How to Care for Suede ShoesWriten by Tigre Haller
Suede has always been shrouded in a bit of mystery, and a lot of guys are hesitant about trying suede shoes on.
In reality, suede is one of the most accessible and easy to care for materials available.
To better understand how to care for this prized material, let's first understand a few things about it.
What is Suede?
The first known reference to what we call "suede" was way long ago in France with the term 'gants de Suede'. The expression referred to extremely soft gloves imported from Sweden.
Suede really took off in the 20th century and was associated with rare, luxury goods.
But, what is suede exactly?
Suede is a natural material fashioned from any kind of animal hide. The underside of the skin is separated (or split) from the top which gives way to a soft, smooth, supple and nappy leather. The nap is actually created by sanding the short hairs along the underside of the skin to create a fluffy texture.
The toughness of the nap depends on the type and age of the animal. Thicker hides usually come from cows and deer. And, they result in a shaggier nap which is less desirable.
What Suede Isn't
Although they may appear to be similar, suede is not the same as nubuck. Nubuck is actually made from sanding the outside of the hide. This results in a durable material that isn't as supple as suede, and it won't develop a patina. It also tends to be more expensive than suede.
Some manufacturers choose to use faux suede, such as microsuede which is actually polyester. It may look and feel like the genuine article, but don't be fooled.
Debunking Myths About Suede
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about suede.
Here are some of the common ones:
Suede is difficult to maintain:
Surprising as it may be, suede shoes actually require less maintenance than calfskin leather shoes. How? Because you don't need to (and should never) shine them!
While it's true the nap can collect dust and dirt, suede is relatively easy to clean and maintain (see below).
Suede is expensive:
As is true with other materials, price is subjective. You can find high-quality suede shoes ranging from a couple hundred bucks all the way up to thousands of dollars.
Suede is delicate.
Suede is a lot more durable than you might think.
Poke around most fashion related message boards and you will read comment after comment about just how sturdy suede is.
Some guys report having been caught in downpours and hailstorms where their suede shoes got absolutely soaked. After pat-drying with a towel, letting the shoes air dry for a few days and a brush-up, they were right as rain - errr - good as new.
Now I'm not suggesting that you deliberately wear your suede shoes in such conditions, but don't panic if you do.
Never put your suede shoes next to a heater or through the dryer. This can cause discoloration, shrinkage, warping and hardening. But, you wouldn't do that anyway, would you?
Pre-treating your suede shoes with a water-proofing spray also goes a long way toward protecting them. You can also do this after you start wearing them as part of your routine maintenance.
Generally, you will need to:
Make sure there is ventilation if spraying inside (it's better to do this outside).
Remove any pets and / or children from the space.
Wear a mask over your mouth and nose (especially if you're sensitive to such substances).
Clean your shoes thoroughly with a brush.
Shake the can well.
Spray an even coat (at between 15 and 20 centimeters) over each shoe.
Let it dry.
Re-apply the spray.
Let the shoes thoroughly air dry.
When cleaning is called for, you would be well-served to have a proper cleaning kit on hand.
Your kit should include (at the minimum):
Soft bristled brush.
Brush with gum bristles or an eraser.
Suede cleaning solution (follow the instructions).
Some experts recommend using a wire bristled brush to remove dirt, and using the rubber bristles (or an eraser) to smooth the nap out.
The rubber can also be used to remove marks and stains from suede. Use it as you would use a pencil eraser.
Simply rub the stain with the rubber brush or eraser until it is removed, then lightly brush up the nap until it is fluffy again.
Keep in mind that not all stains can be removed completely, however the rubbing action should help them fade.
Applying some talcum powder to wet stains absorbs the moisture. Wait for the powder to dry and gently brush off the excess.
White vinegar is a great solution for treating dry stains. Dab a bit on the stain with a clean cloth or a cotton ball. Wait for the vinegar to dry and if the stain hasn't disappeared, try using the eraser on it.
For really tough stains, like red wine and fruit juices, take your shoes to a professional who knows how to deal with the issue.
As a general rule, you might want to brush your suede shoes down after every wear to keep them healthy.
Make sure you use cedar shoe trees after every wear. This will help absorb moisture and sweat, and also control odor.
You can also put your shoes into special shoe bags, or a cotton pillowcase, to protect them from dust and lint.
To further protect them, store your shoes in their original box.
If nothing else, always keep your shoes in a clean space that's nether too hot nor too cold.
Suede is a material that should be embraced, not shunned. Your wardrobe will benefit greatly from having at least a few carefully chosen suede boots and shoes in it.
Keep the tips discussed in this article in mind when caring for your suede items, and wear them with confidence!
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