Shoes 201 – Shoe Care – Suede Shoes

This is an excellent video and article by videojug about the proper care, cleaning and revival of suede leather shoes. Peter Schweiger,  the 5th generation owner of the British bespoke shoemakers James Taylor & Son, , demonstrates the techniques.

How To Clean Suede Shoes

How to Clean and Care For Suede Shoes - Video

How to Clean and Care For Suede Shoes – Video

Step 1: You will need:

  • 1 suede protector spray
  • 1 suede cleaning brush
  • 1 small knife
  • 1 nail brush
  • 1 sponge
  • 1 shoe tree/ white tissue paper
  • 1 crepe rubber/ pencil eraser

Step 2: Introduction

Suede is a kind of leather with a soft raised surface called a ‘nap’. It can spoil more easily than leather so needs a special level of care. It makes sense to always spray new shoes with a protecting spray.

Step 3: Protection spray

These sprays can be bought from footwear shops, and will protect your shoes from the water damage and staining. Before applying the spray, lightly brush your shoes to remove any dust or dirt. Always brush in the same direction to lift the nap. Make sure you follow the manufactures instructions on the side of the aerosol can. Shake well, spray away from your face, and as with all aerosols, only use in a well ventilated area.

Step 4: Scuff marks

Even with a protection spray, shiny marks can still appear if you scuff suede shoes, flattening down their surface. Restore by brushing back and forth with a suede brush. If the shoes are very worn, scrape with a sharp knife to lift the nap.

If your suede has dirty marks, try removing them with one of the sides of a suede brush

Experts recommend using a little crêpe rubber, or even a pencil eraser to ‘lift’ the marks from you shoes. The dirt will transfer from the suede to the rubber

Step 5: Removing mud

If your shoes get muddy, wait till the mud dries, then use a stiff brush, such as a nail brush to remove the dirt. Move with a sweeping action, and keep all your strokes in the same direction. Work all the way around the shoe, including the edges of the sole. Pay special attention to any dirt stuck in detailing.

Step 6: Wet suede

If part of the shoe gets gets wet, the water can leave a tide mark and dry a different colour. So wet the shoes all over, sponge off any excess water and insert a shoe tree to keep the shoe in shape as it dries. If you don’t have a shoe tree, stuff the toes shoes with white tissue paper, or any white paper to hold them firm.

Don’t use newspaper if your shoes are very wet, as the print may leech into the shoes

Leave the shoes to dry overnight. Then gently brush to restore the texture.

Step 7: Stains

Stains like oil and grease are almost impossible to remove.
Work into the area with a suede brush to see if that lifts the stain, treating it as you would a scuff.
If not, remove the laces, and wash the shoes with a little water and a stiff brush.

If this doesn’t work, it may be time to say goodbye to your dirty shoes

Step 8: Storing suede

When you’re not wearing your shoe, wrap them in tissue paper and put in a shoe box, heel to toe. Don’t keep them in plastic bags or airtight boxes and avoid humidity, which can make them mouldy and avoid bright light, which can discolour suede. Keep them in a dark dry place.

Church & Co. (Church’s) and Gentlemens Shoes

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Very few products distinguish themselves as the ‘gold standard‘ of their market. Even among these, the brand is often purchased by another company, who trade on their item’s reputation, all the while shaving away its quality in the name of profit until he reputation itself is also ruined. In mens footwear, there is one company that I stand by without hesitation as the gold standard of their field – Church’s.

 Canvas & Leather Spectator Shoes by Church's

Canvas & Leather Oxford Spectator Shoes by Church’s

To own a pair of Church’s is to own more than an excellent pair of handmade leather shoes. You are part of a tradition in mens footwear that dates back to 1675, with the family of Thomas Church officially founding Church & Company with his sons in Northampton, England.

Black Leather Brogued Wingtip Derby's 'The Grafton' by Church's

Black Leather ‘Brogued’ Wingtip Derby ‘The Grafton’ by Church’s

It was Church’s that created the ‘left’ and ‘right’ shaped shoe in 1881 (for which they were awarded a Gold Medal at the 1884 International Exhibitions in the Crystal Palace, London) and established itself as the premier English shoemaker when Queen Elizabeth II awarded them the prestigious Queen’s Award for Exports in the Award’s inaugural year – 1966.

Black Leather Wingtip Oxford Shoes by Church's

Black Leather Wingtip Oxford Shoes by Church’s, Ladder-laced

In case you think all this royal attention makes Church’s too stuffy, consider that they were the shoe of choice for James Bond in the films The World is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies (black leather Monk shoes – the Presley) and Golden Eye (brown leather brogues) and this was the most sartorial Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan. Not tough enough for you? Daniel Craig wore both a pair of Church’s chukka boots (in dark brown suede with a rubber sole) and Church’s Oxfords (in black leather with a half cap) in Quantum of Solace. So there.

James Bond, Church's Shoes and a Gorgeous Lady

James Bond, Church’s Shoes and a Gorgeous Lady

Close-up of James Bond Church's Shoes

Close-up of James Bond Church’s Shoes

And in case you were wondering, Church’s is able to refurbish Mr. Bond’s Oxford’s to almost new, as they did for the editor-in-chief of Wallpaper magazine. His Church’s brogues are over 20 years-old!

Gentlemens Shoes 101 – The Slip-on

The slip-on, or the loafer, is an innovation in gentlemens shoes from ’30s Norway. They are a laceless shoe that is based on the basic moccasin construction. Originally worn by Norwegian farmers, the slip-on was promoted in the United States by shoemakers, including Maine bootmaker G.H. Bass, who sold them as ‘Weejuns’ adding the distinctive diamond cut-out strap across the top. This leather slot remained ornamental until prep-school boys in the ’50s began inserting pennys into them, creating the term ‘penny loafers’ a term which is still applied to Bass Weejuns and similarly styled slip-ons. The popularity of this casual, or leisure, shoe has brought the English and Italian designers, among others, to raise this once haughty slipper to the ranks of classic gentlemens footwear.

While at first only used as a house shoe, the Slip-on, is perfect for a gentlemens leisure activities, and some very stylish Slip-ons are even suitable for some work environments. This pair of Slip-ons featured in Mister Crew has a spectator design:

Leather Slip-ons in the Spectator Style

Leather Slip-ons in the Spectator Style

and of course there is the often duplicated, but never replicated, Gucci Slip-ons, like these burgundy ones from the 80s from Rice and Bean Vintage:

Vintage 80's Gucci Burgundy Leather Loafers

Vintage 80's Gucci Burgundy Leather Loafers

where Gucci has made the Slip-on a mainstay of their design innovation, almost to the point you’d think they have something about tying laces…

Gentlemens Shoes 101 – The Derby

When an occasion doesn’t call for a gentleman to wear the more formal Oxford shoe, the Derby is the next choice. The style is also known as the Blücher, so named after the General who first came up with the idea of putting overlapping side pieces of leather to be attached to his soldier’s boots. It helped him kick Napoleon’s ass.

The difference between the two is the placing of the leather lacing pieces; with the Derby, they go on top of the vamp. This exterior attachment can be seen in this example, a pair of brown camel skin Derbys by Church’s.

Camel Leather Derby Shoes by Church's

Camel Leather Derby Shoes by Church's

The semi-formal setting of work is where the Derby flourishes. They are also ideal for social engagements and leisure activities that still require a certain level of a gentleman’s attention to social obligation. Derbys are very appropriate for street-wear in almost all settings, unless one is in an Easter Parade.

Gentlemens Shoes 101 – The Oxford

In keeping with the coming of spring I think any gentleman should turn his mind to is the state of his shoes. If his footwear is lacking, so too, will be the company he so desires upon his arm. To this end let’s get the basics down.

The most formal style of mens shoe is the Oxford, also known as the Balmoral and the Richelieu. An example of the style may be seen in this pair of black leather Oxfords from Florshiem shoes:

Black Leather Oxfords by Florsheim Shoes

Black Leather Oxfords by Florsheim Shoes

The aspect that distinguishes these shoes as Oxfords is that the lacing holes are punched through the upper part of the shoe, known as the vamp, in a closed fashion with the eyelet piece attached from underneath. This is opposed to the Derby style, which has the eyelet piece sewn on top of the vamp. But that is for another post.

The Oxford can come in many colours and options that further define it. The black Oxfords above have a quarter toe cap while this Italian made pair of tan leather Oxfords by designer Lou Miles have a mock full cap, also called a wingtip.

Tan Leather Wingtip Oxfords by Lou Miles

Tan Leather Wingtip Oxfords by Lou Miles

The varieties these options provide the shoemaker insures that a gentleman can stock a suitable number of Oxfords so that he has options for his formal dress needs. In case you are asking yourself why a gentleman’s shoes are so expensive, here’s a quote from Forbes online to explain:

“Whatever the origin, a good pair of high-end men’s dress shoes usually starts around $350. As with comparing a pricey bespoke suit to an inexpensive off-the-rack number, high-end and low-end shoes are worlds apart, despite the basic similarities. Fit is the most basic difference. A well-made suit fits the wearer perfectly. The quality of the material is equally important, and if you don’t think so, hold a Savile Row suit next to something from Men’s Wearhouse sometime and you’ll see it immediately. Last is durability. With proper care, a good suit, and a good pair of shoes, can last for years, if not generations, making it the more cost-effective buy over time.”

Basically, you get what you pay for. And if you like the Lou Miles Oxfords above, they are priced to sell on my Etsy page here.