.
When storing suede shoes for a long time, it is a good idea to put them in a dry place so damp can’t damage them. By putting them in a breathable bag, like a pillowcase, the suede will be protected from dust but also allowed to breathe.
Suede shoe wearers
Edward, the Duke of Windsor made suede shoes popular in the 1920s by wearing them with a sporty suit. He also chose to wear dark brown suede shoes with a navy suit, which at the time was seen as a mistake.
This legacy helped to influence “Teddy Boys” of the 1950s, who wore highly shined Oxfords, and suede “brothel creepers.” These are shoes with a very high sole, decorative patterning and suede quarters.
But suede shoes really became famous between 1955 and 1966 when Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly all released different version of the song “Blue Suede Shoes”. There have been many versions since, but it was these three that made sure mens suede shoes remained popular on our dancing feet.
So are you tempted to give suede shoes a go?