Shoe and Suit Combinations

If there’s one thing that readers of this column know it’s that everything matters; shirts, ties, jackets, trousers, braces, buttons – the lot. As soon as you prioritise something, you realise how important something else is. However, there are two items in the gentleman’s wardrobe that are said to require significant thought, consideration and investment, items which can make or break ensembles with their quality: suits and shoes.

Much is written about how a treasure added to either collection might feature, but how does a man marry his collection of suits with his collection of shoes? It seems a question with a simple enough answer. However, it can be a problem, and one that depends largely on colour combinations; with what suit do a pair of tan brogues look best? What kickers can be deployed with a mid-grey chalkstripe?

The most commonly cited’ rule’ seems to be that black shoes should not be worn with navy suits; instead, brown shoes are recommended. But which brown? And what suit can you wear light tan shoes with? Some prefer to set guidance by the variety of suit, others by the variety of shoe. My advice is, whichever collection is more limited use that as the guide.

Tan shoes

shoe suit tan

Tan shoes have a wonderful, peanut-brown colour that glows beautifully in sunlight. However, they shouldn’t be worn with too dark a shade; navy blue, black and charcoal are too much of a contrast. Mid-grey and mid-blue suits are better; the desaturation offsets the brightness of the shoe. Light grey, all shades of brown and cream are the most ideal colours.

Black shoes

Black shoes are the most formal shoe, but they are not the most versatile. They are highly suitable for greys of all types, particularly charcoal, but they clash with navy. Instead, wear them with mid-blues to achieve the correct contrast between blue and black. They are also unsuitable for browns.


shoe suit chestnut

Chestnut shoes are possibly the most versatile shoes a man can own; navy, charcoal, light grey, mid-blue, mid-grey, browns of all shades and even cream – chestnut shoes don’t clash with much. They are also the best shoes for odd jacket and trousers combinations as they are adaptable but less formal than black shoes.


shoe suit oxblood

Oxblood is possibly the rarest colour of shoe. Almost as versatile as chestnut, oxblood shoes look good with blues and greys of all types, although they can clash with some browns.

Dark brown

shoe suit dark brown

Dark brown shoes are, in inclement weather, often difficult to differentiate from black. Mid-blues bring out the ‘brownness’, whereas navy tends to shroud it. Light grey is appropriate, as are browns of all types but stay away from charcoals and blacks.


  1. Steve said:

    I think black shoes look lovely with a dark brown suit

    April 24, 2012
  2. John said:

    Chestnut or oxblood shoes with navy suits draw attention to themselves. I prefer to adopt Beau Brummel’s approach and try not to look fashion forward or draw attention to myself.

    April 24, 2012
  3. gary said:

    wrong , charcoal goes brilliantly with tan

    April 24, 2012
  4. Clarence said:

    Black shoes clash with navy suits? I’ve never heard such drivel. Here is a handy phrase: “Black dresses navy up, while brown dresses navy down.”

    April 25, 2012
  5. AFJ said:

    Black shoes pairs beautiful with navy.

    April 25, 2012
  6. Christopher said:

    Brown with black fluxes all the time. I’m of the opinion that adding brown shoes to a black outfit, as long as its the right brown, will add warmth to an otherwise chill chromatic outfit.


    April 26, 2012
  7. katie said:

    LOVE this!
    I’m always asked by guys what colour suits to match their shoes… now I’m just going to direct them to this page. Brilliant.
    Love it so much, I reblogged it here… with full props of course!

    April 27, 2012
  8. John said:

    I’m considering getting a pair of the Allen Edmonds “Neumok” wingtips. They are available in Red, Olive and Navy. I’m leaning toward the Olive but I’m unsure about my choice of pants. No jeans, I’ll be wearing them to work. I really like the red as well, but I’m not so sure that I have the nerve to pull those off as a 41 yr old accountant!!

    April 29, 2012
  9. Joshua said:

    Don’t be scared, John! I am a 28 year old accountant, and I wear red/oxblood/black cherry shoes and boots almost exclusively.

    May 2, 2012
  10. rick said:

    GAAP it up men. Not many will really notice or care.

    imaginary scene/conversation with wife after 1 hour commute home

    man: wow, you should have seen the guy at the ifrs cross border m&a GAAP conversion seminar today!
    wife: what did he do?
    man: you will never believe, ha ha (doubling over from laughter) he… .. ha ha ha .. .was wearing a navy suit with…… oh man haha get this- red shoes, red shoes like ox blood wow the audacity of that fashion faux paux. you should have been there.

    wife: so?

    June 18, 2012

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