Brown suede shoes are not, as they say, brown suede. They are usually chocolate, or snuff, or polo in color, not a simple, one name fits all brown. And this is an area where very subtle variations make all the difference. There are warm and cool, formal and casual brown suedes, and knowing which is which is a helpful tool for the stylish man.
Many very stylish men profess to wear almost exclusively brown suede shoes. I know a gent with double-digit numbers of brown suede Edward Greens in every configuration from Oyster full-brogues to chocolate penny loafers. Authors G. Bruce Boyer and Alan Flusser have both spilt much ink over their mutual love of earthen-hued hooves, and for good reason.
I can’t seem to find the actual quotation, but Hardy Amies once said something to the effect of brown suedes falling into two categories, warm reddish browns and cool greenish browns. The former he thought naff and loud, while the later communicated a quiet sophistication that was tough to come by. It sounds a little harsh at first, but a few simple examples and I bet you’ll mostly agree too.
Look at the two shades of brown above for instance. On the left we have some Polo suede from Gaziano & Girling, and on the right Coffee suede from Edward Green. The G&Gs are beautiful no doubt, but there is something harsh to their color, while the EGs have the certain depth and richness that only brown suede shoes can achieve. That’s not to say that the Polo shoes are bad, or in poor taste as Amies would suggest (I do think he’s wrong on that count), but they are a tad flashier.
These Snuff suede Alfred Sargent boots and Tobacco suede Edward Green Dovers are good examples of what I think Amies meant by “green” brown suede. They don’t actually appear green, but have a certain earthy tint to them that draws the eye further in rather than shocking it with a flash of color. Think depth instead of surface interest.
Or look at these two side-by-side. The Pinar suede on the left looks “hotter” to me than the Mole suede on the right. The later has a richer color to me, while the right to me looks much more uniform and flat. Which you prefer is obviously an issue of taste and style, but do think about temperature when picking out brown suede shoes.
Photos all courtesy of Leffot