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Advice on Acquiring Brown Suede Shoes?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I have been itching to get some nice dark brown suede shoes and am debating the best style. I thought I'd ask a broad set of questions both to get my answer and to create a bit of a suede-shoe archive for others who may be on the same hunt in the future. I am not looking for boots, I am thinking lace-ups rather than monks (tho' I could be persuaded otherwise if someone had some great pix), and I am leaning towards wing-tips or semibrogues. That said, I am not entirely inflexible and would appreciate advice both on the 'rules' and traditions of brown suede shoes and particularly beautiful examples of same. Photos/links would be great - I remember someone who bought beautiful Yanko suede shoes a while back and posted a pic, but could not find it with a search. I am fine spending up to $500 on these, but am showing a number of price points to highlight styles and to elicit reactions about quality. If the consensus is that it is not really worth it to invest in fancy suede, then maybe Sargents with 'repello suede' are actually a great bet. Basic questions around style, traditionalism and appearance are: Style - Wingtip, semi-brogue or no-brogue? Blucher or oxford? Totally different options like the split toe? Best last styles (big like the Barrie or elegant like U-last - obviously they can all look good in the right context, but - to paraphrase Louis Kahn - if brick wants to be an arch, what does suede want to be? Elegant or rugged? Darkness of color - Really dark mocha or more mid-brown? The Aldens seem to have a green-grey-brown color rather than a richer mid-brown like the C&Js at Ben Silver. Is the very dark mocha brown more flexible? I already own a pair of Sargent Highgroves in a light snuff suede and find that they mainly work with linen and very light brown trousers, and so are limited in their usefulness. Quality of suede - Is there really a difference here? I know the answer is, in part, yes because I ended up returning a pair of Polo Salterbecks to Bluefly due to a flat and - to my eye - unattractive nap. A better way to phrase it might be - does one 'good' maker have particularly appealing suede attributes? Is it worth getting nice suede or will it suffer so much wear so quickly that I ought not focus on that particularly nice materials? And now, on to the shoes: Brogues, Semi-Brogues and Other Punched Options Brooks Perf Cap Toes Alden 904s C&J Westminster Sargent Semi-Brogues - what is 'repello suede'? Anyone own these? Very Dark Brown Sargent Wingtips Non-Brogues Norwegian Split-Front Bluchers (can't link right in, you have to click through and scroll to the bottom) Six-Eyelet Kid Suede Oxford (can't link right in, you have to click through and scroll about half way down the list) Cap-Toe Alden on Copley Last High-Lacing Derbies from Sargent High-Lacing Derbies (Dartmouth) from C&J in V Dk Brn C&J Connaught cap toes in V. Dk Brn C&J Monks (Malvern)
post #2 of 29
Buy one of each. Trust me, you'll use them. I have 6-7 pairs of brown suede shoes, in various colors ranging from light tan to dark mocha, and the styles are slip ons, tassel loafers, cap toes (perforated and non), wingtips. I wear them all. With pride, often.
post #3 of 29
The Alden suede is darker and smoother than the C&J, which latter shoe has more surface grain. Roetzel comments that smoother suede is more suitable for year-round wear with summer cottons-he illustrates his point with the Alden suede tassel loafer but the argument would also apply to the Alden captoe blucher (IMO, a beautiful shoe). The C&J Westminster captoe shoe (I have this model in black calf) has broguing that makes me think twice about wearing it with smooth summer fabrics.
post #4 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thanks, STYLESTUDENT, that's very helpful. I am looking for a bit of flexibility. Hearing that 'broguing on suede lends the shoe to a winter/fall wardrobe helps me think about what and why to buy. Kabert - you mentioned picking up some suede shoes from Yanko on another thread, care to shed any light on your decision-making process? Or are you in the cuffthis vein and in the process of acquiring your fifth pair of suede shoes?
post #5 of 29
I have a fetish for brown suede shoes (As fetishes go, this one keeps me out of trouble) and your list is well-edited. I am partial to suede monkstraps, which can be worn with the widest range of outfits, from suits to jeans. In general, I don't think you can beat the overall value proposiiton of anything from C&J, including their monkstraps, which you can have made in suede. At a higher pricepoint, you might want to consider JM Weston's suede monkstraps, which are built like a tank. Weston's suede signature Demi Chasse shoes are also pretty amazing, but, again, more expensive. I own their suede brogues, and while I wear them occassionally with jeans, they're really most appropriately worn with better trousers. If feasible, you really ought to touch base with Ron Rider, the shoe maven over at Franco's store, who can make you a special order pr. of suede shoes out of his Martegani monkstrap shoe. This, in my opinion, would represent a great value, given Martegani's quality and relatively modest prices. I imagine he can make suede shoes using any of the Martegani designs, for that matter. I've had disappointing experience with Sargent, so I'd definitely put Martegani on your short list. Grayson
post #6 of 29
What size do you wear?
post #7 of 29
Duveen, I'm actually wearing the Yanko's today; they go well with the dark gray flannel slacks I'm also wearing. I had admired them in the past at Sky Valet, as they are one of SV's display shoes. They are made on a very elegant, shapely last, which I like. Much more elegantly shaped than the Allen-Edmonds suede shoes I also have. Dark brown. A nice, fine nap to the suede too, not the rough nap such as I've seen on Ralph Lauren suede shoes -- the country line anyway (which may have been your experience too). The dainite sole makes them very versatile, I think. Highly recommended so far. I think they were @$330. Mine don't have any broguing, but I'd be happy to own a pair that did, whether full or half-brogue. The EG catalog has some great pictures of suede shoes, by the way. I also have 3 pairs of identical Allen Edmonds light brown/grayish suede lace-up shoes. Very comfortable, with a softer rubber sole than the dainite. Sort of like very nice bucks. I've been wearing this exact shoe (I replace them as they go over the hill, and have sent them back to the factory several times) for at least 15 years. Except on hot summer days, when I wear LL Bean or Alden mocs w/o socks, these are my go-to weekend shoes. I think the lighter tan color is probably more versatile than dark brown suede, which seems to me to be a cold weather shoe. I also have a pair of EG/RLPL dark brown suede monkstraps. I only wear these in the colder months of the year, and I expect I'll store for the spring/summer these and the Yanko's - I agree with others above that dark suede seems to be best for fall/winter. By the way, a couple years ago, I purchased a wire suede brush at a shoe store. I can't believe I made it this long without one. I think it's a must-have for anyone with suede shoes. A light brushing from time to time really "refreshes" the nap and color.
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all of the great replies. The responses I am seeing are: * Suede is highly recommended * Darker brown suede is more for colder months * Brogueing also makes a shoe slightly more formal, better for colder months * A variety of suede shoes is to be encouraged - they will be used and enjoyed * Consider Martegani (I am thinking of them for spectators in the near term) * Consider Weston - I'll definitely do this. I can't link to their site (all flash), but they definitely have some nice examples I thought that I'd re-pose three of the many questions in my first post: 1. Are there major quality differences in suede from maker to maker (so is EG suede really that different from C&J suede) or are they largely equal in quality once you pass a base price point (anything beyond entry-level Loake and Sargent will be quite good, with basic quality parity between Alden, C&J and EG)? 2. Assuming that there is a difference between 'grades' of suede (and assuming somewhat limited resources, if only by the standards of a board that suggests the Wildean response to temptation - yield to it, buy them all.), is it worth trying to get fantastic quality suede shoes knowing that they are significantly more delicate than other leathers? I can tell myself that my English shoes - and particularly my cordos - will last a good long while, I feel slightly less confident in suede's durability. 3. Generally speaking, do you feel that I'll get more wear out of a more formal or less formal suede shoe? I work in a biz casual environment, so am not wearing suits all that often. This whole question hinges on an earlier comment about suede brogues being most appropriate with 'better trousers'. 4. I am in DC and can get up to NYC without terrible hardship - are there great stores (e.g. Alden Shop on Madison, etc) with a broader selection of suede than I could see in catalogs, in DC or on the web?
post #9 of 29
The JM Weston shop, 812 Madison Ave., NYC, might be worth your while.  If you decide to dig deep into your pockets, speak with "Wiggie", the store mgr.  Good guy. and knows how to fit well.  Just for eye candy, you might want to stop by the Tanino Crisci shop @ 795 Madison Ave, though their prices of late have really gone out of sight. As a postscript, you might want to consider JP Tod brown suede Chukka boots, which, while boots, are among the most comfortable shoes I wear, probably the most comfortable.  Though good quality, Tods are overpriced, however I located an online source for discounted Tods that makes them more worth considering.  Don't have their URL in front of me, but can post it later if interested.   Grayson
post #10 of 29
Marc - I'd be interested in the Todds url if you have a chance. thanks.
post #11 of 29
As luck would have it, I'm wearing my first pair of suede shoes today. (I'm not counting the Eccos, dirty bucks, or Hush Puppies from childhood.) Brooks Bros, made by Sargent-- if that matters. Broguing actually makes a shoe somewhat less formal than the plain-toe, although the preferred complements (flannel, tweed, and other "fuzzy" things) are indeed a little more formal than jeans. My pair are semi-brogue, and just fine for the business casual environment my employer has built. Full brogue buckskin-- now that is something to think about. Cleverley has some here: http://www.gjcleverley.co.uk/bespoke....t2=View With feet my size, however, this is a lot of shoe to counterbalance. Maybe when my estate tweed 3-button is ready, and I'm stocked up on proper flannel trousers.
post #12 of 29
Thread Starter 
I was wondering when the 'broguing is actually less formal' comments would come out I realized after I posted that this was not exactly common wisdom, nor a perfect reflection of the comments given above. What they did say was that brogued suede did not transition to jeans as well as non-brogued. I am not obsessed with wearing suede shoes with jeans, but did note that getting broguing makes the shoe a bit more formal. My Sargent Highgrove semi-brogues are similar in shade to the Cleverleys you linked to - very light in tone - and they do look a bit odd even with lighter jeans. That said, they look great with bright Paul Stuart argyles...
post #13 of 29
I guess the other way to put it is that in the context of wearing a suit, brogueing is a more countrified style, and works best with tweed and fuzzy flannel. Generally true, I'd guess (as I don't wear them) that jeans will work better with plain or cap-toe, no brogueing. Harder finish cloth => cleaner finish shoe. Worsted = hard finish, denim = hard finish. Worsted = denim ?
post #14 of 29
If you're working in a business casual atmosphere, the Alden (or Weston) Norwegian in suede should be versatile enough to wear with most anything , somewhat less formal than bluchers and substantially less formal than the oxford captoes. It's a bit dressier than the Alden loafers (which, in turn, vary in "dressiness" amongst themselves, but that's another story).
post #15 of 29
By the way, C&J offers a neat suede derby shoe you might want to consider. I don't have their catalogue with me to give you the name of that shoe, but it's worth having a look. As I recall, the version featured in the catalogue was not dark or chocolate brown, but a lighter shade. Also, C&J's brown suede Chukka boots (featured toward the end of the catalogue), with either of their choice of rubber sole, are among my most favorite and most comfortable shoes. Grayson
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