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Per Suede You

By Stan Mukoro

“…Suede shoes makes everything above them look more elegant, more expensive and more stylish.” –Alan Flusser

The summer of 1983 in London was one of parallel experiences. I discovered the ATM machine and the suede shoe. Allow me to explain. One night I was hanging out with three friends at Xenon, a local watering hole on the west side. One of my friends had recently traveled to the United States and began to share information about a machine in a wall that dispensed cash. Now this guy was known for his sense of humor so instantly the three of us listening to the story about money coming out of a wall, laughed hysterically.

We agreed it was an amazing hallucination or our friend was drunk. The evening is etched in my memory because earlier that day, I purchased my first pair of brown suede, wingtip brogues from Russell and Bromley. Not too long after that evening with the guys, the ATM machine and I would become acquainted. The rest is history and each time I look at that 26-year-old pair of shoes, I instantly think about making a cash withdrawal.

suedeThere is something about the suppleness of suede. No longer limited to fall and winter, classic and edgy versions of this refined favorite are available year round to spice up your wardrobe. As with any item you invest in for your wardrobe, quality matters. Premium suede comes from the flesh side of a lamb, goat, calf or pig. Goatskin and lambskin are the lightest and softest of suede types and should be handled delicately. Calf and pigskin are more durable because they are harder and tougher. Very similar but indeed an impostor of lesser quality, is nubuck. The main difference is nubuck is made from the exterior skin of a deer, cow or antelope. The harmonious relationship between the velvety visual and tactile texture of finely cobbled suede is a scrutinizer’s delight. Beware of those attempting to imitate the characteristics of a well-made, handcrafted design by gluing together linings and soles that will eventually fall apart.

The unique style of any pair of my brown suede shoes makes a smart, sophisticated statement. Cap-toes, monk straps or lace-ups in chocolate or cognac are the most versatile styles. You can sport them with suits, khakis or jeans. Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Pal Zileri, John Lobb and J.M. Weston are legendary when it comes to teaching men to appreciate the sartorial splendor of this classic. Although the nature of brown suede footwear is quite understated, rest assured the right pair is just as popular as Elvis’s blue ones.

Now that I’ve “suede” you into a different mindset, let’s kick it up a notch and explore other colors and styles. Loafers, boots and moccasins in suede are a great way to express your more individualistic side. Motivated by the desire to make my shoe collection just as satisfying as my clothing, I look for slim, sleek designs to keep my daytime and nighttime looks on the cutting edge of style. Try mixing it up a bit and going beyond the basics. A black, low cut boot, a navy moccasin, an olive green loafer with burgundy trim and a tan ankle boot are my own examples. It’s all about what you pair them with. Cesare Paciotti, Belgian Shoes, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci and Beluti offer some pretty impressive choices that offer long-term value for money.

Suede can last a lifetime if you protect it. Make certain you buy a soft-bristle suede brush and give your footwear a good brush a few times every season. Treating suede shoes with a protective spray or finish will prevent stain damage and repel water. If staining occurs for some reason, brush the suede with a soft gum eraser to remove it. If the eraser doesn’t do the trick, take them to a professional cleaner. If you get stuck in the rain, immediately stuff your shoe or boot with paper towels, allow them to dry for 24 hours then lightly steam them over boiling water to restore the nap. When you aren’t wearing your suede footwear, insert a shoetree to maintain the original shape of the shoe and to absorb moisture.

There is something about suede that adds ‘Allure’ to any outfit. It is one of the neatest fabrics. With its all four seasons versatility, you can combine it with your wardrobe favorites to create lasting looks for anytime of the day. Suede’s suppleness makes it easily vulnerable to damage but just as most wonderful things in life require maintenance, so does suede.

Stan Mukoro is a style guru living in Atlanta, Georgia.                                   Contact info: ssmukoro@gmail.com
Weekly tip: Suede will fade if constantly exposed to light. Wrap your shoes/boots in tissue paper; place them in a shoebox and store in a cool, dry place.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.