Finding the right shoes to match your suit is a seemingly simple task. But as any man who has tried and failed to combine brown footwear with black tailoring will testify, this is not always the case.
In reality, there are a huge number of colours, styles and dress codes to be taken into consideration. And only when all of these factors are in alignment will your shoes and suit be in perfect harmony.
It can be tricky, but in order to give you a gentle nudge in the right direction, we’ve broken down everything you need to know when matching your footwear to your suit, starting with the fundamentals.
Styles Of Smart Shoe
Before we delve into the specifics, it’s important to acquaint yourself with the types of shoe that can be worn with a suit. Not every style of footwear listed here is suitable for all dress codes, but each can be worn with tailoring in one way or another.
The Derby shoe is the businessman’s best friend. A timeless workhorse that can transition from boardroom to bar seamlessly. Recognisable by its open lacing system, the Derby is less dressy than its Oxford counterpart but still more than smart enough for anything except black tie.
Think of the Oxford as the Derby’s smarter sibling. In patent leather, it’s the go-to shoe for black or white tie, but it’s by no means a one-trick pony. Subtle detailing dictates how formal or informal an Oxford shoe is. Additions such as toe caps and perforated decoration known as “broguing” can give certain styles a more casual edge. Which brings us to our next shoe type.
It is, in fact, possible to have an Oxford brogue or a Derby brogue – the common thread is that both feature some level of broguing to the upper. Often this detailing will be accompanied by additional panels of leather, such as heel cups and wingtips, which lend the shoe a more decorative feel. At its core, this is a smart casual shoe.
A slightly more adventurous option, suitable for everything from cocktail attire to business use, look no further than the monk strap. This modern menswear favourite is essentially an Oxford shoe with either a single or a double strap fastening to lock the foot into place.
Another laceless style, the loafer is the perfect option for less formal occasions or business casual offices and is an obvious go-to where cropped suit trousers are involved. Choose between suede and leather depending on the vibe you’re going for; leather is smarter, suede more relaxed.
In years gone by, pairing tailoring with a trainer of any sort was the gravest style sin a man could commit. Today, however, it’s perfectly acceptable provided the dress code permits and that it’s done with a bit of thought. For example, a pair of crisp white leather sneakers teamed with modern cropped wool trousers gets a big thumbs up. A battered old pair of Converse and a tux, on the other hand, not so much.
The Shoes To Wear For Every Dress Code
Naturally, whether you’re attending a wedding or a work Christmas party will have a lot to do with which shoes you choose to match to your suit. Makes sure to check the dress code for the event you’re attending – or if there isn’t one, just employ a bit of common sense. Either way, these are the right shoes to wear, whatever the occasion.
Of all the possible dress codes, cocktail attire offers you the most freedom when it comes to deciding on a pair of shoes. Brogues are perfectly acceptable, as are monk straps. But for bonus style points opt instead for suede/leather loafers, or even a pair of smart trainers. For best results, couple either one of these with a cropped-leg trouser and no-show socks. And remember, where your tailoring is concerned, blazer and trouser separates are fair game here.
Black tie is about as strict as dress codes come, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All it means is that there’s less chance to get things wrong, which is good news if you’re one of the many men who struggle when it comes to formalwear.
Black patent-leather Oxford shoes are the classic choice here. That said, a regular leather pair of Oxfords will suffice – just make sure they’re clean, polished to a shine and scuff free.
As far as your weekday attire goes, the best shoe for the occasion is a classic Derby. This timeless staple is the perfect marriage of dressy and casual and can even work as part of your off-duty wardrobe provided you buy well. Remember, when it comes to purchasing footwear, you get what you pay for. Go for a Goodyear-welted style from a traditional British shoemaker – you won’t regret it.
Black Tie Optional
Where you see these three words printed on an invitation, it’s fair to assume your hosts will be wearing black tie. However, they’re kind enough to understand that you may not want to. Under these circumstances, it’s often better to err on the side of caution and deploy your dinner suit and patent Oxfords. Failing that, a simple black, navy or grey two-piece suit teamed with black Oxfords or monk straps would be more than acceptable.
What Colour Shoes To Wear With Your Suit
Determining what colour shoes best match a suit is the part that catches so many men out. Stick to the foolproof combinations below and you’ll never put a foot out of place.
What Shoes To Wear With A Black Suit
Generally speaking, the darker the suit the fewer options you have when it comes to matching your shoes. And it doesn’t really get any darker than black. With that in mind, black shoes are the only choice here.
Make sure they’re conditioned, polished and that you use wooden shoe trees to help retain their shape when they’re not being worn.
Shoe Colours: Black (only)
What Shoes To Wear With A Navy Suit
A slightly lighter colour means slightly more room for manoeuvre in the footwear department. Again, black shoes will always look great with a navy suit. If black feels a bit too stark, dark brown shoes work just as well.
Shoe Colours: Black, Dark Brown
What Shoes To Wear With A Light-Grey Suit
When it comes to light-grey tailoring, a black shoe is best for keeping things classic. However, you also have the freedom to experiment across the entire spectrum of brown, from tan through to mahogany.
Shoe Colours: Black, Brown (all shades)
What Shoes To Wear With A Charcoal Suit
Much like black, charcoal is so dark as to significantly lessen your footwear options. Even a very dark brown would look out of place here, meaning black is always the way to go.
Shoe Colours: Black (only)
What Shoes To Wear With A Beige Suit
There are few suit colours that require you to steer clear of black footwear. Beige is one of them. Instead, any shade of brown will be a solid match.
Shoe Colours: Brown (any shade)
What Shoes To Wear With A Green/Olive Suit
Green and olive may not be the most common suit colours out there but there’s a lot to be said for it when it comes to matching your shoes. Choose shades of brown – from chestnut through to mahogany – or keep it simple and classic with black.
Shoe Colours: Black, Brown
What Shoes To Wear With A Brown Suit
Unsurprisingly, the black and brown rule swings both ways. If it’s a brown suit you’ve chosen to wear then black footwear is out of the question. But, unlike a black suit, you do have a couple of options. Stick to brown but always ensure the shoes you settle on are darker than the suit itself and never the same shade.
Shoe Colours: Brown (darker shade than suit)