A Gentleman’s Guide

How To Wear Suede

Seven ways to make the most of one of this season’s hero fabrics

  • Adam Katz Sinding/ Blaublut Edition

At MR PORTER we’ve always stressed the importance of style, as opposed to transient fashion. As such, it would be disingenuous of us to suggest that suede is any more deserving of a place in your wardrobe now than it was last year, or indeed the year before that.

That said, we do try to keep you aware of the direction in which the trade winds of fashion are blowing. You should know, then, that this coming season will see leather’s more tactile cousin enjoying a moment in the spotlight, its profile boosted by a trend among leading menswear designers towards a softer, more casual, 1970s-inspired aesthetic. This is nothing but good news, as more brands embracing suede means a greater variety of options.

Suede takes its name from the soft, napped-leather gloves made in Sweden for import to France, which became known as gants de Suède – or “gloves of Sweden”. But gloves are just the start for this wonderfully versatile fabric, which is just as comfortable taking centre stage as the hero fabric of a bomber jacket or trench coat as it is playing a supporting role as a textural accent on a pair of panelled sneakers.

Naturally, this versatility means there are a huge number of ways to work it into your look. In this gentleman’s guide to suede, you’ll be introduced to just a few of them.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

  • Søren Jepsen/ The Locals

The best looks are those that somehow manage to be more than the sum of their parts. What strikes us about our man on the bike’s outfit, above, is how few elements there are to it: just jeans, a shirt, a suede jacket and a pair of sunglasses. But there is a synergy in the simple yet eye-catching combination of forest-green suede and indigo denim. It’s worn with insouciance, too: note the rolled-up sleeves and laid-back body language. This is the unmistakable expression of a man who knows that he’s well dressed. The take-home lesson here is not to overcomplicate things. Another colour or another accessory thrown into the mix, and he might have ended up looking like Mr Bow Tie & Braces to his left.

  • SALLE PRIVÉE Eero Suede Bomber Jacket

CUT IT WITH CAMOUFLAGE

  • Guerreisms

If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it properly – and there is perhaps no better way to welcome suede into your life and your wardrobe than with a trench coat. It’s a true investment piece, and something that you’ll find yourself returning to again and again – especially if you buy it in this particular, dusty shade of tan. But how to wear it in a contemporary fashion we hear you ask. The gentleman in this picture offers one particularly stylish solution. His camouflage trousers break up the large swathes of densely textured suede, giving this otherwise classic piece a decidedly modern feel.

EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT TEXTURES

  • Adam Katz Sinding/ Blaublut Edition

Piling impracticality on top of glamorous impracticality, a suede jacket in cream might seem like a luxury too far for some. (The image above reminds us of a couple of the unwritten rules of suede ownership: avoid beverages and be on first-name terms with your dry-cleaner.) Whereas the preceding looks have been defined by their contrasting colours and patterns, this is all about the textural interplay between the butter-soft suede bomber jacket and the chunky Aran knit sweater. By opting for a neutral palette, the gentleman in this picture has given these contrasting textures plenty of room to shine.

EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE

  • George Elder

A black velvet blazer is a popular choice for after dark because of the fabric’s ability to soak up light, which lends it a deep, blacker-than-black appearance. Suede, another richly textured fabric, has the same quality. This makes it ideal for adding another dimension to the monochrome look, which, despite its enduring popularity among the fashion cognoscenti, is always susceptible to accusations of being a little unadventurous. Here, a bomber jacket in black suede elevates a simple sportswear-inspired look into something sharp enough to turn the head of a passing street-style photographer.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER COWBOY

  • Marc Richardson

If we were searching for the roots of the fashion world’s current infatuation with all things 1970s, we could do worse than to start our investigation with Mr Hedi Slimane, the influential creative director behind Saint Laurent’s recent successes. His vision of “psych rock’s new rising” informed the label’s recent spring collection, which was heavy with western-style suede jackets – not unlike the one worn here by MR PORTER’s Deputy Product Editor, Mr Shane Kurup. With this look, Mr Kurup demonstrates how to turn a rough ’n’ ready American icon into something suitable for the front row. As it turns out, all it takes is the addition of a crisp white shirt.

TRY IT OVER TAILORING

  • Tommy Ton/ Trunk Archive

What immediately grabs the eye here is the unexpected contrast between the sharp lines of the tailored suit and the boxy, substantial silhouette of the shearling-collar suede flight jacket, which wouldn’t look out of place on a WWI fighter pilot. Notice also the unusual way in which the jacket is being worn: thrown over the shoulders, cape-like, so as to keep the suit sleeves on show. Again, as in previous examples, this look is all about using contrast to your advantage: contrasting colours, contrasting textures, or, in this case, contrasting modes of attire.

  • Boglioli Blue Dover Slim-Fit Virgin Wool Suit

WORK IT INTO WORKWEAR

  • Adam Katz Sinding/ Blaublut Edition

Championed by men such as the legendary street-style photographer Mr Bill Cunningham, the blue cotton-twill worker jacket has become something of a menswear staple over the past few years. About time, then, that it was given a luxury makeover. This utility jacket in kingfisher-blue suede is undoubtedly the star of the show here, and its wearer has wisely chosen to tone down the rest of his outfit accordingly, pairing it with a sober grey sweatshirt and pale blue chinos. Key to this relaxed look are the open cuffs, which lend an air of studied carelessness, a kind of sprezzatura, as if the whole outfit were a happy accident – which, of course, is what he wants us to think.

OR TRY THESE

  • Bottega Veneta Suede Blouson Jacket

None of the people featured in this story is associated with or endorses MR PORTER or the products shown