When it comes to choosing shoes, there are many things you should consider: the occasion or context where you want to wear them, the outfit you’ll be wearing and how much mileage you can get out of them. While leather shoes can be classified in different ways, we want to take a new approach and look at shoes from the perspective of their level of shine or gloss. When you enter a shoe store, you’ll notice that almost all dress shoes or boots fall in one of three categories. Some have a medium shine, others don’t shine at all and some are extremely glossy. Each of these types has a different vibe and thus it can or should be considered for different settings and outfits. Discover our breakdown of the three types in this guide.
Under the “smooth leather” category fall most types of leather you see. From pull-up leather to calfskin, most types of leathers (both in terms of their provenance and processing) can be categorized as smooth leather. The reason why we integrate all these types of leather in this category is because they are very versatile and can be worn in a variety of contexts. For example, a classic pair of shoes made from Shell Cordovan leather, which is a very fine type of leather that looks amazing when shined well, can be worn both at work and at a dressy party.
And that is the case with most quality leather shoes. A great pair of smooth oxfords for example, can be worn not only in a wide variety of settings, but also in with many types of outfits. They clearly go with a suit, but they also go with a jeans and sweater look, which makes investing in a versatile pair of shoes such as wingtip shoes, which are considered to be the most versatile style, is really worth it.
Smooth leather shoes are generally cleaned through a classic process of using a brush and, when necessary cream or wax.
Suede is a type of leather that features a soft, napped surface, on the flesh side or on the outer side after removal of a thin outer layer. Suede is great for more casual shoes. Suede shoes come in many colors and styles. You can find almost anything from suede brogues to suede monk strap shoes. Moccasins or loafers also look great when made from suede.
The advantages of suede are that it is very durable and does not scruff. When cared for correctly, a pair of quality suede shoes can last for years. To make sure your suede shoes always look well, you can invest in a special suede brush or gum. These are designed to help remove and embedded dirt and keep the nape fluffy.
An alternative to suede is nubuck leather, which is similar to suede but features a much finer texture. Nubuck is more delicate than suede. This is why, when cleaning it, a suede cleaning brush might damage it. A crepe brush should come in handy.
Glossy shoes are generally made from patent leather. This is a type of coated leather that has a very shiny finish. This type of finish, which appeared in the United States in 1818 and commercially in 1819, is reserved today for very special occasions. Patent leather shoes are worn usually when the black tie code is required (black tie being one of the most precise dress codes), but they are not really mandatory to be worn with a black tie ensemble. Glossy shoes usually come in black, but there are many brands that offer such shoes in various colors such as blue or even burgundy. Colorful patent leather shoes can be worn at more creative events and are best matched to colorful tuxedo jackets.
Sometimes, shiny shoes are made from synthetic materials. These may look the same as patent leather in the beginning, but are less likely to last for a long time. Patent leather shoes can be cleaned with baby wipes, or with petroleum jelly and a soft cloth. Always make sure you are gentle with them.
There are many ways in which leather shoes can be categorized. Separating leather shoes in smooth leather, suede and patent leather will help you figure out more easily how to wear shoes and when to wear which type. This way, you will make more relevant shopping choices and will optimize your wardrobe.