Save on Suede
Ryan Plett from [you_have_broken_the_internet] dropped a recommendation for these reasonably affordable Johnston & Murphy suede derbies, which weigh in at $135 full retail.
If you’re looking to cut corners on shoe spending, this is exactly where you can do it. The suede in casual shoes like these serves the same purpose as corrected-grain leather - it helps cover up imperfections in hides, allowing the shoemaker to save money on cheap leather. Unlike corrected-grain leather, though, it still looks perfectly decent. Maybe not quite as lustrous as fine-quality suede, but plenty good enough.
Similarly, the rubber soles on these casual shoes save the manufacturer money, but they’re also appropriate for the shoe style. Since you’re unlikely to re-sole a rubber-soled buck anyway, the advantages of quality construction, like ease of re-soling, are greatly reduced. These are knock-around shoes, and you should pay knock-around prices.
If you buy a wingtip at full retail and pay $125, you’ll get something that is very obviously of poor quality. The leather will be visibly cheap - shiny and plasticky. The shoe won’t be resolable, and will be unlikely to last. It’s simply not a good decision.
Buy a suede buck for $125, and it’s a different story. When it comes to suede casual shoes, $125 buys you a shoe that’s pretty darn close to what you’d get for $300, at least in practical terms. There will be a difference: the construction of the expensive shoe will be better, the materials better, the styling perhaps more elegant, but the performance gap is much, much smaller than with a dress shoe. And when you consider that shoes by mid-range companies like Cole Haan and Johnston & Murphy can often be found on deep discount, there’s no reason you have to spend more than $75 or $80 for a pair of bucks or suede saddles.

Save on Suede

Ryan Plett from [you_have_broken_the_internet] dropped a recommendation for these reasonably affordable Johnston & Murphy suede derbies, which weigh in at $135 full retail.

If you’re looking to cut corners on shoe spending, this is exactly where you can do it. The suede in casual shoes like these serves the same purpose as corrected-grain leather - it helps cover up imperfections in hides, allowing the shoemaker to save money on cheap leather. Unlike corrected-grain leather, though, it still looks perfectly decent. Maybe not quite as lustrous as fine-quality suede, but plenty good enough.

Similarly, the rubber soles on these casual shoes save the manufacturer money, but they’re also appropriate for the shoe style. Since you’re unlikely to re-sole a rubber-soled buck anyway, the advantages of quality construction, like ease of re-soling, are greatly reduced. These are knock-around shoes, and you should pay knock-around prices.

If you buy a wingtip at full retail and pay $125, you’ll get something that is very obviously of poor quality. The leather will be visibly cheap - shiny and plasticky. The shoe won’t be resolable, and will be unlikely to last. It’s simply not a good decision.

Buy a suede buck for $125, and it’s a different story. When it comes to suede casual shoes, $125 buys you a shoe that’s pretty darn close to what you’d get for $300, at least in practical terms. There will be a difference: the construction of the expensive shoe will be better, the materials better, the styling perhaps more elegant, but the performance gap is much, much smaller than with a dress shoe. And when you consider that shoes by mid-range companies like Cole Haan and Johnston & Murphy can often be found on deep discount, there’s no reason you have to spend more than $75 or $80 for a pair of bucks or suede saddles.

Can you wear suede shoes in the rain? Yes. Namor treated his suede loafers with Red Wing’s silicone spray, and shows us how waterproof they are now. I personally use Allen Edmonds’ Spray Waterproofer, but the effect is the same. Note that Allen Edmonds’ isn’t silicone based. There’s some controversy over whether silicone products can damage your leathers, but I’m not sure there’s any conclusive evidence either way. 

Addendum: I don’t recommend using these waterproofers on any smooth calf, but I’ve done it to all my suede shoes without any harm. 

Q and Answer: How Should You Protect Your Suede Shoes?
Brett writes to ask: I have a pair of suede plain-toe bluchers coming from Alden.  What do you do, if anything, for protection or treatment?
Some  people think suede shoes are too delicate and need  babying, but in  actuality, if you know how to take care of them, they’re easier to  maintain than regular calf. You don’t have to  condition, polish, or wax them every couple of weeks, after all. Here are some basic  maintenance tips:
Apply a waterproofing spray to protect them from stains and    water. Brush with a suede brush before and after the spray. I    use Allen Edmonds’ spray protectors and brushes.
If you get a stain, use a suede eraser. Again, I use Allen Edmonds’. 
If you get mud on them, let the mud dry overnight and brush it off    with a stiff brush (eg a nail brush). If there is some remainder dirt left,  wipe it off with a clean, damp cloth or use the suede eraser. 
In most cases, if your shoes get wet, they should be fine. In some   cases, however, they can be left with water stains. It  may sound   counter-intuitive, but in those situations, I recommend  you wash your   shoes, like this.
If your stains are more serious, such as those from oil or grease,    you may be in trouble. Try brushing it off with a stiff brush and    applying the suede eraser. If those don’t work, hand wash them. A   last ditch attempt could be to just take them to a cobbler for a   professional cleaning. If all those fail, you’ll have to either tell   yourself the stain is a “patina” or resign your shoes.  
If your suede shoes are old, hold them over a pot of  boiling water and let the steam hit it. After that, brush them with a  suede brush. This should restore the material’s nap and luminescence. 
The above  should be done in addition to all the other things you  should be doing  for your shoes: Insert unvarnished, cedar shoe trees  whenever you’re not  wearing your shoes; let them have at least a day of  rest in between  each wearing; and use shoe horns when you can. 
Don’t be afraid to wear them in more inclement weather,  either. I     personally  wouldn’t recommend wearing them at the end of winter, when     there is a  bunch of half-melted, dirty, slushy snow outside, but  almost  any   other time is  fine. I wear mine more or less year round.
In the end, remember: shoes are meant to be worn. There’s a   difference between aging well and aging poorly, but your shoes are   always going to age. If you invest in quality shoes and do the above,  they’ll age well and actually look better than they did when they were  brand new.

Q and Answer: How Should You Protect Your Suede Shoes?

Brett writes to ask: I have a pair of suede plain-toe bluchers coming from Alden.  What do you do, if anything, for protection or treatment?

Some people think suede shoes are too delicate and need babying, but in actuality, if you know how to take care of them, they’re easier to maintain than regular calf. You don’t have to condition, polish, or wax them every couple of weeks, after all. Here are some basic maintenance tips:

  • Apply a waterproofing spray to protect them from stains and water. Brush with a suede brush before and after the spray. I use Allen Edmonds’ spray protectors and brushes.
  • If you get a stain, use a suede eraser. Again, I use Allen Edmonds’.
  • If you get mud on them, let the mud dry overnight and brush it off with a stiff brush (eg a nail brush). If there is some remainder dirt left, wipe it off with a clean, damp cloth or use the suede eraser.
  • In most cases, if your shoes get wet, they should be fine. In some cases, however, they can be left with water stains. It may sound counter-intuitive, but in those situations, I recommend you wash your shoes, like this.
  • If your stains are more serious, such as those from oil or grease, you may be in trouble. Try brushing it off with a stiff brush and applying the suede eraser. If those don’t work, hand wash them. A last ditch attempt could be to just take them to a cobbler for a professional cleaning. If all those fail, you’ll have to either tell yourself the stain is a “patina” or resign your shoes. 
  • If your suede shoes are old, hold them over a pot of boiling water and let the steam hit it. After that, brush them with a suede brush. This should restore the material’s nap and luminescence.
  • The above should be done in addition to all the other things you should be doing for your shoes: Insert unvarnished, cedar shoe trees whenever you’re not wearing your shoes; let them have at least a day of rest in between each wearing; and use shoe horns when you can.
  • Don’t be afraid to wear them in more inclement weather, either. I personally wouldn’t recommend wearing them at the end of winter, when there is a bunch of half-melted, dirty, slushy snow outside, but almost any other time is fine. I wear mine more or less year round.

In the end, remember: shoes are meant to be worn. There’s a difference between aging well and aging poorly, but your shoes are always going to age. If you invest in quality shoes and do the above, they’ll age well and actually look better than they did when they were brand new.

Suede Shoes

I’m a huge fan of suede shoes and wear them more or less year-round. The word “suede” comes from the French word “Suède,” which simply means Sweden. At one point, Swedish suede gloves were the most common form of luxury, and the French word for Sweden ended up being used for the leather itself.

Suede can be made from almost any leather. You often find it made from lambskin, goatskin, and calfskin. In Germany they make it from stag and in Louisiana, there’s a producer that makes alligator suede. To get the texture, the animal’s skin is buffed with an abrasive. This can be done to the grain side of the leather, which will give you a finer, more velvety texture, or on the flesh side, which will give you a slightly coarser feel. Each animal will produce a slightly different feel to the suede, however, so the variation isn’t just through top vs. flesh side usage.

I personally prefer finer, velvety suede. To examine the quality, I examine to see if the fibers of the nap are uniform in length and packed tightly together. If the nap is firm, dense, and compact, the suede will be a bit more resilient. I eschew suedes with longer naps, as I find that they get a bit ragged and develop bald spots over time. I also avoid any suede that feels a bit greasy.

Since it’s fall, I suggest that you try suede shoes with wool flannel, corduroy, and moleskin trousers. Those tend to have “softer” looking textures, and I think they look quite well next to suede. The above are just some of the options - oxfords, Norwegian split toe bluchers, chukka boots, field boots, double monks, and tassel loafers. I myself just ordered a pair of Crockett & Jones Belgraves in Polo suede from Pediwear and plan to wear it often on weekends. In being an oxford, this shoe is a bit dressy; in being made from suede, however, it’s also a bit casual. They’re the perfect way to look sharp in a non-business, casual setting, I think.

(Pictures above by MostExerent, Ethan Desu, Leffot, and Run of the Mill)

Brown Suede Shoes for Autumn
While I think brown suede shoes are great for every season (perhaps except winter), they’re particularly fitting for autumn. The soft, warm looking texture fits in well with the season’s mood and looks great against the brown corduroys, gray flannel trousers, and olive moleskins that should be in your standard Fall rotation. 
If you don’t already have a pair, consider getting something nice for this Fall. If you can afford to splurge, I recommend Crockett & Jones’ Belgrave in polo brown calf suede. It’s a pretty expensive shoe, but I think one of the most handsome ones you can buy. For something more affordable,  check out this Charles Tyrwhitt suede chukka (which is on sale right now), Loake’s suede Eton loafer, and Rancourt’s suede camp mocs. For something a bit cheaper than those, there’s Florsheim’s Haviland longwing. I’m not that crazy about Florsheim, but they’re one of the cheapest Goodyear welted shoes on the market. Use the code NewFW11 at checkout and you’ll get 10% off as well as free shipping (thanks to The Silentist for the tip). 
Lastly, it’s not released yet, but the guys at Run of the Mill are coming out with a suede double monkstrap on a Danite sole. The price will be around $450 and it should be released in a month or so. 
(photo credit: NOBD from StyleForum)

Brown Suede Shoes for Autumn

While I think brown suede shoes are great for every season (perhaps except winter), they’re particularly fitting for autumn. The soft, warm looking texture fits in well with the season’s mood and looks great against the brown corduroys, gray flannel trousers, and olive moleskins that should be in your standard Fall rotation. 

If you don’t already have a pair, consider getting something nice for this Fall. If you can afford to splurge, I recommend Crockett & Jones’ Belgrave in polo brown calf suede. It’s a pretty expensive shoe, but I think one of the most handsome ones you can buy. For something more affordable,  check out this Charles Tyrwhitt suede chukka (which is on sale right now), Loake’s suede Eton loafer, and Rancourt’s suede camp mocs. For something a bit cheaper than those, there’s Florsheim’s Haviland longwing. I’m not that crazy about Florsheim, but they’re one of the cheapest Goodyear welted shoes on the market. Use the code NewFW11 at checkout and you’ll get 10% off as well as free shipping (thanks to The Silentist for the tip). 

Lastly, it’s not released yet, but the guys at Run of the Mill are coming out with a suede double monkstrap on a Danite sole. The price will be around $450 and it should be released in a month or so. 

(photo credit: NOBD from StyleForum)

One of the great things about summer is that you get to wear suede shoes more often. Here then is a video you should keep on hand. Leffot shows us how to wash suede shoes, which many men aren’t aware is possible. It’s pretty simple, really. Just put it under cold, running water and scrub it gently with a soft brush. Afterwards, stuff it with some newspapers and leave it out to dry. Now you’ll have much newer looking suede shoes!

It’s On eBay
Mark McNairy New Amsterdam Suede Derbies
These are pretty much ultimate fall casual shoes.
Bidding starts at $195, or Buy It Now for $215, ends August 30th

It’s On eBay

Mark McNairy New Amsterdam Suede Derbies

These are pretty much ultimate fall casual shoes.

Bidding starts at $195, or Buy It Now for $215, ends August 30th

Q and Answer: Suede and Water
Avi writes:  I recently picked up a pair of Clarks Dessert Boots, of the Oakwood  Suede variety. Continuing your recent shoe care theme, how do I go  about keeping suede shoes clean and unmarked? Can I waterproof shoes of  this type? I’ve noticed a few minor watermarks already—am I stuck with  these discolorations?
Suede is extremely difficult to keep clean and unmarked, particularly if it’s a lighter color.  Even water can leave a spot and ruin the nap of the leather. 
There are a couple of paths you can follow.
When your shoes are new, you can spray them with a silicone-based water sealant.  These are available in the shoe section of your local drugstore, or from your shoe repair shop.  A few coats (let them dry thoroughly in between) won’t turn them into galoshes, but it will help if you get caught out there. 
You can also buy a suede kit.  Most are two tools and a stain remover.  The tools are essentially a gum eraser, for rubbing the soil off, and a brush, for bringing up the nap.  If you get a spot, this can really help.
The third course of action is probably the best, though.  Just accept that they’ll get dinged up.  It’s pretty much the nature of the beast.

Q and Answer: Suede and Water

Avi writes:  I recently picked up a pair of Clarks Dessert Boots, of the Oakwood Suede variety. Continuing your recent shoe care theme, how do I go about keeping suede shoes clean and unmarked? Can I waterproof shoes of this type? I’ve noticed a few minor watermarks already—am I stuck with these discolorations?

Suede is extremely difficult to keep clean and unmarked, particularly if it’s a lighter color.  Even water can leave a spot and ruin the nap of the leather. 

There are a couple of paths you can follow.

When your shoes are new, you can spray them with a silicone-based water sealant.  These are available in the shoe section of your local drugstore, or from your shoe repair shop.  A few coats (let them dry thoroughly in between) won’t turn them into galoshes, but it will help if you get caught out there. 

You can also buy a suede kit.  Most are two tools and a stain remover.  The tools are essentially a gum eraser, for rubbing the soil off, and a brush, for bringing up the nap.  If you get a spot, this can really help.

The third course of action is probably the best, though.  Just accept that they’ll get dinged up.  It’s pretty much the nature of the beast.

It’s On eBay
Blue Suede Derbies by Alfred Sargent
Starts at $46.06, ends early Saturday morning

It’s On eBay

Blue Suede Derbies by Alfred Sargent

Starts at $46.06, ends early Saturday morning