Black Suit, Brown Shoes: The Ultimate ‘High-Risk, High-Reward’ Move For Bold Dressers
— Updated on 28 November 2023

Black Suit, Brown Shoes: The Ultimate ‘High-Risk, High-Reward’ Move For Bold Dressers

— Updated on 28 November 2023
Boss Hunting
Boss Hunting

Contrary to popular belief, in 2023, it might just be possible to wear brown shoes with a black suit — and pull off both simultaneously with considerable aplomb.

Once considered a massive sartorial faux pas, the en masse casualisation of fashion has meant that men are more comfortable than ever wearing brown shoes with a black suit.

People dress up in knitwear to attend formal occasions; wearing sneakers to the office is so common as to be almost banal; and the whole ‘no brown in town’ thing? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Of course, where brown dress shoes are concerned, wearing a full-on two-piece suit (that is both black and made up in a dressy fabric à la worsted wool) remains a demonstrably bad idea. Thankfully, at no point in this article will we be counselling you to pull your 9-to-5 office rig out of the wardrobe and fuse that together with a pair of old deck shoes.

Assuming you do want to try wearing a black suit with brown shoes, here’s everything to keep in mind…

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Things To Remember When Pairing Brown Shoes With Black Suits

The most common — and sadly, unflattering — outfit among the ‘black suit, brown shoe’ crowd (a popular occurrence among real estate agents and badly dressed club promoters) goes a little something like this: light brown shoes, often aggressively pointy (aka Jesters); paired with a conspicuously shiny black suit; and accessories selected for their ability to scream out against a sea of brown and monochrome tones.

To avoid this, we suggest you consider the following:

  • Think carefully about the precise shade of brown leather shoes you’ll be wearing when matching these to your black suit. High-contrast lighter colours like tan or gold should be avoided; whereas the darker shades (similar to what you’ll find in museum calf or cordovan) are more complementary.
  • Wherever possible, find ways to incorporate additional texture into your shoes or tailoring. This helps to offset the striking and somewhat formal nature of wearing such a physically large amount of black. A good example of how to achieve this is by wearing loafers in a very casual style (e.g. grained chocolate mules) with black jeans. Ideally, the latter should be washed or slightly distressed.
  • Don’t be afraid to break your black suit up into separates. As we’ve already mentioned, there will often be situations where dressing almost head-to-toe in black (particularly in fabrics like silk or wool-mohair) won’t strictly be necessary. In those situations, you may still be able to deploy either piece of clothing independently: for instance, a black suit jacket alongside black cotton chinos with dark brown shoes.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Wearing Brown Shoes With Black Suits

Is wearing brown shoes with black tailoring more difficult than wearing black shoes together with a brown suit?

In our view, yes: casual black shoe styles (particularly tassel loafers) are an established accompaniment for brown tailoring and have been for many decades.

The two work particularly well if your suit is in a more casual fabric such as linen or cotton-silk.

What are some of the best brown shoes you can wear with a black suit?

Informal options — so, think the antithesis of lace-up oxfords — are most effective. That means Chelsea boots, penny loafers and ‘kick-down’ designs resembling mules.

If you absolutely insist on wearing tan shoes, try to regulate the contrast between these lighter shades by opting for leathers like pebble grain calf or suede.

Is it easier to wear black suit pants or the matching jacket as a separate?

Black trousers are almost always easier to pair. Regardless of how formal the details are: you can wear them with canvas sneakers, espadrilles, loafers, and even a range of open-toed sandals.

Image Credit: Archive Avenue
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