Suede is a stylish alternative to leather. You may hear warnings it’s soggy in bad weather, but the oft dismissed suede shoe is an elegant and humble addition to your shoe rack.
So how should you wear suede shoes, what is suede made from and can they survive the rain?
Suede shoes are considered more casual than polished leather shoes, due to their texture and lustre. However, a pair of dark coloured suede brogues or loafers will work well with a suit and elevate any smart casual outfit.
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!
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 is suede made?
- Suede is made from cow-hide, 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.
- The hide is split to reveal the fibres inside, giving suede its special texture. Traditionally, the hide would be split by hand, meaning that a small slip could result waste. Modern methods use machines that cut the hide to less than 1mm accuracy.
- The suede is coloured and the material is ready for use.
Will rain ruin suede shoes?
Contrary to popular opinion, not necessarily. 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.
Style tips for wearing suede shoes
- Wear suede shoes or boots casually with jeans or chinos.
- Suede boots are comfortable and versatile, and can be both casual or smart when styled well.
- In summer, a suede loafer with invisible socks paired with chinos is a classic, elegant look.
- Pair your dark brown or black suede brogues with a suit for a softer take on smart footwear.
- Keep suede shoes clean and well cared for to avoid them getting scruffy.
Suede shoes through the ages
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, though the former King was not afraid to make headlines.
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? Let us know in the comments section.