Fab Four: Green Suede Shoes (and how to clean them)

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Venn Diagram of “People Who Think Spangled and Be-Caped Polyester Jumpsuits Are a Good Idea” and “People from Whom Miss Plumcake Takes Sartorial Advice” does not see a great deal of overlapping.

Still, as both Elvis and Carl Perkins –the artist responsible for writing the seminal rockabilly classic– know, there’s just something about a good pair of suede shoes.

Blue is fine if a little expected, but greens from dusky olive to deep viridian are having a major moment this fall. Plus, green suede ages better blue does, where a bit of dirt and scuffing add to the character.

A little Annie Hall, a little Jules et Jim, these immaculate oxfords from Gravati (seriously, look at the soles, they are works of art) are the exact sort of shoe you didn’t know you needed until you find yourself wearing them for thirty years. Style it with rolled up jeans and a bateau-neck top for the kooky naif look, or go elegant with wide tailored trousers and a mercilessly chic cashmere sweater to channel Marlene Dietrich at her deadliest.

The iconic Alexander McQueen skull pump rarely goes on sale and this iteration is among the more elegant (the shark, I’m afraid, was jumped a good while ago with some of the late designer’s other iconic designs. See also, Marc Jacobs’ mouse shoe). Sizing is extremely limited, but if it fits your foot, you can get a signature shoe for over 50% off.

For something just as sexy but a little more sly, Robert Clergerie’s curvaceous Quatro in Basil is a lovely sample of a desk-to-dinner heel. The t-strap makes it perfect for dancing. In my experience, Clergerie cuts on a narrow last –it’s truth universally acknowledged that French women have skinny little banana feet– so size accordingly.

What do you wear to transition summer’s favorite maxi dresses into fall? A summer cut in an autumnal fabrication. The wallet-friendly Primrose from Seychelles fits the bill perfectly with a strong design element at the vamp that ascends higher up the throatline for a slightly less summery look. Even better, they’re on sale for 25% off.

Finally, I know people avoid suede because of the staining. I wouldn’t.

With use, suede develops a patina every bit as elegant as the crumpled lines of a linen pant. Buy them in neutrals and do your best to keep them away from oils –basically don’t fry chicken or perform automotive maintenance in them– and you’ll be good to go.

Oh, and as for maintenance: Ignore pretty much everything you’ve read on the internet on how to clean suede and listen to the advice from London custom shoemakers James Taylor and Son. They’ve been making bespoke footwear since 1857 and wouldn’t steer you wrong.

7 Responses to “Fab Four: Green Suede Shoes (and how to clean them)”

  1. Megan September 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Want those Alexander McQueen pumps so badly.

  2. Miss Plumcake September 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    @Megan: Me too. Not quite badly enough to chop off half my toes to fit into them, but ask me again if they’re not sold in a few hours.

  3. Laura V September 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    I have a different pair of Gravati oxfords, which I have beat to hell, and LOVE LOVE LOVE. They cost me $550 that I did not have to spend but I was reckless, but by now they’re probably down to around $2/wear, I’ve worn them so much. I need to go have them fixed up…such great shoes.

    Those green suede ones are giving me the drools.

    • Miss Plumcake September 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      @Laura V: Aren’t they great? Spendy, yes, but they’re also a slam-dunk for investment dressing, so that the cost per wear will eventually become negligble. If I didn’t live in this damn Mediterranean paradise where suede is never appropriate I’d snag a pair for myself.

  4. Dana September 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    The video was very helpful. I haven’t been nearly as aggressive in cleaning my suede shoes as they evidently require and can tolerate. And yes, the advice is fairly contrary to what you read on the internet- which usually includes admonishments to never get suede shoes wet.

    • Miss Plumcake September 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

      @Dana: I’m so glad the knife trick worked for you. The thing about suede and silk and other zomgnevergetthemwet is that they’re natural fibers. Natural fibers can get wet and handle some abuse. All of them? All of them. If spider silk can handle a little morning dew, I’m pretty sure the outside of a cow will be okay. It’s spottiness that’s problematic, but if the whole thing gets wet? No spottiness.

  5. Dana September 8, 2012 at 12:05 am #

    I am here to report back that the knife trick was amazingly effective on a black pair of suede Bruno Magli pumps which had gotten that flat, shiny surface on the tips of the toes. I’d been brushing them to no avail- and now they look nearly new. Excellent tip, thank you Miss P.