There’s a common misconception that suede needs to be babied – that it’s too delicate for things such as rain or snow, or that it picks up dirt too easily. Perhaps that's why many men store away their suede shoes from the winter months until late spring, only bringing them out on the sunniest and most leisurely of days.
On the contrary, suede shoes can be quite hardy and, in some respects, easier to take care of than shoes made from other materials. After all, you don’t have to polish and condition them every few weeks like you do with calfskin. There are some things you need to do, however, in order to keep up their appearance.
The most important of these is to spray your shoes down with a waterproofing spray before you wear them. Just be sure to avoid the formulas with silicone additives, as there’s some debate on whether silicone harms leather. Once applied, your shoes will have a good layer of protection from not only rain and roadside splashes, but also from any errant food drippings that might otherwise ruin your much beloved footwear.
If your shoes should still get dirty or stained, you have a few options:
- For light marks, try using a suede eraser. Just rub the eraser over the mark and it should lighten considerably.
- For caked mud, let the mud dry overnight and brush your shoes down with a stiff bristle brush. Any remaining dirt can be taken care of with a clean, damp cloth or a suede eraser. The reason why you don’t want to clean mud off before it dries is because you risk spreading it around, which will make cleaning the dirt off a bit more difficult.
- For more serious stains, try hand washing your shoes. Yes, hand washing your shoes. Just stick the leather uppers underneath a running faucet, and scrub the suede down with a stiff brush and some hand soap. Once you’re done, stuff some crumpled newspaper into your shoes to help them dry. They should be ready for wearing within two days.
If you’ve tried all the above and nothing works, you can take your shoes to the cobbler for a more professional cleaning. As with any kind of footwear, however, don’t be afraid to let your suede shoes show their age. Nothing looks good when it’s too new or perfect, and shoes are especially benefitted when they’ve had some character beaten into them.