The darker the shoes - the more formal they are. Therefore darker shades are more appropriate choices for business wear. But always you don't need to go for the most darkest shades. For example mid-brown shoes with business suit in blue or light gray can make a perfect office attire.
Another rule is that your shoes should always be darker than the trousers you wear. If you know what you are doing, you can naturally break this rule. As almost every rule there regarding classic menswear. But as most of the rules are designed for a reason, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you choose your footwear.
Don’t wear light brown shoes with conservative suit
If you wear a dark, navy blue or especially gray restrained suit, light brown or tan shoes simply stick out too much. In terms of formality they play in different league. When you wear a suit, you want the focus on your jacket, shirt, and tie. You want people to to pay attention to the combination you wear. The shoes are there only to keep the ensemble in balance and together.
Some people and especially some modern fashion magazines and websites say that light brown or tan shoes can help to make the suit feel more casual and relaxed. It’s kind of part of the new business casual-trend. I personally don’t share that opinion. If you want to make your outfit more casual, there are multiple better ways to do that than wearing light colored shoes with dark colored suit. Read from my earlier post how to dress down a suit.
Start with dark brown shoes
A man should have at least three pairs of dress shoes. Those three should be either black or dark brown in color. Many times men buy light brown or tan colored shoes as they think those will bring variety and diversity to their wardrobe. But one thing that is good to keep in mind is that light colored shoes in fact only works if you already have a wide rotation of suits, jackets and trousers. Soif you are about to buy a pair, ask yourself if you already have a few lighter colored sport coats, suits and trousers in the closet. If you do not, go with mid- and dark-browns. These shades of brown go with pretty much everything.
Mid-brown shoes with business suit – appropriate option
If you want to add variation to your shoe rotation, there are other option than light brown shades. Burgundy and mid-brown are the most versatile and appropriate options. At least in my opinion. In general darker brown shoes are easier to combine with different kind of trousers and suits. That’s way the first pair of brown shoes you buy should be dark brown. Especially if you work in environment where you need to wear more formal and dark colored suits and trousers.
Polish your shoes and give them patina
The pair of shoes I wear here is one of my oldest pairs. They are made by Alfred Sargent and I bought them in 2012 if I remember correct. The color is called burnt chestnut. The original shade was actually lighter than they seem now in the pictures. In fact, the original shade was a little bit too light to wear them with a very dark colored suits. Although I admit that I have used them with for a navy blue suit sometimes even then.
But what I have done since I got these shoes, I have polished them every now and then with dark brown shoe polish. With age and layers of darker cream and wax they have become a bit darker. And at the same time I have made them more appropriate to wear even with darker colored suits and trousers. So if you have lighter colored shoes, you don’t need to throw them away. First of all you can always wear them with lighter colored trousers. Or you can slowly transform them into darker shades. In addition there are stores who offer so called patina services. But those will then change the look of your shoes for good.
Sum-up – blue business suit, mid-brown shoes and brown tie
The outfit here is a simple one. But there are also those little elements that you can pay attention to. The main colors are as usual in my rotation, blue and brown. And naturally I chose a white shirt to keep the outfit together. Light blue shirt for example would have been too much in my opinion. It would have made the outfit too monochromatic.
The blue suit is made by Herrainpukimo. It is made of wool-linen-silk mixture fabric, which is pretty much perfect for the Finnish climate. Basically I can wear it around the year, although the brighter shade of blue makes it more appropriate for spring and summer season. The suit features jacket with 3-roll-2 buttoning, two patch pockets and wide lapels. The trousers of the suit feature a bit higher rise and double pleats, something I consider a default feature regarding my suits nowadays.
In terms of accessories I chose to wear a white linen pocket square with navy blue borders. So the pocket square repeats the colors of the suit and shirt. The tie on the other hand is brown. So you need to go all the way down to find a matching color for that. But that’s the idea of the tie and the mid-brown shoes. I matched the shade of the tie together with the darker brown shade of the toe-cap of the shoes. And in the end that pair together with the light brown herringbone overcoat brings the whole outfit together.
My two favorite pairs in terms of brown shoes.