The Right Shoes To Wear With Every Colour Jeans You Own

Jeans have been the world’s favourite legwear for just shy of 100 years. Why? Probably because they’re famously durable, easy to wear and versatile to the extreme. But while they’re generally straightforward to style, there are certain pairing guidelines to follow if you want your jeans to look their best… particularly when it comes to footwear.

So what shoes should you wear with your jeans? It’s a question that every style-conscious man has asked himself at some point. As versatile as jeans are, there are certain types of shoes that will never look good with specific shades of denim, and others that will look great every time.

The key to nailing it is knowing what those shades and styles are. So, to help you get it right, we’ve prepared a handy cheat sheet, highlighting five key denim shades and the types of footwear that work best with each one.

What Shoes To Wear With Black Jeans

Jeans don’t typically work well in smart settings – unless they’re black, that is. A pair of black jeans is sharp, subtle and perfect for occasions that call for clothing on the dressier end of the smart-casual spectrum, such as dates, upmarket restaurants and bars, and nights out.

To make the most of their aesthetic benefits, you’ll want to make sure you choose your shoes carefully. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to stick to dark colours – you’re aiming for subtle, not jarring. Colours like burgundy, dark brown, dark green and, of course, black, will all work nicely. An exception to this rule is white minimalist sneakers, which will always perfectly complement slim-cut black jeans.

Keep the style of shoe relatively smart too. Think Chelsea boots, desert boots, luxe sneakers and Derby shoes. A nice loafer or deck shoe will work well in the warmer months too.

What Shoes To Wear With Dark Jeans

A pair of proper raw-denim jeans is something that every well-dressed man should have hanging proudly in his wardrobe. This is denim in its purest form: heavy, unwashed and rugged. It’s most at home with casual, smart-casual and workwear-based garments and that extends to the footwear it should be paired with it too.

Raw denim is dark, so you should approach colour matching your shoes much the same as you would with black jeans. We’re talking dark colours – black, brown, burgundy, etc – with the notable exception of sneakers, where there’s a little more room for manoeuvre. Just steer clear of navy and very light browns, like tan, and you won’t go far wrong.

With the exception of true dress shoes, like Oxfords, there aren’t many shoes that won’t pair well with raw jeans. That said, boots always work well as they fit in with raw denim’s workwear roots – think moc-toe boots, chukka and hiking boots in either suede or leather.

What Shoes To Wear With Mid-Wash Jeans

Mid-wash jeans are a casual classic. They’re perfect for the weekend or just standard day-to-day duties. These are the type of jeans you can throw on every day without having to give it any thought. But, that said, there are certain colours and styles of shoes that will pair with mid-wash jeans better than others.

Generally speaking, mid-wash jeans will work with the majority of footwear colours – that’s what makes them such good all-rounders. However, lighter shades tend to look best. Think beige, tan and light-to-mid brown suede, light grey and white. Black can work too, depending on the rest of the outfit, but we’d suggest avoiding darker browns if there’s any uncertainty.

In terms of styles, again, mid-wash jeans’ jack-of-all-trades nature means that there’s not much that won’t work. If you’re stuck for inspiration, a light suede desert boot will always be a hit, as will a simple white sneaker in leather.

What Shoes To Wear With Stonewashed Jeans

The lighter colour of stonewashed jeans makes them super laid back and relaxed. They team particularly well with casual, warm-weather clothing, but can be worn in the colder months too. They’re highly versatile within the parameters of casualwear and we think they’re a must-have item when it comes to piecing together casual outfits.

Stonewash jeans do have one drawback though: they don’t play nicely with dark-coloured footwear. A black leather boot can work but that’s about as far as it goes. Instead, look to combine them with casual footwear in lighter hues, such as white, beige, stone, light brown and tan.

Stonewashed jeans look great with sneakers, so if you tend to live in sporty footwear then you will have no issues. We think they also look particularly good with retro shapes and classic styles like a pair of white Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars or some old-school suede runners. Other styles that suit this lighter wash particularly well are desert boots and loafers, particularly in suede.

What Shoes To Wear With White & Cream Jeans

A lot of men shy away from wearing white jeans because they think they’re difficult to get right. In reality, white denim is actually pretty versatile, and not at all tricky to style provided you know-how. As with most things, it’s best to start from the ground up, which is why knowing what sort of shoes to wear with white jeans is the first step to sartorial success.

Most colours of footwear will work with white or cream-coloured jeans, but we’d advise steering clear of pastels and other very light colours. Instead, go for dark browns, black, navy or dark green. Again, white sneakers can work, particularly as part of an all-white outfit.

You can wear white jeans at any time of the year, but summertime is when they’ll naturally see the most action. With that in mind, summery footwear like suede loafers, espadrilles, deck shoes and canvas sneakers are all great options, but swap them for smarter, leather styles if the occasion calls for something dressier.

Paddy Maddison

Paddy Maddison is Ape's Style Editor. His work has been published in Esquire, Men’s Health, ShortList, The Independent and more. An outerwear and sneaker fanatic, his finger is firmly on the pulse for the latest trends, while always maintaining an interest in classic style.