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.