Take a moment to get to know the following chart.
It pairs the five most common suit colors — navy, medium or mid-gray, charcoal, brown, and black — with three different shoes to show you which colors work with which leathers.
Now, are these shoe matching rules absolute?
Not entirely — but it’s a very safe guide to follow.
If you’re bucking the advice here, it should be because you’re going for a really unique look or you know the rules and make a conscious decision to ignore them!
For example, we don’t have the burgundy shoes paired with a black suit. But a rocker might wear a black suit with red Converse All-Stars, and that would be, if not exactly timeless men’s style, certainly a style choice that could work.
There are going to be exceptions.
But there aren’t many of them, and if you’re sticking to classic business and business-casual dress, let this chart be your guide.
Most of the time it’s not too hard.
Strict business formality is easy — a charcoal gray or navy blue suit and plain black shoes.
But as the suits (and the business climate) become more relaxed, you get the option of wearing different colors of leather with them. That’s a stumbling block for a lot of men — and the wrong color of shoes and belt can ruin even a fine suit.
Here’s how most of these combinations play out in practical, day-to-day dress:
- Brown shoes
- Red or burgundy shoesNavy can go comfortably with all three of the main color families of men’s leather shoes. You can probably even make a navy suit work with more exotic colors if you have them, although blue is generally too close to make a good contrast.
The leather color mostly affects the formality and attitude of a navy suit. Black shoes are business dress, while brown are more relaxed, and red or burgundy give it the most playful, social feel.
- Black shoes
- Brown shoes
- Red or burgundy shoesMedium gray suits are less formal than navy suits, and share a similar flexibility. You can pair them effectively with just about any color of leather.
In the case of medium gray, black is the best option when you’re wearing a white shirt and a necktie. It’s still not proper business dress (the suit itself is too light), but it’s quite typical in offices where suits are mandatory but somewhat relaxed. Brown and burgundy shoes make it more of a casual/social look, and work best when the shirt has a bit of pattern or color to it as well.