Like leather shoes, men's suede dress shoes can be a great way to elevate yourself above the average sneaker-wearing American male.
However, there are certain dos and don'ts a suede-wearing man must know.
Unlike their leather counterparts, they don't suit every occasion. If you don't know how to wear, care for and compare the different styles of suede shoes, you could make a fatal error and ruin your outfit entirely.
As ever, it's my job to steer you guys in the right direction. So, today I'm breaking out the fundamentals so you can wear suede shoes with confidence.
In this article, we'll cover:
- What Is Suede and Why Wear It?
- When Should You Wear Suede?
- Types Of Suede Dress Shoes
- Keeping Suede Clean and Maintained
1. What Is Suede and Why Wear It?
Suede, like leather, is a natural fabric made from animal skin.
Unlike full-grain leather (which is made from the tough outer skin of an animal), suede comes from deeper layers. We call this deeper skin ‘corium.'
An animal's outer layer of skin protects it from the elements. That's why shoes made from full-grain leather are tough and water-resistant.
On the other hand, suede is generally more delicate than full-grain leather. Without waterproofing protection, suede can become discolored or damaged by moisture. Yet, with regular maintenance, suede can withstand the elements and last for years.
Why Wear Suede Dress Shoes?
Some men refuse to wear suede. They argue that because suede is more delicate than leather, it is also a more feminine fabric.
That's not true! Any man can wear suede and still look stylish and masculine.
Men wearing suede stand out from the crowd (in a good way) partly because suede isn't a very common fabric in menswear.
You'll also get more comments on your shoes – if something's interesting and unique, people want to talk about it!
3. When Should You Wear Suede Dress Shoes?
Suede often attracts attention. Most men wear dark leather shoes, so brighter suede shoes/boots can easily catch the eye of those around you.
While that means it's easy to stand out as the most stylish guy in the room, sometimes it isn't appropriate to attract the attention of those around you.
Wearing them in casual situations like at the bar or the casual workplace is acceptable. However, wearing them to a wedding or funeral where it's inappropriate to be the center of attention is a big no-no.
As with any style choice – think carefully and make sure what you're wearing suits the formality of the event you're attending.
Can You Wear Suede Dress Shoes With A Suit?
You can if you choose the right suede shoes. Opt for shoes that feature more formal details. Choose a sleek silhouette over a chunky shoe, a leather sole over a thick rubber sole, and darker colors.
Remember, suede is a more casual fabric than leather. There will be times when they won't be the right choice for the occasion.
What Belts Match Men's Suede Dress Shoes?
As a rule, your belt should match the color of your shoes. Also, your metals should match (silver to silver, gold to gold).
That said, don't overthink it!
You don't need to go out and buy a suede belt that exactly matches the fabric and color of your shoes. While that might be a good option, check your closet first. You might own a belt that will match the color and not appear too contrasting.
You can wear a brown leather belt with brown suede shoes or a black leather belt with gray suede chukkas. Matching your belt and shoes is one case in which “close” is usually good enough.
When Not To Wear Suede Dress Shoes
As previously mentioned, in very conservative environments, suede shoes may seem too “flashy.”
Suede can also be seen as inappropriate in situations where a more' classic' style is required. When in high-stakes situations (like job interviews), opt for a traditional leather shoe.
In these scenarios, you don't want people looking at your shoes. The room's full attention should be on what you have to say.
4. Types Of Suede Dress Shoes (And How To Wear Them)
Most types of dress shoes on the market are available in suede.
Men's Suede Dress Shoes Type #1: Oxfords
While suede Oxfords are the most formal suede shoes you can buy, they're still more casual than leather Oxfords because of their fabric.
Brown suede Oxfords with broguing pair well with fitted jeans. However, they'll look even better with a casual summer suit.
Complete the look with a light-colored linen shirt and a brown webbed belt.
Men's Suede Dress Shoes Type #2: Whole Cut Suede Shoes
Wearing midnight-blue suede Wholecuts is sure to get you noticed. You have to wear them with confidence to make such a bold choice.
Wear them with trousers and a sports jacket (don't forget the pocket square). Make sure that the jacket and trousers are noticeably different colors. You want to avoid looking like you made a mistake getting dressed that morning.
You could wear a blue, gray, or black belt in this situation, and you should try a wide variety of casual collared shirts. Consider wearing a simple knit tie for an even “smarter” look.
Men's Suede Dress Shoes Type #3: Derby Shoes
Tan suede Derby shoes with a contrasting sole are a classic. Try pairing them with gray chinos and a white polo shirt. Opt for a tan or light brown belt.
Throw on an olive-colored bomber jacket and grab a pair of classic sunglasses for a perfect spring look.
Men's Suede Dress Shoes Type #4: Monk Strap Shoes
Suede monk straps are becoming more common in recent years.
You can pair a pair of navy suede double monks with off-white trousers and a navy blazer. Add a vertically striped dress shirt for a pop of pattern.
Accessorize with a dark belt and a colorful paisley pocket square if you feel bold.
Men's Suede Dress Shoes Type #5: Loafers
Suede loafers scream summer casual.
Style light brown suede loafers with navy blue chino shorts, a canvas belt, and a white short-sleeved shirt.
Rather than going without socks, wear no-show socks to stop your shoes from developing a nasty smell.
Complete your outfit with a minimalist watch to achieve those laid-back beach vibes.
Men's Suede Dress Shoes Type #6: Chelsea Boots
Suede Chelsea boots are one of the most commonly seen suede varieties of shoes for men.
Chelsea boots can be dressed up or down. You can wear dark brown suede Chelsea boots with tan chinos for a smart casual look. Pair with a light blue Oxford cloth button-down shirt (tucked in).
Add a field watch with a brown leather strap on your wrist and a dark brown leather belt for a perfect combination for the modern casual workplace.
Men's Suede Dress Shoes Type #7: Chukka Boots
The great thing about gray suede chukkas is that they can go with almost anything. As a neutral color, gray works well with lighter-themed and dark outfits.
Unsure on what to wear for date night?
Why not wear gray suede chukkas with fitted black jeans and a black leather belt? A casual, gray shirt will look great with a silver dive watch to add flair to this monochromatic outfit.
5. Keeping Suede Clean And Maintained
Before you break out your polish, remember that suede differs from traditional leather. That's because its soft texture is more delicate and absorbent than leather.
Leather shoes need regular maintenance and conditioning. However, you will ruin suede shoes if you subject them to the same polish as your leather dress shoes.
To keep suede looking its best, clean it with a plastic/wire-bristle brush. The last thing you want is to damage your new shoes by using the incorrect cleaning equipment.
A wire brush works well on “heavy-duty” suede fabrics. More delicate suede requires a softer touch. When in doubt, test a wire brush on a small, inconspicuous area of your shoe (like on the tongue).
Use your best judgment – if the wire brush seems to damage your suede shoes, stop immediately! Instead, try a plastic brush with softer bristles. When in doubt, consult your local cobbler.
Should You Waterproof Suede Shoes?
Water is suede's worst nightmare. However, you can wear suede shoes in wet weather if you take the proper precautions by waterproofing them.
While there are many waterproofing agents on the market, use one explicitly formulated for suede.
Beware: some waterproofing agents will darken the color of your shoes.
Test the product on a hard-to-see area if this concerns you and let it dry. If you're happy with the results, apply the waterproofing agent to the whole shoe. You may need several coats.
Re-application is required anywhere from once a year to every few weeks. It all depends on your environment and how much you wear your suede shoes. Luckily, many manufacturers offer suede shoes with built-in water-resistant properties. In this case, follow the manufacturer's instructions for maintenance.
There you have it, gents. After reading that extensive guide to all things suede, you should be able to wear the fabric with confidence and style. Remember, it's all about presenting your best self to the world – and a pair of suede dress shoes might be the shoes to help you do just that.
Suede's great – but there are plenty of other options out there. Click here to discover my list of the ten essential shoes every man should own.