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Matching Dress Shoes With Suits – How To Match A Shoe With Any Suit Color [NEW Chart]

This is a sponsored post brought to you by The Hanger Project.  FYI, Kirby has created an EXCELLENT shoe care guide you should check out if you own high quality shoes & expensive footwear.  Taking care of suede shoes, shoe shine kits, an overview of why Saphir polish ROCKS……he’s got you covered!

 

Black shoes and a black suit work great if you’re going to a funeral, but most of the time we’re a little more colorful in our wardrobes.

How does a man wearing a navy, light-grey, or brown suit match his shoes with the suit color?

That’s what this article is about!

 

Take a moment to get to know the following chart.

It pairs the five most common suit colors — navy, medium or mid-gray, charcoal, brown, and black — with three different shoes to show you which colors work with which leathers.

shoes with suit color

 

Now, are these shoe matching rules absolute?

Not entirely — but it’s a very safe guide to follow.

If you’re bucking the advice here, it should be because you’re going for a really unique look or you know the rules and make a conscious decision to ignore them!

For example, we don’t have the burgundy shoes paired with a black suit. But a rocker might wear a black suit with red Converse All-Stars, and that would be, if not exactly timeless men’s style, certainly a style choice that could work.

 

There are going to be exceptions.

But there aren’t many of them, and if you’re sticking to classic business and business-casual dress, let this chart be your guide.

 

Most of the time it’s not too hard.

Strict business formality is easy — a charcoal gray or navy blue suit and plain black shoes.

But as the suits (and the business climate) become more relaxed, you get the option of wearing different colors of leather with them. That’s a stumbling block for a lot of men — and the wrong color of shoes and belt can ruin even a fine suit.

 

Here’s how most of these combinations play out in practical, day-to-day dress:

1. Navy Blue Suits

16-4-l

Pair with:

  • Black shoes
  • Brown shoes
  • Red or burgundy shoes

Navy can go comfortably with all three of the main color families of men’s leather shoes. You can probably even make a navy suit work with more exotic colors if you have them, although blue is generally too close to make a good contrast.

The leather color mostly affects the formality and attitude of a navy suit. Black shoes are business dress, while brown are more relaxed, and red or burgundy give it the most playful, social feel.

 

2. Medium And Light Gray Suits

16-1-lPair with:

  • Black shoes
  • Brown shoes
  • Red or burgundy shoes

Medium gray suits are less formal than navy suits, and share a similar flexibility. You can pair them effectively with just about any color of leather.

In the case of medium gray, black is the best option when you’re wearing a white shirt and a necktie. It’s still not proper business dress (the suit itself is too light), but it’s quite typical in offices where suits are mandatory but somewhat relaxed. Brown and burgundy shoes make it more of a casual/social look, and work best when the shirt has a bit of pattern or color to it as well.

 

3. Brown Suits

16-21-lPair with:

  • Brown shoes
  • Red or burgundy shoes

Do not pair with:

  • Black shoes

Take a caveat here — brown suits work with most brown shoes. You want a visible contrast between the color of the shoe leather and the color of the suit. If they’re identical or almost-identical, it looks off.

Apart from that, brown’s great with most casual leather shoes. It’s generally better to have the shoe leather darker than the suit (helps keep the eye from being drawn downward), but either way can work so long as you have a clear contrast.

 

4. Charcoal Grey Suits

16-3-lPair with:

  • Black shoes
  • Burgundy shoes

Do not pair with:

  • Brown shoes

Here’s where we get to our first firm “no” on the list: don’t pair charcoal suits with brown shoes.

Dark browns look like you’re trying for a close match and coming up short. Light browns are too informal, and draw the eye jarringly downward. Plain black works best, or a deep burgundy for a look that’s relaxed but still elegant.

 

5. Black Suits

16-6-lPair with:

  • Black shoes

Do not pair with:

  • Brown shoes
  • Burgundy shoes

Black’s not very flexible. That’s why we generally recommend charcoal gray or navy blue in its place as a first suit. If you own one, pair it with black shoes, and save the outfit for funerals and strict business dress occasions.

Any other color of shoe is going to look too casual with black.

 

Other Colors

The chart at the top is built around the most common colors of suit and leather dress shoes.

You’ll probably end up with more colors of suit/trouser than just those five, and more colors of shoe than those three. That especially gets true once you start wearing leather shoes with casual trousers (like jeans), or dress suits with casual shoes (like canvas sneakers).

Experiment and find out what works for you. The more casual the outfit, the less strict the rules, so if you’re doing something deliberately convention-defying (like the rocker example we used at the start), don’t sweat it too much. If it looks good in the mirror, go with it, and don’t worry whether it’s “right” or not.

As with all colors, the most important thing to remember is to avoid things that are close but not quite matching. Those are the worst-looking clashes — it looks like you tried for a unified outfit and screwed it up a little. Keep the contrast clear and you should be fine.

 

This is a sponsored post brought to you by The Hanger Project.  FYI, Kirby has created an EXCELLENT shoe care guide you should check out if you own high quality shoes & expensive footwear.  Taking care of suede shoesshoe shine kits, an overview of why Saphir polish ROCKS……he’s got you covered!

 

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About Antonio

Antonio Centeno is President of ATailoredSuit.com and the founder of RealMenRealStyle.com. He has created over 700 articles & videos on men's style, blogs over at the Art of Manliness, and is the creator of the internet's best selling personal presentation course - A Man's Guide To Timeless Style. Antonio has studied clothing design in London, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. He is a former US Marine with an MBA from UT Austin and a BA from Cornell College. He loves to hear from old friends and make new ones.

  • Marco Godano

    Nice guide, and the chart is quite handy as well. I always thought brown shoes didn’t go well with blue suits. Italy’s former prime minister went so far as to state (live, on national TV) that one should never wear brown shoes with a blue suit. And we also have an old saying here that goes something like “Blue and brown makes you look like a bumpkin”. Guess I can feel good again while I wear them that way from now on.

  • Phil

    Not bad for a former US Marine. Kudos. This former Army Ranger shares your interest in menswear and style.

  • patrick

    thanks. how refreshing!

  • Bubba St. Jaques

    OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHRRRRAAAAAAAA !

  • Cris Caiger

    Many thanks, I shall bear this info in mind, wish everybody wore well polished shoes.

  • Aaron Codling

    Nice.
    Looks like I need to get an emergency pair of burgundy shoes….. ;)

  • menstyle

    I agree – you never know when you’ll need them :)

  • menstyle

    Semper Fi!

  • menstyle

    Well, the fact they don’t gives us the opportunity to shine :)

  • menstyle

    Thanks Phil – sadly, no more shined boots in the US Military :(

  • menstyle

    This explains a lot about Italy’s economic situation :) Just kidding, I know we have some Italians out there!

  • menstyle

    Like a glass of water on a hot day!

  • http://www.lucidlingo.com.au/ Gazman

    In the text, you say brown should not be paired with charcoal suits, but in the diagram the opposite point is made. The other thing is that in the business world these days, dress is becoming very casual so ‘rules’ saying what is appropriate for work hardly applies anymore. I recently did a stint at an environmental consultancy and people rocked up in flip-flops, tee-shirts and cargo shorts!

  • Achowalogen

    What suit color will grey or charcoal-grey shoes best compliment? I am glad that my cordovan / burgundy are in the mix. Need to get a lighter burgundy for some. Chart does help in putting better combinations together that will make a style statement in university classroom and secondary workshops/presentations. Thanks!
    Wakan Tanka Sici Un — may God bless!
    May Your Journey Be Forever on the Wings of The Eagle!

  • menstyle

    You’re welcome sir! And try a darker charcoal or a navy for those grey shoes.

  • Senator

    Im looking for black shoes that will go well in a business/government type setting (the state capitol) and I will be doing a lot of public speaking in front of large crowds, and my feet will be visible. I want something with a sort of reflective sheen, and pointy. I thought about wing tipped shoes but do you have a different suggestion? I own a navy DB suit and a black SB suit. I attached a picture for the look I am going for. Thanks in advance.

  • Senator

    like this gentlemen, but my suit is less shiny. to clarify, i want the shoes to be a simple two piece design, so no design on the toe. but i want the shape to be pointy but round, not square and not just round. do you know what im saying?

  • menstyle

    Hello sir,

    This video might be useful http://www.realmenrealstyle.com/dress-shoes-in-60-seconds/ .

    Respectfully,

    Antonio

  • Guest

    hn

  • Umang Rao

    This is great information for formal wear for men. But on a day off if you want to have a cool and casual look check out Breakbounces amazing new spring summer collection of casual wear for men. www(dot)breakbounce(dot)com

  • Kenneth Geathers

    Excellent!! article Antonio,i was expecting to see an article such as this one.Now i would like to see an article on boots.I have a pair of black leather paratrooper boots,and i don’t know what type of Jacket to wear with? I don’t think a sport jacket or a blazer would go together with it.What’s your opinion sir? Thanks!!

  • menstyle

    Try a peacoat or a barbour jacket or you can even pair it with a leather jacket. Just make sure the leathers match.

    This might help for the colder months http://www.realmenrealstyle.com/winter-outerwear-stylish-men/ .

  • dagman

    Antonio. Great article. I see a mistake I was making with my slate grey shoes (pairing them with medium and charcoal grey suits. I have a question though. I see you used Allen Edmonds in your layout, and that is what I wear. They have a color called chili – which to me has both red and brown hues in it (but more red). Can I wear those wherever you have indicated red or burgundy, or just red?

  • menstyle

    I think those will do fine with either red or burgundy.

  • Girish

    Hey Antonio,
    First off, Nice articles. I am planning to pair a dark blue denim with a beige blazer and a maroon shirt. What options do I have with the shoes? I was planning a pair of loafers(beige) w/o socks. Also how about the entire attire?
    Cheers

  • kunal

    Hi antonio…. u are awsum man …!!!!!! the kind of stuff you put on is really informative ….
    Can u plzzz put up sumthing Regarding hair style for thin guys .it wud be grt.

  • menstyle

    Thank you for the kind words Girish. The entire outfit sounds great and the loafers would go well with it too.

    Respectfully,

    Antonio

  • menstyle

    Hi Kunal,

    I actually just came out with a hairstyle ebook which you can check out here http://www.realmenrealstyle.com/products/ .

    Respectfully,

    Antonio

  • Charles

    Hi,
    I have had trouble getting a good, consistent fit with custom suits (BB made to measure) The problem is that the jacket feels too tight when I strech out my arms like to comb my hair. The upper arm of the jacket is tight and restricts the arm movement. What is the cause of that and what should I do to make sure the made to measure suit I buy next time fits good. By the way I have purchased my size (46) off the rack form BB Golden Fleece many times and the suit jacket fits perfect on the upper arms when i stretch out my arms. I am getting frustrated and have had this problem with 3 of their suits. One suit turned out ok.

  • http://www.yuvastyle.com/ Harsh Vardhan

    Hey Antonio!! The given post is indeed very informative and I most like the flow of explanation. Good images and stylish shoes combination here. I love formal shoes too.

  • menstyle

    Thank you Harsh!

  • zanjus

    light red shirt with black suit is matching? for business attire dress code?

  • menstyle

    Black suit might be too formal. You might want to go for charcoal gray or midnight blue?