It’s time to brush up — literally. Because we modern men are neglecting our soft, suede shoes. And, to protect these versatile, worthwhile, tactile styles, we need to do our homework. That’s why Gentleman’s Journal has teamed up with quality English shoemaker Cheaney to get the rub on the gently napped material.
We turned to Alex Pardey, the Store Manager at Cheaney Covent Garden, for his top tips, tricks and techniques to keep suede looking its best. The British shoemaker offers a full shoe shine or suede restoration service in-store, complimentary for customers who own a pair of Cheaney shoes. But first, Pardey wants to clear something up about suede’s fragile reputation…
“I don’t know who started that vicious rumour,” says Pardey, “but suede is actually incredibly resilient to wear and weather. I wear my suede shoes in the rain all the time — mostly to stress people out — but also to show how hard-wearing they are.”
More important than when to wear them, Pardey says we should be caring for our shoes while we’re wearing them — “You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari and try to run it on cooking oil,” he reasons. So, below, we’ve outlined the three key ways to keep your shoes in tip-top form; from restoration and protection, to maintaining that oh-so soft material.
Begin by restoring any imperfections
“The first sign of trouble is a visual one,” says Pardey. “If you think your shoes look a bit tired and battered, trust your judgement! The colour will be paler, they’ll be scuffed, and the suede will most likely feel dry and slightly stiff. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in trouble, just in need of a bit of TLC”.
And doling out this much-needed TLC requires some specific bits of shoe-care kit. Pardey recommends investing in a good quality suede brush, a suede eraser and a bottle of suede shampoo — such as Saphir shampoo, which is available in Cheaney stores — to bring your lace-ups and loafers back to their best.
Suede Brush: “Essential for maintaining the ‘nap’ of the suede, which is the natural texture that suede has. It does a much better job of getting into the nap and cleaning out dirt and dust, especially when combined with steaming. Just pop the kettle on and hold the shoes above the steam for a few seconds before brushing.”
Suede Eraser: “Good for spot-cleaning and removing scuffs. I think that, a lot of the time, people think they’ve knackered their suede shoes because they’ve scuffed the toe and it looks like the nap has been removed. This is rarely the case, and simply needs a quick treatment with an eraser.”
Suede Shampoo: “Used less frequently, and does take a bit of time to dry. If there’s been a spillage, or it’s been a while since you’ve fully cleaned them, this is a great product to have and rejuvenates your shoes to a whole new level.”
Cheaney Suede Care Brush
Famaco Suede & Nubuck Eraser
Saphir Suede Shampoo
Next up, protect your shoes for future use
“I’m always looking for people to join my suede revolution,” says Pardey, recommending that we wear our suede shoes even during patches of inclement weather. “Because, as with any footwear material, it depends on quality. If you’ve invested in a decent pair, a large part of the price is down to the quality of the material. It’ll be stronger, softer, and easier to look after”.
As such, Pardey adds, you should also be considering the style of suede shoes you buy to begin with. Brogues were originally created as a country shoe, and their detailing will hide any imperfections more effectively than a smooth derby design. But, whatever style you do opt for, the key is finding a good protective spray.
“I'm always looking for people to join my suede revolution..."
“It’s very important,” says Pardey. “And is probably the product I use the most frequently. I’d recommend something like Saphir’s ‘Renovateur’ spray, as it protects as well as hydrates. A lot of water resistant sprays contain quite a few chemicals which can dry the suede out over time, which leads to more serious problems.
“To apply the spray,” he continues, “make sure your shoes are dry, and apply from around 30cm away, passing over the shoe a couple of times. Leave it to work its magic for a minute or two before a quick brush. Then they’re ready to go.”
Saphir Rénovateur Spray
Cheaney Delamere Oxford Brogue
Attirecare ‘The Protector’ Spray
Finally, remember to maintain your suede shoes correctly
And it doesn’t end with that first application of suede protector spray. Far from it. As Pardey says, you should be looking to re-apply that protective layer to ensure your shoe stays weatherproof and waterproof.
“If you’re using good quality aftercare,” he says, “it doesn’t need to be used a lot. Maybe just a couple of times a month if you’re wearing the shoes frequently? The only time when it must be reapplied, however, is when the shoes get wet. Leave them to dry for a couple of days, and use suede protector before you wear them again.”
Another way to maintain your shoes’ box-freshness is to invest in a shoe tree — or, as Pardey puts them; “the most important piece of kit you can own”.
“The only way to avoid creasing in your shoes is not to wear them,” he adds, “which is a bit of a waste of money. But shoe trees maintain shape, remove moisture from the linings, and make sure creases don’t become too prominent. This is not only important from an aesthetic perspective, but also shoes can weaken considerably where they crease if trees are not used. You can’t afford to be without them.”
Cheaney Men’s Pine Shoe Tree
Cheaney Men’s Wood Shoe Tree
Cheaney Men’s Beech Shoe Tree
Any final thoughts from Pardey?
“Don’t wear your suede shoes every single day,” he advises. “Shoes are put under a lot of stress as they carry you about, so be nice to them and give them a day off, preferably every other day.
“And, if they’re Goodyear-welted, be sure to keep an eye on the soles and have them repaired when they need it — preferably at the factory where they were made.”
Suede Shoe Care, with Cheaney
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