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Help help help!!!! I bought a bunch of Mansur Gavriel suede sandals, and I just DMed a coworker being like, "I love suede sandals but HOW?" She was like, "Duh, ask Jolie."
Since they're e v e r y w h e r e rn: How do you clean and protect them? I know you've written about summer shoe care before but ... suede? sandals? help? Not only how to keep them clean, but how do you keep them from scuffing or ripping on the toe ('cause I walk like an idiot)? And on the heel, 'cause I walk like an idiot in that direction too. — Tiffany Yanetta
Well yes, of course — always ask me these things! I've spent a lot of time considering the care and keeping of everything from your tote bags to your swimsuits, and it's nice to be able to apply that body of knowledge to the very specific and beautiful things you buy for yourself. Plus, as you said, those sandals are E V E R Y W H E R E R N so if you're wondering how to cope with your lovely and temperamental footwear, I can promise you that someone else is too. You're doing the Lord's work by asking this question, is what I'm telling you here.
Essentially, you need to know three things: 1. What to do before you wear them for the first time; 2. How to care for and store the sandals after wearing to keep them looking their best; and 3. How to clean and repair them when they inevitably get dirty and/or damaged.
What to Do Before You Even Wear Those Suede Shoes
Caring for your shoes, especially your splurge-y shoes, truly begins when you're in the store making the purchase. I realize that this sounds hopelessly uncool, but I'd rather you be a prepared dork than a woman who's walking around in a ratty-looking pair of $400 sandals. So, let your dork flag fly high and ask the salesperson helping to part you from your money what type of protective coating the manufacturer recommends for use on the shoes.
They may offer to sell you a product, which you should be wary of because stores will mark up those kinds of add-on items. A bottle of suede protector shouldn't cost more than $10, so if they're trying to charge you more than that take note of the brand name and buy the product elsewhere to save a few bucks (Amazon is a great source, naturally, but drug and big box stores like Walgreens or Target will sell a variety of shoe care products as well). On the other hand, the convenience of buying a protector at the exact same time as the shoes may be a convenience that's worth the extra few dollars. The other benefit of asking about protectors while you're in the store is that they may offer to apply a protective coating for you gratis. You never know!
Before you apply the protector, which will help to prevent stains and make the shoes much easier to clean when inevitable dings occur, brush the suede out using a suede brush.
Regular Suede Care and Storage
The use of a suede brush is also an essential part of the regular care routine you'll want to adopt to keep those sandals looking their best. They're not terribly expensive, and you should absolutely buy a suede care set that includes both a brush and a suede eraser (more on those in a sec); Kiwi makes a good one that costs under $10.
Now here's the part you're not going to love so much: You should give the shoes a quick going-over with the brush after every wear. The brush will help to remove any dirt and grime that collected on the shoes as you wore them around town, as well as raise the nap, helping to keep it from getting matted and developing shiny spots caused by wear. The regular brushing is especially important when it comes to those gorgeous Mansur Gavriel sandals because of their bright colors — failing to regularly brush the shoes will lead to an overall grimey appearance as street grit builds up on the shoe, dulling the dye. Another regular maintenance tip is that you'll want to store your suede shoes in bags or boxes to protect them while they're not being worn.
Regular brushing is also going to help with those spots that tend to get more wear than others, and will cut down on the appearance of those ugly black toe marks. But when those areas inevitably begin to show wear and tear that brushing doesn't address, it's time to bust out the suede eraser.
The suede eraser is what you'll use to remove grime, stains, eliminate shiny spots and even address those scuffs! It's exactly what it sounds like — an eraser designed for use on suede. A white art eraser will also work for this purpose, but avoid using pink erasers like the ones the top pencils, as the color from the eraser can transfer onto the suede. To use the eraser, apply gentle pressure, then use your finger or a suede brush to brush the area out. That's all! It's truly a very easy endeavor.
Repairing Scuffed or Faded Suede
Tiffany revealed an important thing about herself in her question — she's a scuffer! That's okay, but it does mean that she's likely to, at some point, end up with damage to the shoes that's extensive enough to merit a trip to the cobbler. A good way to decide that it's time to outsource is when you find yourself bearing down hard on the eraser, at that point stop what you're doing before aggressive cleaning causes irreparable damage to the shoes.
Another problem that can plague Mansur Gavriel sandals, especially the light- and bright-colored ones, is color loss or fading. To help reverse fading, you can apply a suede shoe dye spray; suede dye typically comes in standard colors like black, brown and navy, so if your shoes are a more outré color, go for the neutral option, which can be used on any suede of any color. This is also something you can outsource to a cobbler if you feel more comfortable having a professional do the work. If you want to take the DIY approach, some brands to look for are Saphir, Meltonian or Fiebing's.
Suede is a temperamental but beautiful material, which means that when you make the choice to buy suede shoes, you'll be in for a little extra work when it comes to maintaining them. I know that's not really what anyone wants to hear! But hopefully I was able to break down the work involved in a way that makes caring for suede seem less mysterious and daunting. I want Tiffany's shoes to last a long time and am so glad she asked for help!