These men's shoes are stepping into fashion at weekend outings and even in the office

SHADES OF SUEDE

January 31, 1991|By Lois Fenton

Q: Do only style-setter types wear suede shoes? Some stores refer to them as "nubuck." Is there a difference? What kind of clothes do they go with? Are they ever acceptable for business? Are some colors more acceptable than others?

A: Elvis started a far-from-elegant fad with his "Blue Suede Shoes," (ruining suede for a whole generation of clothing-aware men). But suede shoes had been popular years before he shimmied and shook them into pop-chart culture in the 1960s. In the '20s, tanners, trying to sell some low-grade leathers, began sanding the hides to create a new leather look.

Over the years, modern technology brought suede into high fashion. Elegant dressers -- the Duke of Windsor and society wannabees -- brought brown suede shoes from the country into city wear. Long a staple of aristocratically dressed Europeans, dark suede shoes are once again being appreciated by American men.

Nowadays only the finest hides are used in the tanning process. Men wear suede on weekends with tweeds and rugged outerwear. For wear with blazers and flannels, Allen Edmonds combines suede and smooth leather. Sophisticated dressers flaunt their ability to pair suede with office-type suitings (but no dressy pinstripes) as well as with sports coats and pleated pants. Still, not every office environment understands -- and embraces -- suede shoes.

There are two types of sueded leather. Both have a soft velvety feeland, to the untrained eye, look pretty much the same:

* Nubuck -- the leather has been sanded on the grain (top) side of the hide to produce a slight nap effect. "White bucks," popular with Ivy Leaguers, are made of nubuck.

* Suede -- the under side of the hide has been sanded with a variety of grits until it has a uniform pile, slightly deeper than nubuck.

Suede shoes are fashionably in tune with the environment in a wide range of deep, foliage-inspired colors: Forest green, charcoal gray, chocolate, and desert tan.

Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.

Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.

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