"Don't you step on my blue suede shoes..."
Just think... Carl Perkins (the lyricist), Elvis Presley, Johnny Hallyday (the French Elvis), Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Eddie Cochran... they all sang that song. And if these guys are talking about it — suede is an important subject that we're just not talking about enough, so thank you for bringing it up.
So, can I wear suede in the summer? Well, the first suede shoes I ever had were a pair of white bucks, and I would only wear them from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Which is summer only, more or less. I am not always a "rule follower" with things like this... white jeans, for example, are year-round for me. But even if you're on the more traditional end of the spectrum, the heritage of that shoe – the quintessential Southern American shoe – is a great indicator that suede is MEANT for summer. My originals had a little bit of a cream color & some nap/scruff to the suede which was very, very nice (nubuck is not our thing – it's too flat)... and paired with that brick red sole? Fantastic. In fact, we do a pair pretty similar to that one – the only change is, besides a great fit, we added a red Dainite sole – an excellent quality rubber sole from the UK that is a good mix of town & country. It's definitely a look – I did an interview with Garden and Gun a few years back, and admitted that there are probably some spots where guys might try to fight you for wearing them. I told them that you need to be ready to take a blow for the white bucks. I still stand behind that!
But to answer your question, yes - we're big-time advocates of suede all year round. But you don't want people looking at you thinking, "man, his feet gotta be hot!" So, for the summer months, you first want to consider the type of shoe. I'd even ask yourself "do these feel heavy?" To me that's the litmus test. I leave my Chelsea boots and leather-soled suede shoes (e.g. double monks) in the closet until the first hint of fall. Then I slip into some shoes that look and feel lighter — penny loafers, tassel loafers, moccasins, bluchers, sneakers, slip-on espadrilles... even a pair of light colored chukka boots work for me. Going lighter in the weight and shape of a shoe will open up a lot of colorways – even dark ones! Chocolate, snuff, blue, navy, tobacco... though I'd probably draw the line at black unless it's a formal occasion.
The last piece of the puzzle when wearing suede in the summer, is going sockless. All of these can (and probably should) be worn without socks. To me, there's something super-cool about no socks with suede, particularly a loafer, especially if you've gotten a little sun – it just communicates a casualness... a "light and easy" feeling overall.
I own a lot of pairs of suede shoes but if I were to recommend ONE – to me the perfect summer pair is the tassel loafer, in basically any color. I love love the look of a pair of white jeans, a linen jacket, and suede loafers. But they'll go equally as well with a pair of colorful sport trousers or linen pants or even shorts — it's almost impossible to imagine where and when you can't wear these.
And caring for them is pretty easy – we created a shoe care guide if you want to go deep on it. But the necessities are a pair of shoe trees and a wire suede brush, and a suede eraser is helpful too. A buck bag for the white ones is great. (We have them in the Atlanta shop.) To give your suede the longest life possible and preserve its texture, you'll want to brush them so gently and often, so that dirt doesn't sit in the nap and stain it. And while people are often afraid of letting suede near water... it's not life or death. If it's a drizzly day, it's probably best not to wear them, but if you get caught in the rain, don't worry too much about it. The only thing you should really worry about is oil. So maybe not the shoes you want to cook or change a tire in. (In case of grease, though, cornstarch is a quick fix to soak it up.)
I hope this helps. "Go cat go..." in your suede shoes! And if you're stuck, shoot us a picture or give our shop a call... we'll help you.