diymenswear

5

In an earlier post I stated that not all bad purchases need be discarded and that some can be saved with a little creativity.  This is the process I followed to dye my suede shoes.

Dyeing suede is remarkably easy.  There is a ton of great information available online and I found these two guides to be most useful: 1, 2.  Here is the process I followed:

Supplies:

  • Horsehair and/or suede brush
  • Latex gloves - Suede dye will dye your hands
  • Newspaper to protect the surface of your table (I found the long-staple paper fiber of a Cucinelli bag to be perfect for the task)
  • Masking tape
  • Fiebing’s Suede Dye
  • Cotton applicator (should come with the dye)
  • Toothbrush
  • Edge dressing
  • Suede water proofer

  1. Prepare your work area by laying out the newspaper.
  2. Lightly brush the shoes with the suede brush to remove any dirt and freshen the nap.
  3. Mask the interior of the shoe with the masking tape to shield it from the dye.
  4. Prior to applying the dye put on your latex gloves as suede dye is very hard to wash off skin.
  5. Evenly apply the dye to the surface of the shoe.  Use the toothbrush to work the dye into the tough spots.
  6. Let dry over night and freshen the nap again with the suede brush.
  7. Apply as many coats of dye as necessary.  Allow the shoes to dry completely between coats.  I applied two coats.
  8. Apply the edge dressing as necessary.
  9. Once the dye is dry and you’re happy with the color brush them with the suede brush and apply the water proofing spray.  I recommend a silicon-free spray.  This not only protects the suede but also serves to lock in the dye.

Salvaging a poor purchase

About two years ago I became infatuated with a pair of suede Howard Yount double monks. At the time they were out of stock in my size. My obsession reached the point where I actually employed a change monitoring service to email me each and every time the shoe’s page was modified. Eventually they became available in my size and I snatched them up immediately.

In the year and a half I’ve owned the shoes I’ve worn them maybe two dozen times. While I loved the idea of these shoes, I found that the combination of a flashy shoe (a double monk) and a loud color (a very light suede) was just not something that fit regularly into my dress.

My friend fromsqualortoballer recently wrote an insightful post which clarified for me several of the mistakes I made in making this purchase:

  1. While some may advocate for double monks in a starter wardrobe, the reality is they’re not a footwear staple like a PTB or cap toe oxford. They’re conspicuous, and in the color light sandy suede, I found them to be especially garish which made them all the more difficult to wear.
  2. I got caught up in the hype. It’s easy for someone new to the #menswear scene to believe that it’s all double monks all the time. I was inspired and convinced myself that it was something I needed.
  3. I didn’t contextualize the shoes in my wardrobe nor lifestyle. At the time my shoe bench wasn’t very deep and these became an outlier right off the bat. More importantly, I work in tech and in extremely casual office environments. These shoes just didn’t jive with the jeans, polos, and oxfords that my coworkers and I often wear. I’m all for dressing for the job you want, not what you have, or up-leveling 30% above your peers, or whatever your favorite maxim is, but these shoes didn’t do that, they just stood out and that’s not what I wanted.

So what option was I left with? Sell them at a significant loss, keep the shoes in reserve for the rare occasion when I’m feeling especially sprezzy (isn’t that a contradiction?), or customize them to better fit my wardrobe.

I opted for the last option and toned down the shoes by dying the sandy suede a dark chocolate brown. This is a color that I find much easier to work with for both formal and casual dress and it was a color of suede not yet represented in my closet. After a $16 crafternoon these shoes have regained a spot in my regular rotation.

Not all wardrobe mistakes need be fatal. In learning from your errors, assessing where to cut your losses, and what to cull from your closest it’s also important to consider the possibilities of what you can do with the articles you already own. In my case changing the color of the shoes totally changed how they fit into my wardrobe.

I’ll be posting a how-to on dying suede shortly.