My new Carmina shell boots. I saw them at Pitti and couldn’t resist.
Black suede shoes may at first seem ill-conceived, as suede is usually thought of as reserved for informal and/or daytime settings, while black is for more formal and evening occasions. This would put the black suede shoe in the same purgatory as black longwings or black loafers, configurations that arguably should not exist.
But allow me to argue in favor of black suede. Pictured above is an outfit featuring the black suede wholecuts I got from Carmina, which I wrote about here.
This is a “city” combination. The shirt is white, the tie black and white, with blazer and grey flannels. Like all city combinations, it transitions to evening well, since evening calls for the high contrast of white against solid, dark colors. Black shoes are an obligation here.
I could wear black calf, but it makes the outfit both more formal and more “business,” which is close to the same thing as “city” but not quite the same, especially when the intent is to transition easily to evening. The tie is wool rather than silk, which tones down the formality a bit by adding texture rather than sheen. The shine of black calf would result in an outfit with a bit of an identity crisis.
What’s more, in the standard navy blazer, grey trousers, and black shoes outfit, I’d risk some iGent confusing me for a security guard. Although I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a security guard actually dressed this way (has anyone? Is there some iGentrified store that I don’t know about that features security guards wearing blazers and greys? Maybe the Allen Edmonds factory outlet?).
Black suede wholecuts in a very fine, smooth, nap are, to me, the perfect solution. The finish gives them a velvety luster that is louche enough for evening and complements the softness of the tie and flannels well. The last and the wholecut design make the shoes sleek, again adding to their nighttime appeal.
The whole thing adds up to a subtle modification of a very traditional outfit that I quite like. It really comes into its own after dark, as the un-business-like richness of the suede is then most advantageous, but it’s not inappropriate to wear during the business day either.
If I wanted to soften the outfit still more, I could change the white shirt for a VERY light blue. But too blue a blue and the concept falls apart pretty quickly. At that point you’d need a tie with some color - almost any will do - and brown shoes, although they could (and should) still be suede.
Black suede: not as useless as you might think.
My feature on Carmina at Pitti is now up on Styleforum here.