How To Pick The Right Shoe Colour To Wear With All Your Suits
On paper, wearing a suit is easy. Combine a blazer with matching trousers, a top and smart shoes. But, like with most things related to style, there’s much more to it than that. From ensuring it fits you properly, to deciding on the details (single- or double-breasted? Peak or notch lapels? Pleats or no pleats?), to picking a complementary shirt and tie – things can quickly get confusing.
That’s before we even get onto the shoes. Arguably the most important part of the look, footwear can make or break a suit. Go for the wrong style or colour and it instantly throws the whole feel off, making you look like you just threw on the first pair you saw by the front door.
So, what type of shoes should you wear with a suit, and which colours work best? Here’s everything you need to know, to ensure you always put your best foot forward.
What colour shoes to wear with a black suit
Black shoes with a black suit
Unless you want to risk it all, a black suit should only be worn with black shoes. Black tailoring is notoriously formal, usually only worn for funerals or black tie events, and as such anything other than complementary black shoes jars.
When it comes to black tie, stick to Oxfords – it’s the only silhouette that is able to match the formality of the smartest of dress codes. For everything else, from weddings to business lunches, black penny loafers, Derbies or Chelsea boots work well – both of which lean smart casual and can therefore double up as everyday shoes when worn with black jeans or drawstring trousers.
What colour shoes to wear with a navy suit
Black shoes with a navy suit
People often wrongly suggest that blue and blue should never be worn together. In fact, the two are one of fashion’s most underrated colour combos. This is particularly true with navy and black, as the two midnight shades complement each other well, giving a look far more depth and versatility than if either of the shades were worn on their own.
A navy suit is made smarter by black shoes, so if you’re looking to up the formality for a special occasion or board meeting, this is your best option.
Brown shoes with a navy suit
A classic colour combination and one that works particularly well with tailoring, brown shoes paired with a navy suit is a timeless choice.
In short, it’s difficult to go wrong with brown and navy, whether you need something to wear to the office or a wedding. It doesn’t really matter which shade of brown you go for either as everything from dark chocolate to tan looks great with navy. Just be aware that as a general rule of thumb, the lighter the shade the more casual the shoe.
What colour shoes to wear with a light/mid grey suit
Black shoes with a grey suit
For conservative, easy-to-throw-on business tailoring, black and grey are hard to beat. Pair a light or mid-grey suit with black Derby shoes and you’ll be ready for the boardroom or a job interview while looking stylish and purposeful.
The go-to of ad men in the 50s as well as the city workers of today, this is a pairing that lets everyone around know you’re serious. While it can look slightly sombre, black and grey’s versatility ensures it’ll rarely have you looking out of place.
Brown shoes with a grey suit
A grey suit with brown leather shoes is a slightly more playful combination. Brown leather is richer and inherently more laid back than black, which helps counterbalance the drabness of grey while injecting a bit of life into it.
Go for brown and it opens up a bit more room for creativity, allowing you to dress down a grey suit with a knitted polo, denim shirt or fine-gauge turtleneck.
What colour shoes to wear with a charcoal suit
Black shoes with a charcoal suit
If you want to wear monotone tailoring, forget going all black. Sombre and funeral-like, formal all-black looks are difficult to pull off. Instead, consider opting for a charcoal suit and teaming it with black shoes.
Less stark (particularly in daylight) and infinitely cooler, this is an underrated combination and one that’s ideal for when you want to be the most stylish guy in the room without shouting about it.
Dark brown shoes with a charcoal suit
In a similar vein to pairing them with a light grey suit, brown shoes soften charcoal slightly, giving the look a more creative feel. This is especially true of more tactile leather options such as nubuck or suede, which combine well with equally touchable fabrics like brushed wool or flannel.
What colour shoes to wear with a green suit
Black shoes with a green suit
Green tailoring is somewhat of a statement in itself, so it’s advisable that you keep the rest of the look low-key if you’re going down this route. That means sticking to simple shirt and tie combinations and classic shoes.
When it comes to footwear, black leather is the most conservative option and one that allows your green suit – whether it’s bottle or olive – to shine.
Brown shoes with a green suit
You only have to look outside to see that earth tones work superbly together. Think shades found in nature: stone, beige, off-white and of course, green and brown. When it comes to tailoring the latter two are often overlooked, but as an alternative to a classic navy and brown combo, there aren’t many better pairings.
What colour shoes to wear with a brown suit
Brown shoes with a brown suit
Similarly to black tailoring, whereby you’d only wear matching black shoes, brown tailoring generally only looks good with complementary brown shoes. Don’t go too matchy-matchy this time, you want to vary the shades slightly – a dark brown suit with mid-brown Derbies, for example – to create definition.
Elsewhere, it’s advisable to introduce further contrast with a light blue or white shirt to break up the tonality.
What colour shoes to wear with a beige suit
Brown shoes with a beige suit
As far as summer tailoring goes, it’s hard to beat a beige suit. Ideal for wearing to a rooftop drinks party, a summer wedding or after-work event, a beige suit is an underrated addition to your tailoring wardrobe.
When it comes to footwear colour, brown is really the only feasible option. Whether dark or light, leather or suede brown shoes perfectly complement lighter shades of beige.
Types of shoes that work with a suit
As far as versatile, easy-to-wear shoes go, the Derby is at the top of the list. In short, if you want to invest in a pair of shoes to wear with a suit, look no further than this timeless silhouette.
Defined by its ‘open lacing system’, where the vamp is sewn under the quarter of the shoe (where the eyelets are), Derbies are smart but not too smart, and in some cases work just as well with chinos or jeans as they do tailoring.
Go for a design with a chunky rubber sole if you prefer a more contemporary look that works well with cropped trousers and an unstructured jacket; or opt for sleek full-grain leather styles if you need something professional enough for the 9-5.
The smartest shoe style you can own, the Oxford is a strictly formal design that looks its best teamed with suiting. For business tailoring or for times when you really want to make an impression, there is no finer silhouette than the Oxford.
Sleek and sophisticated, the Oxford’s vamps are sewn under the quarter of the shoe (known as a ‘closed lacing system’), creating a super-sleek silhouette that forms around and shapes the foot.
To match the formality of a pair of Oxfords, you’ll want tailoring that’s equally strong and powerful, with sharp roped shoulders, a padded chest and broad notch or peak lapels. Often available in dark browns and black, Oxfords work particularly well with conservative colour tailoring in corporate environments.
Loafers come in a range of colours and shapes. From preppy penny styles to smarter Belgian and horsebit designs, these slip-on shoes are ideal for combining with tailoring to create sharp yet relaxed looks that work well for everything from work events to wedding receptions.
Whereas laced shoes like Derbies and Oxfords often give off a more put-together, buttoned-up look, loafers will inject a sense of Mediterranean loucheness to your spring/summer tailoring. Suede penny loafers, for example, are ideal for combining with a softly constructed cotton suit and polo shirt.
Brogues may have fallen out of favour slightly since their menswear boom around a decade ago, but they more than deserve a place in the contemporary wardrobe. The classic, perforated design boasts an impressive heritage as a country and walking shoe but thanks to its smart appearance it has always worked well with a suit.
Whether in Derby or Oxford form, the brogue’s smart casual nature means it can adapt to multiple settings, working just as well with a business suit, shirt and tie as it does an unstructured blazer, pleated trousers and roll neck.
For something a little different, look to the monk-strap. Another shoe that leans smart casual, they’re defined by the single or twin straps that buckle over the vamp, keeping the foot locked into place.
Usually available in a range of leathers, from brown calf to soft stone suede, monk-straps are an excellent alternative to loafers should you want something slightly sharper for the warmer months. Try wearing for yours sockless (read: invisible socks) and combine them with a linen-blend suit and knitted polo shirt for an Italian-inspired tailored look.
An underrated option for finishing off a suit, boots match surprisingly well with heavyweight, fall/winter tailoring. Whether you go for commando sole Derby boots or something sleeker like a Chelsea, boots offer a more rugged appeal than shoes, especially when you opt for trousers that are slightly cropped.
In 2023, wearing sneakers with a suit is far from a faux pas. In fact, when done well it might just be the best way to dress down tailoring.
However, you can’t just throw on any old style – those battered Converse or gym shoes just aren’t going to cut it. The safest option is a minimalist sneaker made from premium leather or suede. This is the sneaker in its smartest form and thanks to its clean silhouette it will perfectly complement a laid-back, unstructured suit cut from cotton or linen.