When to Wear Black or Brown Shoes (And What to Wear With Them)

When it comes to men’s dress shoes these days, there are a lot of styles to choose from. However, the choice of color frequently comes down to the old standards of black and brown. Just as different types of shoes are suitable for different outfits and occasions, the same is true of the color you choose. Here are a few basic guidelines for how to choose when to wear black or brown shoes.

What to Wear With a Navy Blue Suit

The navy blue suit remains the standard of business dress the world over. Add pinstripes and you’ve got a look that’s even more formal. When you wear such a suit for a business occasion, with a conservative shirt and tie, always opt for shiny black lace-up shoes. It makes for a look that is understated, correct and stylish all at once.

For slightly less formal situations, that same navy suit can be softened by brown shoes, even slip-ons. Reddish shades of brown look particularly nice with navy blue. Tie things together by adding a touch of earth tone elsewhere in your outfit. In this case, a tie with a hunter green background invites the brown shoes to join in.

What to Wear With a Charcoal Suit

Charcoal gray suits run a close second to navy in their traditional correctness. As such, a good gray suit can be dressed up or down with ease, and shoe color can help do that. For a conservative business look, stick with plain shirts, simple ties and black shoes. Lace-ups are always a good choice, but the more unusual black tassel loafer eases things up just a bit.

The same suit worn with a soft wool tie and brown shoes becomes practically cozy.

What to Wear With Non-Business (“Country”) Suits

In some case, the answer is simple. With winter upon us, the more dashing among us may have the chance to wear a non-business suit in a fat woolly fabric such as tweed, cavalry twill or heavy whipcord. These suits should always be worn with brown shoes in either suede or leather. The reason is simple: such suits derive from a pastoral tradition in England, where they were worn exclusively in the countryside, often for hunting, riding or other sport. Brown shoes hail from this same tradition originally, with black shoes reserved for wear in the city. These days those rules have relaxed, but a heavy tweed suit still looks best with brown shoes.

What to Wear With Casual Looks

Generally speaking, brown shoes are less “dressy” than black shoes. When going for a soft, casual look, brown tends to fit in better with the textures of an easygoing fall ensemble.

What to Wear With Jeans

There is no denying that blue jeans and black boots are a perfect match, especially for an edgy rock-n-roll look, but dressier black shoes tend to look a little overbearing with jeans. Given the ruggedness of denim and its origins in work wear, styles like ankle boots, loafers and heavy lace-ups in brown lend more versatility.

What to Wear in the Evening

If you’re out on the town in the evening and going for a sharp look, black is often the better choice. A shiny pair of black shoes will always look sleek and stylish in the evening.

What to Wear With Formal Wear

Always wear plain black lace-up shoes with any kind of formal wear. I hope that goes without saying.

Photo credits: An Affordable Wardrobe