Although I feel that full-grain calfskin shoes should probably be the cornerstone of a small shoe wardrobe like mine, I can’t seem to keep myself from gravitating towards suede. Some men seem overly concerned that suede is difficult to maintain or is “out of style” for some strange reason, but I have never had an issue with either of these points. Something about suede’s texture and luminescence draws me in, and the fact that it is hard-wearing and easy to maintain makes it even more attractive.
Of course, not all suedes are equal; in the same way that there are varying degrees of leather quality, there is also quite a bit of variance in suede. The best suede generally comes in the form of reverse calf, which is essentially a full piece of calf leather with the “flesh” side facing out (the suede’s texture is then created through buffing). Most suede on the market is split suede, which comes from a full piece of leather that is split into multiple pieces. You can learn more about suede here.
Suede care is rather simple, although I will admit that I rarely do even the most basic of maintenance on my suede shoes. It can be easily waterproofed with a waterproofing spray, and small marks can be removed with a suede eraser. A suede brush can be used to restore the velvety nap after heavy use, and suede shampoo can be used for hardcore restoration (I’ve been planning on using this on the brown chukkas above, but as you can see, it hasn’t happened yet).
For those that are curious, I’ve outlined the pairs I own below. They range dramatically in retail price and quality but all of them have become central to my daily rotation. From left to right:
J. Crew “Bennet” chukka in sand suede. This option was by far the least expensive; the MSRP was a bold $248, but I nabbed it on sale for $60 shipped. They’re also by far the lowest quality, but I must say that I’ve been impressed overall. Most cheap shoes look terrible right out of the box, but these are not bad at all.
Sid Mashburn captoe balmoral in holborn suede. Made by Alfred Sargent, this one represents my dressiest pair of suede. I wear these like I would wear any other pair of brown dress shoes – primarily with suits and grey trousers. The suede’s texture make them look a bit better with hard textures like worsted wool, in my opinion.
Alden unlined plain-toe blucher in snuff suede. This pair is definitely the nicest I own, bought new-in-box at an amazing price on eBay. I have been eyeing this model for a long time, as it is an extremely comfortable and attractive casual shoe. The richness of color and texture in Alden’s suede is something to behold, as I have mentioned before.
Loake “Pimlico” chukka in dark brown suede. My first pair of suede came in the form of these chukka boots. They have been worn the hardest and still look pretty good, especially after considering all the bar-crawling, drink-spilling, and curb-tripping they’ve been involved in.
So what will I add next? Hard to say for sure, although I’ve had my eyes on suede loafers. Perhaps Alden’s LHS penny, Meermin’s string loafer, or maybe something else entirely. Whatever I decide on, though, I’m sure they will have no trouble joining this suede parade.