Suede shoes have made occasional appearances throughout the Bond series, but they’ve become a staple of James Bond’s wardrobe in the Daniel Craig era. Suede is sportier and less formal than calfskin, but it’s almost as versatile. Suede shoes and boots can be dressed up with flannel or linen suits and dressed down with polos and camp shirts.
Suede has a reputation for being an autumn and winter shoe, but it’s appropriate at any time of year. The only time they are not appropriate is in the rain. Suede should be treated periodically with a water and stain protective spray, which will help it survive light rain, but it should never be soaked.
Suede is often cheaper than calfskin because it can be a split hide that uses a lesser quality leather. The best suede is sometimes called ‘reverse calf’ because it uses the full hide and places the outer skin of the hide on the inside of the shoe. Suede shoes are sometimes unlined to be worn sockless.
Just like calf, suede shoes come in many different colours. Brown—in medium and dark shades—is the most common shade of suede for shoes, and it’s James Bond’s usual colour for suede. Like brown shoes, brown suede is a versatile colour that pairs well with almost anything other than black trousers.
Snuff, also called tobacco, is one of the most traditional colours for suede. It’s a muted light brown shade that pairs well with almost any colour, including trousers in darker colours. Snuff suede is a traditional pairing with blue and grey city suits in the British custom, while shades of calf leather would not be.
Tan suede shoes are more casual than darker brown shades and look best with lighter-coloured trousers like khaki and stone chinos. They also pair well with any shade of blue jeans.
Black is an unusual choice for suede and is an acquired taste. While black calfskin’s appeal in its glossy formality, black suede is dull and lacks the interest of any colour. Unlike black calf, black suede is not more formal than other colours of suede. Black suede shoes share the formality of brown suede but not the versatility. They pair best with black and grey suits and trousers as well as with denim.
While shades of burgundy are somewhat common for calf and cordovan shoes, blue is the popular choice for bringing colour into suede. Carl Perkins’ song ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ that was made popular by Elvis Presley helped popularise blue suede shoes, and blue suede is still commonly available seven decades later. It’s more casual than other colours, and Bond wears it only for his most casual shoes.
Chukka boots are Bond’s favourite kind of suede footwear, having worn suede chukka boots in every film since Die Another Day. The chukka boot is a derby ankle boot that traditionally laces up with two eyelets and usually has a plain toe, but sometimes the style has more eyelets and other toe styles.
Bond’s first suede chukka boots of the series on Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever are his most unorthodox, firstly because they fasten with a strap and buckle. Even though they don’t have laces, they are still a variation on the chukka boot because of their shape. What also makes them unusual is their black colour. Bond wears them with a light grey suit, following Bond’s usual custom to wear black shoes with all shades of grey. This boot is the ‘Hilo boot’ from John Lobb Ltd.
Bond’s current run of chukka boots started with a brown example that Pierce Brosnan paired with his blue floral shirt in Die Another Day, and they are most likely from Church’s.
Daniel Craig picked up the trend in Casino Royale and wears snuff suede chukkas from Loake in their ‘Trapper’ model. These elegant boots dress up with his navy linen suit at the start of the film and dress down with his navy Sunspel ‘Riviera’ polo later on. Because of their leather soles and trim last, they are on the more formal side of chukkas and pair better with the suit than with the polo.
His dresses down the Church’s ‘Ryder III’ chukkas in brown suede in Quantum of Solace with his polos and shawl-collar cardigan. These boots have Dainite studded rubber soles, which would become a favourite sole of James Bond for its grip and durability. It’s a common sole with English brands as well as other brands around the world. Dainite soles slightly dress down the boots compared to leather, but the soles are still fairly dressy.
Bond wears inexpensive brown suede desert boots from Zara in Skyfall on the beach with a Zara shirt and a Levi’s Vintage Clothing leather jacket. Desert boots are a subset of chukka boots with crepe soles and a less refined shape, making them a less durable and more casual shoe. On the sand, the crepe soles provide comfort and the right kind of grip. He continues wearing brown suede desert boots in Spectre with Sanders’ classic ‘Playboy Chukka’ model. This shoe has the more refined shape of the chukka with the crepe soles of the desert boot. He wears these boots with a suede jacket in London, where the crepe soles don’t hold up well for long-term wear.
He also wears a pair of tan suede boots in the ‘Kenton’ model from J. Crew. These boots are not a chukka style, but Bond wears them the same as he has previously worn chukkas: dressed down with chinos, a navy polo and matching Matchless tan suede jacket, or dressed up with a light brown linen-blend sports coat.
No Time to Die sees Bond in two more pairs of brown suede chukka boots. At the start of the film he wears the Drake’s ‘Crosby’ boots with a blue linen jacket from Connolly and a tan needlecord suit from Massimo Alba, dressing them down with the former and up with the latter. The Crosby is a very informal three-eyelet chukka thanks to its moccasin toe and relaxed last. The needlecord suit is the most casual suit of the series, and the boots dress the suit down even more.
Later in the film Bond wears the Crockett & Jones ‘Molton’ three-eyelet chukka in dark brown rough-out suede with his green Massimo Alba duster coat. Rough-out suede is a wax-treated suede that gives them a more rugged look with some water resistance. These shoes are elegant thanks to their refined last, but they’re also very casual thanks to their material.
The derby is essentially the same shoe as a chukka but in low-cut shoe form. James Bond wears two pairs of brown suede two-eyelet derbys in the Bond series. The first is with his brown tweed hacking jacket and fawn cavalry twill trousers in Goldfinger and Thunderball, and it is the perfect complement to this outfit. The brown suede shoes match the country vibe of the outfit, and compared to chukka boots the derbys are slightly dressier. Chukka boots, particularly ones on an elegant last, would also complement this outfit just as well.
Daniel Craig wears almost identical dark brown suede shoes from John Lobb Paris in Casino Royale with his light grey linen suit. They are a perfect match for this sporty suit and still look appropriate after Bond removes his jacket for a more casual look that also works as an effect car valet disguise.
Along with chukka boots, slip-ons are a popular use for suede. Roger Moore pairs tobacco suede Gucci moccasin-toe bit loafers with his tan safari sports coat and cream gabardine trousers in The Spy Who Loved Me. The loafer is comfortable in the hot Egyptian climate and its tan colour pairs well with the outfits overall light colour scheme.
Pierce Brosnan similarly wears tan suede Venetian loafers from Stemar with a tan linen suit in Die Another Day. These are made with perforations at the sides for extra breathability for comfort in Cuba’s hot weather.
George Lazenby wears an unusual low-vamp monk shoe in brown suede in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This shoe is effectively a slip-on because of its low vamp. In brown suede they are the perfect complement to his casual light brown golfing suit in both colour, material and overall dressiness.
James Bond even wears suede trainers. Compared to the more traditional canvas, suede makes for a slightly more sophisticated trainer. Suede doesn’t dress up trainers, which in every case are amongst the most casual of closed-toed footwear, but it makes them into something that works well with the most casual of outfits, and their flat soles provide a different sort of comfort than shoes with a heel. Suede trainers serve Bond well when he needs to be active and stylish.
In Live and Let Die he wears black suede trainers with his powder blue leisure suit as well as with his black polo neck for a nighttime excursion in San Monique. Suede absorbs light, making them good for a covert mission at night.
In Skyfall, Bond wears Adidas ‘Gazelle 2’ trainers in blue suede with his SIS training outfit. The all-blue outfit is a little too studied and fashion conscious for the situation, but the trainers look the part for a man who wants to look fashionable when working out.
Belts with Suede Shoes
While calfskin shoes usually require matching calfskin belts, more freedom is possible with suede shoes. One does not need to match suede shoes with a matching suede belt, though it’s certainly acceptable to do so. A calfskin belt that matches the colour of the suede shoes is usually the safest and easiest choice. Blue suede shoes, however, are much more flexible with belts, and the belt should match the outfit overall without necessarily considering the shoes.
Often when Daniel Craig wears brown suede shoes, he pairs them with a black leather belt. He does so to match the black shirts or jackets he wears with the outfits, but it also causes a clash between the shoes and the belt. A brown belt, however, would clash with the black clothes on top. Trousers with side-adjusters would be the best solution in this scenario to avoid a clashing belt.