Suede shoes make almost anything worn with them appear nonchalantly stylish; once shod in these beauties, of course buffed to a fine nap, aficionados only reluctantly return to the usual full grain counterpart. The suede shoe, particularly in a deep brown, shows up well in every season: contrasting warmly against lightly-hued spring ensembles; soft and comforting, accompanying winter-weight wools, worsted and flannels.
The suede shoe quite possibly made its American debut in 1924 at the Meadowbrook Country Club in Long Island. It began, naturally, with a Polo match, an international affair as such engagements go. The invitees, crème de la crème of society’s crop all gathered. The Prince of Wales, the personification of English qualities, and a great source of inspiration, made the scene decked in a pair of brown buckskin suede casual lace-ups under a double-breasted chalk-striped flannel suit with long rolled lapels, no doubt woven in his namesake pattern. The Man Who Would Be King’s avant-garde sense of style caused many waggish comments. On both shores of the Atlantic, there were those aghast and caustic. Some decried his choice as “a mark of great effeminacy”, others went as far as calling the footwear “brothel creepers.” Men of the era rejecting the Reverse Calf as suede was called, in favor of the traditional high polish smooth shoe leather, thinking the effect as breaching good taste, delicate and unmanly!
Haberdashers and other retailers of the time found them an awkward thing to sell. In that the hides usually came in natural shades of brown, clothier salesmen fussed about convincing their clientele on what they should wear with seemingly informal shoes. It seems the dandy won out. The social set, the style savvy, found them a refreshing, comfortable novelty. The next decade saw them gain widespread acceptance in the post-Depression era. Now came a plethora of shoe styles to accommodate the interest; cap-toes on town lasts-a predecessor to the wingtip Oxford; rubber-soled Bluchers for motoring to the country and puttering about once there, and the ankle-high desert boot, now called the Chukka, which was originally designed with two eyelet laced and used for spectator sportswear.
Meanwhile, the buckskin shoe had become such a favorite within the upper crust English club circles that one respectable pair was all the well-dressed man needed in his wardrobe to consider his weekend dress complete. Here in America, the club set at Meadowbrook and Piping Rock adopted the informal look of a tweed hacking-jacket with grey flannel trousers, nudging his argyle-clad feet into a favored pair before heading off to motor through the North Fork with his lady-love by his side.
Charles David is the mind behind ‘Styling the Man‘. A photographer and professional DJ by trade, he is an avid traveler, a menswear enthusiast, entrepreneur and bon vivant.