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shoes by J.FitzPatrick Footwear
Fauntleroy shoes by J.FitzPatrick Footwear

Why is it that so many men are afraid to buy suede shoes for fear of ruining them? Suede is just like any other leather. If you treat it well, it will last a long time, if you don’t maintain it, it will get ruined!! But it’s not guaranteed that if you live in a rainy place you are automatically going to ruin your suede shoes, as one might think. You would just as easily ruin a pair of regular leather shoes as you would a pair of suede shoes. Obviously it also helps to know what kind of suede you are buying, the better the grade, the easier to maintain. You always want to protect any shoes you purchase by getting the corresponding products to maintain them. There are a number of different types of spray and cream protectors that are essential, obviously the spray one’s for the suede and cream one’s for your regular leather. There are also brushes that help clean and maintain the integrity of the suede that are useful for when you do happen to spill, or get a rain spot, on your suede shoes.

Shoes Directly below by Japanese bespoke maker, Saion

Riccardo Bestetti shoes
Riccardo Bestetti shoes

It’s funny that there is such a big fear of suede when in fact, a dark brown or black suede shoe is one of the easiest types of shoe to maintain. You could easily spill something on them and it be hidden. In fact I have spilled red wine on my suede boots several times and it never left a mark after it dried and those were on snuff suede. I also know a gentlemen who lives in Seattle and only wears suede shoes. Considering he wears a suit to work everyday, he is thus wearing suede shoes everyday and if you know anything about Seattle, you know that it rains a lot there. His shoes, however, seem to keep their integrity, apparently because he knows how to treat them. So for all of you that have wanted to purchase a pair of suede shoes but didn’t for fear of easily ruining them, get the fear out of your head and go get yourself a pair along with the spray’s and brushes to maintain them. Now I do have to say that a light colored suede is something a little more sensitive to dust, dirt and water but all in all if you watch where you step and avoid wearing them on days with heavy rain then the leather’s integrity will still last quite awhile.

Two toned model by J.FitzPatrick Footwear
Two toned model by J.FitzPatrick Footwear


shoes by Barbanera
shoes by Barbanera

It’s a shame that there is this misconception of suede because it is such a nice substitute in regards to always wearing calf skin shoes. Something about suede gives it an appeal that really adds to the intelligence of an outfit. It’s casual elegance can create a balance in an outfit that would have otherwise been too dressy or too casual or simply too much. It is hard to explain but the allure of suede shoes is profound and the fact that suede is also so versatile only adds to it’s appeal and the intelligence of pairing it with a smart outfit.

Suede also is a great alternative (and is far more common) in the casual shoe world. What I also like about suede in casual shoes is the fact that when making a shoe in a bright or unique color, using suede as the leather type can take it a notch down, thus giving the appearance of it being slightly less in-your-face as opposed to a regular leather that would be more shiny and only enhance the bright color. Examples below.

All pictures below of “Puma Suede” model and courtesy of Sneaker Magazine

k-Suede-Classic-ICED-357251-1_1 k-352634-77-Suede-Mono-black-5 352634-20-Suede-Mono-red-5_1


32 thoughts on “Suede Shoes – The Big Misconception”

  1. Justin, I know one of your blogs says Jordan’s are a don’t. But I recently bought a pair of Jordan spizikes. These have the “elephant print” on the toe and heel, is there a good way to protect that type of material?

  2. suede would be the same my has to do with the lining and insole and support of the shoes, not so much the upper….the more you wear a leather shoe (no matter the type) without letting it rest, the quicker it will break down, in an exponential manner….

  3. I am currently writing an instructional blog about shoe care, and suede being one of those topics. I am curious what creams and sprays you use on your suede. I own several suede shoes, and I have an alcohol based spray that I use on them every time I wear them, and it have kept them fairly decent, but I am always interested in what to use to improve their appearance, as suede is one of my favourite materials to wear in my shoes. Thank you Justin, I have found your techniques and advice very useful, and have referred many of my clients to your site.

    Cheers, Curtis Newkirk

    1. I don’t actually use anything on suede to be honest. A good suede should be pre-treated. To upkeep them I simply steam them and brush them with the wire brush… brushing them down after every wear will ensure a longer, healthier life of the suede

    2. by the way, forgot to say thanks for your kind words and for sending people my way. I do appreciate the support and the referrals!

      1. Mate, no worries, I recently used your polish to restore a pair of cheaper shoes, and amazingly they are one of my favourite looking pairs I own. As far as suede, that’s what I have been doing, but I was curious if there was some secret that I wasn’t aware of. I will be a loyal client for your products, and most likely a pair of shoes in the near future. I am very impressed with your quality, and craftsmanship. You’ll see my info come up a lot on your order system haha

  4. I’m about to buy some suede oxfords, but I don’t know which color to get. I’m not worried about shoe maintenance, but I want to buy the color that will go with the most outfits. Which color will I get the most use out of?

    1. Um, they don’t. I own a pair of olive-colored suede shoes. I also own a pair of white suede bucks that are a classic mens’ summer shoe. And “dirty” bucks, a light tan suede shoe, are the year-round version of white bucks.

  5. This may be an old entry, but I just wanted to say, the best pair of shoes I have ever owned were maroon suede oxfords .

    I bought them in late 2008 and wore them almost every day/several times a week for years, rain or shine, o the worst surfaces and with next to no care ( I was a student and simply didn’t have the money to do more than take an old toothbrush to them), and the things just lasted and lasted until the right one gave up the ghost and separated from its sole last month.

    I actually came here via a Google search for Church’s shoes because I wanted to scope them out as a potential replacement. Well, now I know better than to do that (and thank you) but I was also glad to find this defence of suede. It’s a most unfairly maligned material.

  6. Elizabeth Aniston


  7. I’ve read people state that with suede shoes the quality of the leather is not as important. Meaning that suede doesn’t have a quality range as significant as calf leather (i guess).

    What are your thoughts? I ask because I want to buy my first C&J pair and was wondering whether it would be wise to go with a suede option (cavendish or westfield).


  8. I am currently wearing a pair of olive-colored suede Bass Brocktons, which I have owned for 4 years, and they look like new. Other than spraying them with a suede protector when I first bought them, I really haven’t done any maintenance on them. I think the key is that I don’t wear them every day, pretty much only wear them October through March, and then typically only one or two days a week. And I don’t wear them on rainy days, or walk through wet grass when I wear them, etc. So yes, one can keep suede looking good for years without too much care, but through careful wearing. Consider the weather, and what your intended activities are that day. It is not accurate to say, as this article does, that “suede is just like any other leather.” No, it’s not. It is actually missing the more waterproof layer of standard full-grain leather, and so absorbs water much more easily. Think of a chamois cloth, which like suede is from the split side of a hide, it is an excellent water absorber – but doesn’t look so great once it has absorbed water and dried. Standard fullgrain leather is also finished in hydrophobic coatings and polished with wax, which is hydrophobic, further waterproofing it, none of which can be done to suede due to its nap. I have seen too many snarky comments on discussions about suede shoes
    that are dismissive of peoples’ concerns about getting suede shoes wet,
    like the one below from Style Forum. No, suede doesn’t “melt” in the
    rain, but unless assiduously blotted and brushed before it dries on its
    own, it will dry stiff and be unrecoverable, about as attractive-looking as a used old chamois cloth.

    “And, contrary to what seems to be the belief on this thread, suede does not melt in the rain.” from

  9. Hi Justin, i absolutely love your ” THE SHOE SNOB ” website! I live in Melbourne Australia where we have a saying ” 4 seasons in one day ”.
    That’s why when I questioned is leather better in the rain then suede shoes. Your site was very informative and I learnt a lot so thank you!
    I have recently stumbled across my favorite shoes and most comfortable shoes in the world.
    Clarks Wallabees and Desert Boots the only problem was I cauld only buy them in a beige-Sand color which is quite light in color Justin. Every single mark shows and as well they do have a light colored crepe sole. I did notice which side to use the brush you use first. But I guess my two questions are. Will I know straight away if im using the rubber brush the wrong way, like a lint brush I use on my clothes?
    And I also noticed you mentioned you ” Steam them ”? How do you do this Justin? Pop them in bathroom with hot water running or old iron up to them?
    Kind regards,

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      unfortunately the super light suedes are exempt from this post as unfortunately they do show the wear and tear. Steaming them is ideally with a steam iron but you could use your kettle too just that it will be a bit more difficult. For using the brush, there is no wrong way, just don’t rub too hard…. very very light grit sandpaper helps to clean suede too fyi

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