Have you ever heard that you’re not supposed to wear brown dress shoes for formal occasions or after 6 p.m.? If you want to be fashionable, you probably want to know when to wear brown dress shoes. Even the most stylish people can make mistakes. This article explains when to wear brown dress shoes for men and women as well as what color pants, tights, and socks go well with them.
The History of Black and Brown Dress Shoes for Men
In the 1800s, fashion icon Beau Brummell was known for eschewing the typical form of ornate dress and putting together classic, tailored outfits. He wore darkly hued coats, traded cropped pants for full-length trousers, and shiny black boots that he polished with champagne. Other men who followed in his footsteps wore black shoes around town and during formal events.
At that time, there were rules for fashion. Some people abided by the guidelines of “no brown in town” or “no brown after six.” Black shoes were accepted, and most stylish people respected fashion conventions.
In the 1930s, the Duke of Windsor was reprimanded by his father because he wore brown shoes with a navy suit. Today, most people follow the standard of not wearing black with navy. Ninety years ago, brown shoes made an eclectic fashion statement, though.
Formal events called for black shoes no matter what color the suit was. The rule “no brown in town” was abolished, but men still wore dark footwear with a dinner dress and a full evening dress.
Dress codes have become more relaxed since the 1950s. Today, many people make a statement by claiming their own sense of fashion. Still, it helps to know some of the rules because if you don’t, you can’t break them intentionally.
People in different countries have various preferences when it comes to shoe color too. For example, Italians continue to choose black shoes for somber or formal occasions. But they wear brown around town and with casual wardrobes.
Conservative British businesspeople lean toward wearing black shoes professionally. But brown oxfords have always been popular and are making a comeback.
No matter where you live today, you’ll be fine if you wear black or brown shoes at night or during the day. Still, some colors aren’t appropriate for every situation. Light brown shoes aren’t suited for formal events. You should still wear black footwear at black-tie affairs.
What Can You Wear Brown Shoes With?
Brown shoes are versatile. They can be dressed up or down. Therefore, you can wear them with jeans, corduroys, chinos or suits.
Brown Shoes and Suits
Because brown shoes come in a wide range of shades and styles, there is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to wearing them. Many men have several pairs of brown shoes for different occasions. If that’s the case, though, you may still wonder what color suits to wear with those shoes.
You probably shouldn’t wear brown shoes with a black suit. You’ll look more streamlined if you keep everything dark and dapper.
But gray suits may call for brown shoes. You can wear black or brown with this color. The darker the suit is, the more appropriate it is to wear black. However, brown works well with charcoal gray or medium gray suits. Just make sure that the footwear is dark enough. You don’t want to wear tan shoes with a gray suit.
Even though some people say that you shouldn’t combine black and blue, you can wear black shoes with a dark or light navy suit. However, this is the perfect occasion to pull out your brown shoes. Some of the tones that work well with navy suits are:
If your blue suit is on the lighter side, you can still wear black or brown shoes. You have options. Some experts recommend that you always wear black footwear with pinstripes, however.
Is there ever an opportunity to choose brown shoes without question? Yes. You should probably wear brown footwear with brown suits.
Some suits are more formal than others. Those may require you to wear black shoes. For example, black typically pairs better with three-piece suits unless the overarching color of your outfit is brown. If you wear a light gray or neutral waistcoat, you may also want to choose black shoes.
When you’re not sure, you might want to wear black. But if you’re not afraid of bucking convention, go ahead and wear brown shoes. You might want to ensure that they’re darker than the shade of the suit, though. Some people choose to wear light brown shoes with dark suits. That’s completely acceptable. You should know that it attracts attention, though. Doing that is certainly a bold style choice.
Brown Shoes and Casual Suits
Some suits are more casual because they are made of less formal fabrics. Suits that fall into this category include:
- Brushed cotton
- Bold patterns
These often call for brown shoes.
Many casual suits also come in unique colors. If you wear a green suit, you should avoid black footwear. Dark brown looks excellent with khakis. Black may be too striking of a contrast.
You should also avoid black footwear with tan suits. However, you don’t have to stick with basic brown. Cherry, cordovan, and medium chestnut are ideal for tan suits. As with formal suits, casual brown suits require you to wear brown shoes.
Finding the perfect footwear for white suits can be quite a conundrum. Because the suit is a bold choice, you can make daring selections when it comes to your shoes. Brown-and-white spectators look sharp with this type of outfit. So do dark and medium brown. Cherry or reddish-brown shoes are also a spectacular choice.
Brown Shoes and a Slacks/Sport Coat Combo
What if you wear a sport coat and trousers instead of a matching suit? You should still abide by many of the same rules that we detailed above.
With black pants, you should probably wear black shoes. If your sport coat is black, you might be able to wear brown shoes depending on the color of your slacks.
Charcoal gray slacks or jackets usually look best with black shoes. Dark brown can work too. Just don’t go too light with the shade. Medium gray suits look great with black, dark brown, and cherry. Avoid tan shoes with mid-gray suits.
You’ll really get a lot of use out of your brown shoes if your outfit contains some blue or navy. Medium to dark brown footwear looks great with navy and blue. Tan is appropriate too, but it attracts attention.
If you’re wearing red pants, you should stay away from shoes that have a reddish tint. This is a perfect time to wear tan or dark brown.
When you’re wearing a smart-casual outfit with lots of brown, you have many options for shoe shades. Choose any chestnut color, or pair your wardrobe with tan shoes.
What if you’re wearing jeans instead of trousers? In that case, it’s time to break out your brown shoes. You can wear brown shoes or boots with any color denim, including black. Tan shoes pair well with denim. So do oxblood hues.
How to Wear Brown Suede Shoes
Suede shoes are cozy and laid-back. They come in many shades and colors, but they’re popular in brown and tan. You might want to add a pair of suede shoes to your wardrobe, but wonder if you’ll get much use out of them.
Suede desert boots are probably the most versatile. These classic shoes were originally worn by British soldiers. Now, they have a more bohemian vibe.
This type of boot is an excellent alternative to the black boot. Even though it’s timeless, it’s a little unexpected. When you wear suede desert boots, you look as though you put some thought into your outfit.
Suede desert boots are ideal for everyday wear. They can be dressed up to a certain point, but they’re more appropriate for casual use. They look effortless but stylish with slim-fit jeans and a flannel shirt or a comfy sweater. You can even wear them with jeans and a T-shirt.
If you want to bring them up a notch, wear them with your smart-casual wardrobe. Suede desert boots look great with chinos and a sport coat. You can wear these well into the winter weather with an overcoat or fleece.
Suede loafers are also popular options for brown shoes for men. Suede loafers are a little more upscale than desert boots. You don’t want to wear them with slouchy denim or hoodies. They do look pert with bare feet and ankle pants. You can also pair them with cuffed denim and a sharp jacket.
Because suede loafers look best with bare ankles, they can be hard to get much use out of. Suede is more appropriate for cold than warm weather. Therefore, your ankles may get cold every time you rock them around town in the appropriate seasons. Many people don’t mind suffering to look good, though.
What Color Socks Should Men Wear With Brown Shoes?
Your socks should never be the focal point of your outfit. However, they’ll show if you sit down or cross your legs, and the hem of your pants rides up. You don’t want to go sockless for business occasions, but there are some scenarios that call for a bare ankle. We’ll discuss those in more detail below.
One of the biggest questions that many men have is, “Should I wear black socks with brown shoes?” You can wear black socks with almost anything. Brown shoes and black socks work well with dark trousers.
Some people abide by the rule of thumb that says that you should match your socks with your trousers. Today’s man doesn’t follow that guideline as frequently as he used to. Still, you could wear navy socks with brown shoes and a navy suit.
The rules for what socks to wear with brown shoes are even more relaxed if you have jeans on. In that case, any neutral, muted hue would work fine. Gray, navy, or buff-colored socks are appropriate to wear with denim and brown shoes.
What if you’re wearing loafers? Those shoes show more sock, which means that you’ll have to be a little more intentional about your style choice. According to The TrendSpotter, there are several appropriate ways to wear socks with loafers:
- Add some darkness or color with your socks if your outfit is khaki or another neutral brown tone.
- Opt for rich but muted jewel tones, such as burgundy or emerald, with your khaki or denim weekend look.
- Wear formal socks and match them to your trousers in a business environment.
- Choose vermilion or grass green with otherwise monochromatic outfits.
- Wear striped or patterned socks with loafers and blue suits.
- Contrast your socks with your denim by wearing light socks with dark jeans and vice versa.
Don’t be afraid of brightly colored socks. Many people wear fun sock styles to kick their outfits up a notch because they know that they won’t be in full view most of the time.
Should You Go Sockless?
Is it ever ok to go sockless with your brown shoes? For summer styles and casual warm-weather looks, you don’t have to show off your socks at all.
Pull off this look by rolling your jeans and wearing brown loafers. You can also go sockless for summer weddings when you’re wearing pants that are made out of lighter materials, such as seersucker. You might want to wear pants that are hemmed shorter than your business slacks, though.
If you’re wearing shorts or cropped pants with brown loafers or dress shoes, you should probably skip the socks altogether. They could look goofy.
There are some other rules for going sockless with brown shoes. Your pants should be tailored to fit you well. The hems shouldn’t be too wide. If your slacks are baggy or slouchy, they won’t look as stylish with bare ankles.
Even though you look sockless, you might want to wear some protection inside of your shoe. Invisible socks are ideal for these styles. They’ll protect the leather from your sweaty feet and diminish the stinky shoe stench.
It’s never appropriate to go sockless for funerals, business meetings, or interviews. In those scenarios, make sure that you’re dressed more conservatively.
What to Wear With Brown Women’s Shoes
Men aren’t the only ones who need to know how to wear brown shoes. Women often wonder how to pair their brown footwear with their wardrobe. There seem to be fewer rules with women’s fashion, though. Ladies can get away with more unique combinations.
Brown shoes are warmer than black. They look more natural and often have a laid-back vibe.
If you’re wearing an outfit with lots of earth tones, such as army green, burgundy, rust, or forest green, brown shoes will blend in perfectly.
You can choose brown or black shoes with neutral outfits, like white, gray, tan, and beige. The specifics depend on the accessories that you wear. If you’re choosing warm-toned accessories, like an orange scarf, brown shoes will look softer. Cool-toned accessories look great with black shoes.
Can you wear brown shoes with a black outfit? Sure. Just make sure that you have plenty of accessories to complement the warm shoes. A brown leather purse and cuff bracelet can tie the outfit together.
Many women also wonder whether they should wear black or brown boots with their wardrobes. Style rules are meant to be broken.
If you’re wearing an outfit that contains strong brown tones, adding brown boots might be too much. You may not want to look as though you’re going riding. Black boots are striking with outfits that contain plenty of brown.
What if your outfit is black, though? Go for the brown boots. You can add other brown elements throughout your body for a seamless style.
Wearing brown boots with a black outfit makes you look less harsh. However, it gives an extremely classy and sharp visual. Imagine if you were wearing black leggings with a black or charcoal sweater. Black boots might appear bee too dark and severe. Brown boots, on the other hand, make you look grounded and earthy.
You can wear black tights with brown boots. Other options are juicy hues, such as teal, orange, and red.
The Bottom Line
If you want to err on the side of caution, make sure that your brown shoes are darker than the general shade of your clothing. However, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Tan shoes show that you’re not afraid to stand out.
Men are usually advised to wear belts that match their shoes for formal occasions. The leather doesn’t have to be exact, but the shade should be similar. You shouldn’t wear a tan belt with dark brown shoes.
Women don’t always wear belts. If they do, they should also take care to match them with their shoes. Don’t wear a black belt with brown shoes.