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How To Match A Shoe With Any Suit Color

Matching suits with shoes.

We do this every day.

Easy, right?

“Black shoes go with any suit since black is neutral…”

Wrong!

Not with brown suits.

There are 3 main shoe colors:

Black, brown and oxblood/burgundy

They don’t just go with any of the 5 suit colors:

  • Navy blue
  • Light or medium-gray
  • Charcoal gray
  • Brown
  • Black

Remember – business climates are more relaxed now.

You have more options…

…and more chances of screwing up.

The wrong shoes can ruin even your best suit.

So what are all the right combos?

Keep on reading to find out (and learn to master them).

Navy Blue SuitsCategory #1: Navy Blue Suits

Compatible shoe colors:

  • Black
  • Brown
  • Oxblood/burgundy

That’s right – navy blue goes comfortably with all three of the main colors of quality men’s shoes.

Why? Blues by nature can convey trust, wisdom, and responsibility. They give off a tranquil, calming effect when people encounter you.

Any touches of black, brown or burgundy tend to “blend in” well with a larger amount of blue – without being distracting.

That explains why companies incorporate some form of blue in their logo design. And interior designers often use a hint of blue in planning the layout of corporate offices. Blue seems to encourage productivity.

Category #2: Light / Medium-Gray Suits

Light - Medium-Gray Suits

Compatible shoe colors:

  • Black
  • Brown
  • Oxblood/burgundy

Gray suits are less formal than navy blue suits, but they’re equal in terms of flexibility. You can pair them effectively with all three shoe colors.

They’re not ideal for proper business wear (since they’re rather light). But they’re actually fine in office setups where suits are worn with a “relaxed” dress code.

Specifically, for medium-gray suits – black would be the best choice for your shoes while wearing a white dress shirt with a tie.

Charcoal Gray SuitsCategory #3: Charcoal Gray Suits

Compatible shoe colors:

  • Black
  • Oxblood/burgundy

Avoid:

  • Brown

Here’s the first “must avoid” to take note of: charcoal gray suits with brown shoes. The reason behind it isn’t that clear-cut.

Charcoal gray is a color that’s almost as versatile as navy blue – but it tends to add a little more maturity to the wearer (not “oldness” per se).

On the other hand, navy blue suits make a young man look even younger – which gives him the freedom to choose among all three shoe colors.

It’s slightly different for charcoal gray suits. Brown leather shoes just don’t match as well. It’s because brown is naturally less formal than the other two – and the contrast created between brown and charcoal gray (which is similar to black) is quite stark.

Plain black shoes are the best choice in this case. However, a deep burgundy also does a great job for a charcoal gray suit that’s “relaxed” but still classy overall.

Brown SuitsCategory #4: Brown Suits

Compatible shoe colors:

  • Brown
  • Oxblood/burgundy

Avoid:

  • Black

I know, you might be wondering why a brown-brown combination works. The truth is that brown suits go with most brown shoes.

You just need a visible difference between the shades of the shoe and the suit. If both browns appear identical, the whole thing will look off.

In general – it’s better for the brown shoes to be darker than the brown suit (which helps keep the eye from being drawn downward).

But the single most important thing is a clear contrast. And that’s what oxblood or burgundy shoes provide more easily.

And as mentioned in #3 – brown is considered less formal than its darker counterparts. So if a charcoal gray suit wouldn’t go with brown shoes, neither would a brown suit go with black shoes. Those pairings “clash” a little too much (in terms of feel and perception).

Black SuitsCategory #5: Black Suits

Compatible shoe colors:

  • Black

Avoid:

  • Brown
  • Oxblood/burgundy

Based on the “must avoid” combinations in #3 and #4 – it makes sense why a pure black suit is the least flexible.

Only pair a black suit with black shoes. Any other shoe color will look too casual with it.

And the reality is this outfit is NOT meant for regular use. You’ll be saving it for:

  • Strict, business dress environments
  • Black-tie parties (or similar social functions)
  • Funerals

The average man is better off owning charcoal gray or navy blue suits – since they’re appropriate enough for most occasions. Lighter grays and browns are the next best options (depending on how casual an event is).

Now, are all these matching rules absolute? No – but they serve as a very safe guide overall.

If you feel like breaking these rules, do it because:

  • You’re making a conscious decision – not because you’re unaware of them!
  • You’re aiming for a unique look (example: a rock singer might perform wearing a black suit together with burgundy shoes AND a burgundy tie – using color coordination)
  • There will always be exceptions depending on the place, celebration, people attending that event, or even your lifestyle or reputation. But there aren’t that many, so you’re more likely going to need classic combos that are proven to work. Let that chart be your #1 consultant.

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