Suede Shoes: Should I?

When I was a young lad my parents, ever practically minded, used to consider that the tricky problem of buying clothes could be mitigated by purchasing garments that were rather too large for me but that could be temporarily altered. The sad fact of the matter was mine was an adolescent body not capable of achieving the ideals of growth that my parents had envisaged. However, I am grateful to my parents for their input. Such practical thinking is admirable, and as they were intent on buying me items of very high quality, it was also rather necessary; I would soon have outgrown a perfectly fitted trouser at the age of 15.

Thinking practically about your wardrobe can save you money. I think a good number of people prefer to devote their time to other activities and expect their clothing results to be as instantaneous as their Starbucks coffee; walk in to shop, find needed black shoes, pay, walk out. The devil is that the product that has been made so readily available to our purchaser, like the Starbucks coffee, is probably overpriced. To get the right results from clothes shopping a good deal of research is needed. It’s preposterous to expect that the average retailer on the high street can be trusted to provide a product that offers, as well as style, long term value for money.

It’s perhaps ironic then that the more practically minded purchaser is apt to make impractical purchases. One such purchase might be a pair of suede shoes.
In the proper hands, suede shoes can be an excellent addition to a gentleman’s footwear collection. However, unlike full grain leather, which possesses the protective ‘skin layer’, suede is only from the soft underside of the animal’s skin; making it softer but also far less durable. Suede also has a tendency to absorb liquid very quickly, making suede products unsuitable for wear in wet periods. And no matter how cautious I have been with it in the past, it has always ended up looking tired, worn and dirty far too soon after the purchase.

“This” I was told by a charming and multi-lingual cobbler in Rome “does not always have to be so.” He informed me of protective sprays, brushing techniques and new suedes, all of which I was previously aware, that had been created for what he termed “the lazy people.” I surmised that lazy people are unlikely to purchase suede shoes because they are more decorative than practical. When new, they look gorgeous; the subtle matte finish is the footwear equivalent of a chocolate truffle. However, taking the decision to buy a pair is momentous. Suede shoes are the difficult child, the young offender and the family puppy; they require a great deal of care and attention. They should really be worn infrequently and never when it is raining. There are shoe care guides aplenty that offer ‘solutions’ for worn, wet or dirty suede but the unhappy fact of the matter is, your suede will never quite be the same again once it has shown the ugly evidence of use.

Lifting the napp on worn areas with a brush will not restore your shoes to their former glory, and dirt marks on light suede are unlikely to be completely lifted even after hours of attempt with a putty rubber. This is not to dissuade (please, excuse the pun) the reader from considering shoes in such a material. I myself have longed for a pair of black suede Stemar lace-ups that slipped through my fingers several seasons ago and despite my consideration that, though splendid, they would soon be irretrievably damaged by the persistent dirt and wet of London’s streets, I would still fall to my knees, irrationally and theatrically, and beg them to be mine.