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Finding the Right Shoes for Your Suit

Nothing spoils the look of a high-end, well-fitted suit like a poor choice of footwear. Having trouble finding the perfect match? You’re not alone. As far as style goes, men often overlook little details that make a big difference, especially when it comes to shoe color. Fortunately, the Henry A. Davidsen team of men’s image consulting professionals in Philadelphia put together a quick shoe-to-suit matching guide to help you dress for success from head to toe.

Shoe Color

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. 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.

Quick Guide To Shoe Color

  • Black suits: Black shoes. If you must opt for a non-black shoe, go for tan to maximize contrast
  • Grey suits: Black, brown (darker greys go well with darker browns, lighter greys go well with lighter browns and tans), oxblood/cordovan, grey (if you can find it)
  • Navy blue suits: Black, brown (same dark-to-light relationship as grey), oxblood/cordovan, navy blue (if you can find it)

What Shoe Styles To Wear With Suits

Just as with tailored menswear, there are manifold styles and silhouettes for men’s shoes that factor into their formality level and appropriateness for different environments. Below, we’ll list some styles that work well for formal and informal looks.

Formal Business Look

double monkstrap in oxblood cordovan
double monkstrap in oxblood cordovan

In the corporate business world, you’ve got to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. When you’re going for a formal business look, your best bet is either a charcoal suit or a navy suit with a light-colored shirt and a sober necktie. But what type of shoe do you wear?

  • Oxford/balmoral: The most formal laceup shoe style, can be worn with a suit to a board meeting, with dark denim to a dinner date, and anything in between.
  • Monkstrap: A slightly-less-formal-but-more-stylish option than oxfords, a monkstrap offers additional swag points with minimal effort. Just be sure that the hardware on the shoe matches the hardware of your belt and, if applicable, cufflinks

Informal Business Look

brown suede penny loafer for men
Brown suede penny loafer

For informal business looks, we can typically wear charcoal or navy suits without ties, or break things up with casual sport coats and blue or grey trousers. While you can wear the shoe styles mentioned above, consider these two more casual options:

  • Derby/blucher: The more casual lace-up option. Great for business casual looks, jeans, and other relaxed environments.
  • Loafer: It’s true that dress loafers exist, but they’re a couple of rungs down from laceups on the formality scale. As such, they’re perfect for informal looks.

The Best Bespoke Suits in Philadelphia

Got an extensive shoe collection already, but lacking a finely-tailored suit? Henry A. Davidsen offers some of the most elegant custom-tailored suits in and around Philadelphia. We also provide image consulting, so we’ll help you mix and match your current wardrobe options, offer potential alternatives, and provide the style solutions you’ve been looking for. Contact us for help finding the perfect outfit!

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