Black Shoes vs. Brown Shoes

They say that you can tell everything about a man by the condition of his shoes, but what color are they?  A man’s shoe collection is to his tailored wardrobe what his car is to his house. Yes, we live in uber-casual times, but the symbolism of being grounded in high-quality, sturdy footwear is particularly apt when we’re all standing on shaky ground. In this blog post, we’d like to discuss two of the most popular shoe colors and give our advice on which one you should be reaching for in the morning.

Footwear Color & Formality

brown shoes getting shinedLet’s get one thing clear right out of the gate: black shoes aren’t “better” than brown. Nor is the reverse true. As with everything related to style (and life, for that matter), this is a matter of degree and context.

We’re going to discuss formality below. Please bear in mind that a shoe’s color is not its only formality indicator, its style is too. Shoe style (oxford, loafer, monkstrap, sneaker, etc.) will influence the formality of your look, but we won’t be discussing that here – we’re focusing on color.

We bring this up simply to draw attention to the fact that color and style operate on a sliding scale – a medium brown oxford will be more formal than a black driving loafer, for example. You should keep this in mind when you decide what to wear in the morning.

Black Shoes

black wingtip mens laceupsGenerally speaking, darker colors are more formal. To paint with similarly broad brush strokes, black shoes are therefore more formal than brown ones of like category. A black oxford is more formal than a brown oxford, a black loafer is more formal than a brown loafer, and black chelsea boots are more formal than brown ones.

You can never go wrong with wearing black shoes to a job interview, a funeral, or any other event that requires a dose of formality.

We’re fed the line “black shoes go with everything.” While it’s true that black is versatile, it certainly does not go with everything. Wearing black shoes will make your life easy if you live in black pants, grey pants, blue pants, or jeans. If you wear earth-toned pants like brown, green, tan, or khaki, black shoes will make you look like a stereotypical IT guy (no offense to IT guys).

Brown Shoes – A Matter of Shade

brown derby mens shoesIt’s impossible to describe brown shoes’ formality in a single sentence. This is because there are so many different shades of brown. Following the logic mentioned above about darker colors being more formal, we can say that dark browns like chocolate or tobacco are more formal than lighter browns, like tan.

While dark brown shoes are incrementally less formal than black ones, brown leather tends to look better after regular wear than black (assuming that you’re lazy about polishing). Furthermore, brown is much more versatile than it typically gets credit for. You can wear brown shoes with any shade of pants, with the exception of black.

The shade of Brown & Pant Shade

Generally speaking, it’s advisable for the shade of brown in your shoe to be in sync with the darkness of your pants. Dark navy trousers look great with dark brown shoes, and light grey trousers look best with light brown shoes.

This is obviously not a consideration with black shoes as there’s only one shade of black: black.

Other Shoe Colors

Of course, there’s more to life than black and brown. Some less common shoe colors are:

  • Oxblood: Sometimes referred to as “cordovan,” this is a deep shade of red, similar to burgundy or merlot. It works exceptionally well with navy blue and grey trousers.
  • Navy blue: Yes, there are navy blue shoes for men. Traditionally, you wear them with navy pants.
  • White: Reserved especially for summer, white shoes pair well with casual, lightweight garments that are light in color: white, cream, ice blue, and mauve.

Parting Thoughts

Need some help editing your wardrobe, including your shoe collection? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 215-310-0219 or email info@henrydavidsen.com to start a conversation.

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