Knowing how to match dress shoes with your suits is an area that has plagued the aspiring fashionable man for many a year! Fret no further! In this comprehensive guide, we cover how to match dress shoes with your suits, from both shoe color and shoe style perspectives.
Matching shoes to your suits was a question you knew embarking on your sartorial journey would throw at you. Little did you know that images of Chuck Norris' boots meets Ryan Gosling's suit style would be conjured up. We certainly hope that wouldn’t be the case!
Selecting an appropriate shoe based on color and formalness, is however, something that must be paid strict attention to. Dress dapper from the ankle up only, and you are bound to look like a misfit. Take care of that style game ankle on down as well, and you’ve graduated from the school of style knocks. Mind you, this covers not just shoe color, but shoe style as well. Choose the perfect color, but in the wrong style, and you could look just as out of place. With that said, here is our comprehensive guide to matching dress shoes to your suits!
Matching Shoe Colors To Suits
Before we delve into matching shoes colors to your suits, the essential shoe colors below are:
- Black, which provides a more formal look
- Brown, which provides a more relaxed vibe, but can be used across a range of occasions
- Oxblood / Burgundy which suggests a more dapper, outgoing aesthetic
Navy Blue Suits
An essential suit in a man’s wardrobe, navy suits go with all three main shoe colors above. The navy blue suit conveys elements of affability and trust, both of which are incredibly important for business settings. This approachable suit color therefore pairs well with a range of shoe colors.
A Navy Blue Suit with brown shoes provides for a slightly more relaxed, dapper look! Courtesy of www.outfittrends.com
Light Grey Suits
While grey suits on average are just just as versatile as navy blue suits, light grey suits are lower down on the formality spectrum. While lighter grey suits are not ideal for formal business wear, they can be worn in office settings with a more relaxed dress code.
Because these suits can be worn in a range of settings, and because they are lower down on the formality spectrum, they can be worn with black, brown or oxblood / burgundy shoes!
Light Grey Suits can be worn with a range of formal wear shoes. Courtesy of www.pinterest.com
Charcoal Grey Suits
Charcoal Grey Suits, the more formal cousin of lighter grey suits, are best worn with formal shoes as these suits are typically worn for formal office work, presentations or your next wedding reception.
Hence, charcoal grey suits are best worn with black, oxblood or significantly darker brown hue shoes.
Please note, that it is imperative that regular or lighter hue brown shoes are avoided with charcoal grey suits. Given that brown shoes are less formal in nature, they generally do not pair well with a darker grey suit. Hence plain black shoes such as oxford cap-toes (please see below) are your best bet. Additionally, oxblood / burgundy shoes or a rich chocolate brown hue will also work extremely well with a charcoal grey suit!
If opting for brown shoes with your charcoal grey suit, it is best to go with a darker pair so as to keep with the formality of the suit! Courtesy of www.pinterest.com
Brown Suits, like brown shoes, are considered on the less formal end of the clothing spectrum. While a standard brown on brown combination won’t work if the colors closely resemble each other, opting for a pair of shoes that’s a darker shade of brown will almost always work (to keep the observers eyes from looking downwards).
If you are looking for a greater level of contrast, opt for oxblood / burgundy shoes. Please note that black shoes with brown suit combinations should be avoided at all costs!
Oxblood / Burgundy Shoes are always a great way to enhance your brown suit! Courtesy of www.hespokestyle.com
Increasing in popularity due to the prevalence of smart casual dress codes and a corresponding increased inclination towards such attire outside of the work place, blue suits must be paid attention to when choosing the right shoe colors. Less traditional than your navy suits, blue suits also offer less versatility than their counterparts. Hence, being discerning with your shoe colors is of paramount importance.
Similar to navy suits, brown shoes do work particularly well with lighter blue suits – the difference being that you would want to opt for lighter to mid shade brown shoes. The relatively more formal nature of darker brown shoes preclude them as a complement with blue suits. Tanned shades or lighter brown colors would work particularly well here.
Lighter to medium shades of brown work particularly well with blue suits! Courtesy of www.stylemann.com
Black Suits will represent some of your most formal attire (barring tuxedos), and hence should be paired with the most formal of men’s dress shoes, black shoes.
Despite being a neutral color like grey, black doesn’t provide the same wide reaching canvas that grey does for pairing your shoes with. While you can technically pair your black suit with contrasting colored shoes, the effect is too blatant, as opposed to a more seamless, relaxed blend with a grey suit, and brown shoes, for example.
Given that you will primarily be wearing black suits for more formal business wear, black tie events or unfortunately, funerals, it is best that you don’t pair these suits with brown or oxblood / burgundy shoes!
Matching Shoe Styles To Suits
Before going into detail about the types of formal shoes available, we thought it would be helpful to deconstruct the formal shoe via this incredible infographic from ties.com. We would hope that understanding the ‘anatomy’ of a shoe will help us better explain the various alternatives that are available:
From front to back, a dress shoe consists of four key components: toe, vamp, facing and quarter. It is the placement and construction of these four components that largely determines the uniqueness of each type of shoe.
Courtesy of www.ties.com
Black Oxford Cap Toe Shoes
Courtesy of www.ties.com
Oxfords are considered the most basic and timeless of dress shoes, and are an ideal starting point with your formal wear. These shoes gained popularity in the 1800's among college students, particularly at Oxford University.
Oxford shoes are characterized by their ‘closed lacing’, indicating that the shoe’s facing is attached beneath the vamp. This leads to a slimmer and narrower silhouette, lending itself to more formal occasions.
The black oxford cap toe, considered the most formal of the oxford shoe options, is an essential formal shoe that should be a part of every discerning gentleman’s wardrobe. The Black Oxford Cap Toe is one of the most formal shoes and looks great with a traditional black or charcoal grey suit. This shoe is as formal as any man needs on a regular basis while still being able to be dressed down enough while worn in the office.
Black Oxford Cap Toes are the perfect complement to a charcoal grey suit! Courtesy of www.ashleyweston.com
Whether you are looking to dress up in a tuxedo for a black tie event, or seeking to polish off your suit with the right pair of shoes, your black oxfords will be the perfect complement! These shoes can also be worn when you are looking to add an element of sophistication to your more casual attire, such as with a pair of chinos and a blazer / sports jacket.
Courtesy of www.ties.com
The Derby, as illustrated above in the infographic, is often mistaken for Oxford’s and vice versa. The Derby Shoe, was a sporting and hunting boot that came into prominence in the 1850’s. At the turn of the 20th century, these shoes became commonplace amongst those looking to strut the town!
The key difference between The Derby & The Oxford is that The Derby shoe has its facing attached on top of the vamp. This leads to an an ‘open laced system, and allows for a wider fit. Hence, these shoes are considered more versatile, and are best worn with more casual attire.
The Derby Shoe could therefore be worn with suits that are on the more casual end of the spectrum, such as a linen or cotton suit during the summer months!
Derby shoes, with their ‘open-laced’ system, are ideal for less formal / more casual settings, such as with a linen suit at a summer wedding! Courtesy of www.undandy.com
Brown Wingtip Brogues
Courtesy of www.ties.com
The brown wingtip / brogues are less formal shoes that can be worn with a range of suits, including lighter grey, blue, navy and brown suits. They are therefore an ideal pair to have in your wardrobe, as they can be used to dress up less formal attire, or dress down a more formal ensemble (barring black suits!).
Brogues originated in marsh conditions of Scotland. Brogues were initially designed with holes in order to drain out water. Any dress shoe can have brogueing, as brogueing refers to the decorative perforations in various patterns. Please note that brogueing can be seen across a range of shoes from oxford, derby, and monk strap shoes in four cap toe styles; full brogue, wing tip brogue, semi-brogue and quarter brogue.
Brogues are the perfect wardrobe complement, because they can be worn with almost any color suit and can be worn to the office day after day. This shoe will quickly become a go to ‘workhorse’. Whether you are dressing up for daily work or a business meeting, these shoes will make you look the part in almost any setting.
While brogues come in a variety of brown shades, a darker shade will be the most versatile as it will complement both lighter and darker shades of blue and brown suits.
Brogues can be worn with a range of suit colors. Courtesy of www.mullenandmullen.co.uk
Alternatively, if you are seeking a refined but comfortable look, pair these with a pair of dark denims!
Double Monk Straps
Courtesy of www.ties.com
The Double Monk Strap roots hailed from monks that used to wear them as a more protective alternative to their traditional sandals. The durability of these shoes made them a top choice for monks as their go to work shoe. These shoes eventually found popularity in Europe. While these shoes were initially deemed difficult to characterize as being on the lower or more formal end of the spectrum, today, they are widely worn across a range of settings, and are considered a highly versatile choice!
While the double monk strap is similar in shape and construction to an Oxford, it is characterized by a wider swatch of leather fastened across the front of the shoe (as opposed to an open, eyelet lace system adopted by the Oxford). This wide strap is then fastened with either a single, or in this case, a double-buckle closure.
While double monk strap shoes can come in black variants, the most popular variants are the brown and oxblood (rising in popularity!) ones. These shoes are highly versatile and can be worn with a range of suits barring more formal, black suits.
Double monk straps provide the perfect finishing touch to this dapper ensemble. Courtesy of www.hespokestyle.com
Looking for a suit to complement your lighter brown monk straps? How about a lighter blue or lighter grey suit. Darker brown or oxblood variants will work well with a navy or even charcoal grey suit! Please note that for charcoal grey suits, we would only reserve them for the darkest shades of brown, so as to add to the formal, sleek nature of the suit.
Courtesy of www.ties.com
Original Loafers were casual house slippers worn by King Geore VI of England. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the loafer was popularized in the U.S, and it wasn’t until the 1960’s that American business men and lawyers began regularly strutting loafers with suits.
In 1966, Gucci conceptualized the bit loafer, which features a metal strap across the instep of the shoe. Gucci’s innovation elevated the loafer shoe to the realm of formalness – or at least no longer precluded formal wear as an option.
Loafers are characterized by a decorative segment. This could include a plain strap, a strap with a slit (penny loafers) or a mental ornament.
Penny loafers are best used in smart casual or relaxed formal settings, where you may be strutting chinos or a linen suit. Their ease of wear and relaxed elegance make them the ultimate pair of shoes for providing a look that is both casual and chic.
If you are looking for loafers for a more formal setting, tassel loafers or bit loafers will do the trick.
These oxblood bit loafers look exquisite with this medium grey suit! Courtesy of www.dmarge.com
Courtesy of www.ties.com
Opera Pumps are the most formal of dress shoes. Popular during the Victorian Era, opera pumps are essential to formal evening wear / black tie events.
Opera Pumps are slip on dress shoes that are typically made from patent leather. The evening pump is typically decorated with a silk bow either pinched or flat, that complements the overall outfit and effectively bookends the actual bowtie, thereby providing the ensemble with symmetry. While conventional wisdom would imply the finishing of the bow to match the facing of the lapels and bowtie, the bow on pump shoes is often made of grosgrain, whose matte finish sufficiently balances out the sheen provided by the patented leather.
Opera Pumps are ideal for Black Tie Events! Courtesy of www.gentlemansgazette.com
Alright, so that was a lot of information to digest! Instead of creating a standard summary, here are a few fool proof ways to make sure you are always dressed dapper, while paying attention to shoe colors and styles!
Failproof Suit & Shoe Combinations
Navy Suit with Black Shoes
A single breasted navy suit with black oxford cap toes is a wardrobe staple combination every gentleman should have. If your looking for something with a bit of a kick, opt for black double monk straps (yes, we know they are not all that common!).
A Navy Suit with Black Oxford Cap Toes is the closest thing to a sure bet. Courtesy of www.hespokestyle.com
Navy Suit with Brown Shoes
A navy suit with brown shoes is a timeless combination that will always have you looking dapper. Given that navy is a versatile suit that also carries connotations of formality (vs a lighter grey or standard blue suit), it is best worn with a darker shade of brown shoes. Opt for oxfords or a double monk strap darker brown pair for maximum effect!
A Navy Suit with Brown Double Monk Straps provides for a timeless look! Courtesy of www.hespokestyle.com
Navy Suit with Oxblood / Burgundy Shoes
Are your tired of the standard black and brown variants? Cue Oxblood / Burgundy, a richer shade of red that will look outstanding with your navy suits. Burgundy Oxfords or Monk Straps are a great way to provide a rich level of contrast with you navy suits. Burgundy shoes are an ideal way to make a statement at any event sans black tie.
Wholecut Oxblood Shoes provide extra emphasis for this navy suit! Courtesy of www.pinterest.com
Blue Suit with Brown Shoes
Blue Suits, which are typically reserved for less formal settings, such as a business casual work environment, or a destination beach wedding, are best worn with medium to lighter shade brown shoes. A pair of brown brogue wingtips would be the perfect complement, as would medium to lighter brown or tanned double monk straps. Avoid dressier alternatives such as a darker brown oxford that work best with a darker navy suit.
This blue suit is perfectly complemented by this medium brown oxford cap toe. Courtesy off www.thenordicfit.com
Light Grey Suit with Brown Shoes
Like its less formal cousin, the blue suit, light grey suits are on the less formal end of the spectrum. Hence, they can be worn with a range of brown shoes across different shades, including oxfords, brogues & monk straps!
A lighter grey suit works exquisitely with these tanned, wingtip brogues! Courtesy of www.weddbook.com
Charcoal Grey Suits with Black Shoes
As failproof as a black suit with black shoes, the charcoal grey suit and black shoe combination will leave you in good standing whether you are dressing for daily work, an important meeting or your next wedding reception. Opt for a black oxford cap-toe for the ultimate look!
A Charcoal Grey Suit & Black Shoe will always provide for an elegant, refined combination! Courtesy of www.nextluxury.com
Charcoal Grey Suit with Brown Shoes
A wedding favorite, this ensemble offers a more traditional alternative to the lighter grey suit and brown shoes. Because charcoal is a rich and intense shade of grey, the corresponding brown shoes that it is paired with should offer the same. Opt for a darker shade of brown in cap-toes or double monk straps for a more polished look.
The deep hues of a pair of dark brown shoes perfectly complement the rich, deep hues of an elegant charcoal grey suit! Courtesy of www.styleforum.net
And that’s a wrap for this one! We hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as we did writing it!