Blog & Season Trends
How to choose: A quality pair of Leather Shoes.
How can you choose a quality pair of leather shoes? What details should you look for? Let’s begin with…
TYPES OF LEATHER
Leather can be broadly categorized into smooth leather and suede. Each are best suited for different occasions.
Smooth leather is the most common type. Its ability to hold a shine makes it the most appropriate for formal events. However, there are different levels of quality, even within this type of leather.
Full grain leather is the top grade. Because it isn’t “corrected” in any way (as opposed to corrected grain leather – see below), full grain leather must be relatively blemish-free.
This isn’t easy to find. Imagine the scuffs, scratches, and injuries a cow will inevitably experience throughout its lifetime.
Corrected grain leather (abbreviated as “CG” from here on) is very different. It’s made from hides that have too many blemishes to be classified as full grain.
Full grain leather is the definite choice for a pair of quality shoes. Its pores aren’t “corrected” by a chemical finish and can better absorb shoe polish. With years of proper care, full grain leather shoes will develop a beautiful, rich patina.
TYPES OF SUEDE
Due to the myths surrounding its fragility and need for maintenance, suede is under-appreciated by most men – and wrongfully so.
In a get-together with friends, a pair of suede shoes will fit right in. A pair of shiny leather shoes might look dressier, but they’ll also feel out of place at this kind of informal event.
Like leather, there are different grades of suede. To start with, just think of suede as the underside of your skin, with the fibers forming the suede’s nap.
The best suede is made from reverse calf – a full piece of leather, except with the skin’s underside facing outwards. This is characterised by a finer, softer nap than split-suede.
Split-suede is made from literally splitting a piece of leather down the middle and using the fibrous sides as suede, resulting in a thinner product than reverse calf.
The last type of suede made from natural materials is nubuck. It’s made by sanding down smooth leather and is less “hairy” than its above-mentioned counterparts.
There’s also synthetic suede. It is significantly more rubbery and plastic-feeling than the three types of naturally-made suede mentioned above.
Synthetic suede has a short, almost non-existent nap. A quality shoemaker will never use this, so stay clear of it.
In general, the disparity between the different types of natural suede is smaller than that between full grain and corrected grain leather. The biggest difference would be the feel of the nap, which is more a preference than a necessity.
Of course, reverse suede is thicker than split suede or nubuck, but this can be somewhat alleviated by the use of leather linings.
As for the myths surrounding suede, don’t let them put you off.
Although suede is softer to the touch than leather, it’s no less durable. In fact, suede requires less care (imagine not having to do all that shoe-polishing).
Buy a suede brush to remove any dirt. If you’re facing inclement weather, simply apply a waterproofing spray.
3 ESSENTIAL FACTORS
Want to choose the perfect pair of top quality shoes? Always consider these 3 essential factors:
- Uppers. If leather – full-grain. If suede – reverse calf, split suede, or nubuck.
- Construction. Goodyear welted or Blake stitched.
- Soles. Leather or Dainite.
Of course, there are secondary elements that determine the quality of a pair of shoes – like lining, shape, and style. But these shouldn’t be your priority.
Focus on the three essentials first, purchase from a reputable shoemaker, and the rest will follow naturally.