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12 · 07 · 2018


Written by Adela Cardona

We’ve heard the expressions “No brown in town” or “no brown after six.” These rules about not wearing brown shoes, or in general, any other colors, go back hundreds of years. But, haven’t things change a little bit since then?

Of course, we can never put aside a good pair of black shoes. In cities like London, black is the way to go and brown shoes, for example, are still a little bit taboo.

A couple of years ago, a study made in London found wearing a shoe color other than black during an interview could lower your chances of getting hired.

But we can say this is more a mark of class, than of style. Black is a snobbery when it comes to shoes. It is also the safe way to dress.

Let me tell you some good news: There are great alternatives to black!

Things have been changing slowly. And the only coolest thing after knowing the rules is breaking them. Here, we will tell you why other shoe colors will turn your look into a fashion statement, and how to match them properly.

Do Not Frown at Other Colors!

Other shoe colors such as brown, burgundy, and tan are way more versatile than black shoes. For instance, think about all the shades of black...Eh, non-existent, right? But we can’t say the same about other colors.

Take a look at these 3 ways that other colors are actually better than black:

1. Wider Palette

For other colors we a have delicious palette. They range all the way from dark brown (taupe), mid-brown (chocolate) chestnut, oxblood, burgundy to tan and light tan.

2. Visible Patina

Additionally, leather shoes in brown, tan, or burgundy develop a more visible patina than black shoes. Patina is a natural coating leather takes on over time. As leather ages, it develops a protective layer that gives it more shine and texture.

This is something you’ll be able to appreciate better with leather shoes in brown, tan or burgundy.

3. Material Perception

Also, materials apart from leather, such as suede, can be better perceived in tones other than black.

So, as you can see, other colors have way more potential than black. But with all the possibilities it is hard to know how to match them.

In the end, there are two important pieces of advice to follow when it comes to brown shoes:

  • First, know when it is necessary to wear black.
  • Second, know how to properly match the shades of browns, tans, and burgundys to your suits, belts, and trousers.

Are you ready to take the next step with your shoes?

Context Is Everything: When to Wear Black Shoes or Other Colors?

When to Absolutely Wear Black Shoes

There are certain occasions when you need to stick to your black shoes.

  • Black tie events
  • White tie events
  • Some types of weddings and funerals
  • If you have a white-collar job, it is better to wear your full suit, tie, and black shoes.

Seasons & Time of Day

Now, seasons and times of the day can also dictate what shoes to wear. For an evening wedding reception, definitely go for black shoes.

But as the weather gets more summery and events are celebrated outdoors, you may go for mid-brown or even tan shoes.

alternative to black shoes for a wedding

 For his spring wedding, this groom opted for a navy suit and Oxford Brogues in tan. Credit: Allen-kent photography, via @twally72.

Dark vs. Light

As you can tell, the darker your shoes, the more formal your look is. Of course, this will also depend on the rest of the attire. Additionally, it will have an influence on whether the look says business, casual, or business casual.

Type of Shoe 

Also, the type of shoe you wear can dictate how formal or informal you are. For example, Oxfords are way more formal than Loafers or Chelsea boots in the same shade of brown. Remember: Make sure you match the color of your belt to your shoes.

So, first, we’ll go over some formal looks. Afterwards, we’ll move on to a more casual style.

Formal Shoe Choices

What Color of Shoes with Charcoal Suit?

alternative shoes to black charcoal suit

Is it ever OK to wear a black suit and brown dress shoes? Yes, we have seen people shouting at each other because of this!

Some people will defend the black suit, brown shoes. But it seems like the guideline is: Whenever you need to wear a black suit (which is actually a rare thing), always go for black shoes

  • For charcoal suits, to be safe, wear black shoes.
  • Bordeaux shoes with no broguing will also create a good contrast.
  • But the golden rule is: Don’t mix charcoal with other colors, such as brown or tan!

What Color of Shoes with Grey Suit?

alternative shoes to black grey suit

Grey, wonderful grey, with dark, medium, and light shades. How are shoes supposed to match grey suits? Does a grey suit with brown shoes even work? Yes! Quite well, in fact. Consider changing the color you choose based on the shade of grey, and you will come up with a great combination.

For mid-grey and light grey:

alternative shoes to black grey suit

Light grey suit with brown Oxfords (and matching briefcase.) Credit: Saeed Ferguson of All Caps Studio, via @MensStylePro.

What Color of Shoes With Brown Suit?

alternative shoes to black brown suit

With brown suits, we also have a basic principle: Never go for a brown suit and black shoes! Instead, match your brown suit with shoes in other tones of brown or burgundy. Make sure that you create a good contrast.

What Colors of Shoes With Navy or Blue Suit?

alternative shoes to black navy suit

Blue is a very versatile color to match with all brown tones. We say you pull an ideal look out of the combination of a blue suit-brown shoes. Create the perfect combination using a few of our hints below: 

  • For navy blue, you can go from dark shades of brown all the way to mid-brown.
  • For medium and light blue suits, you can go for brown shoes, burgundy, and lighter colors, such as tan.
  • Again, the lighter the brown, the more casual your look will be.
  • You can try Oxfords with broguing or Loafers for a more casual look.

Casual Shoe Choices

What Color of Shoes With Chinos?

alternative to black shoes chinos

With chinos and khaki pants, you can get a great combination if you mix your pants with different tones of brown or burgundy shoes.

  • The bigger the contrast, the better, so you can go for mid-brown or darker shades of brown with light colors of chinos.
  • Avoid khaki pants with black shoes.
  • You can also try other textures in your shoes, such as suede.
  • You can look for Oxfords or a less formal shoe such as Loafers.

This will create a business casual look for the office.

What Color of Shoes With Jeans? 

alternative shoes to black jeans

Jeans are also very versatile. In fact, they are one of those pieces that go way better with shoe colors other than with black. 

Jeans are an opportunity to experiment with all shades of brown and tan. Other textures, broguing, and even other types of shoes such as Chelsea boots match great with jeans.

These combinations will depend on how formal or casual you might want to look. For instance, if your office allows jeans, you can wear dark jeans with a pair of brown leather shoes (Oxfords or Derbies).

If you’re going out with friends, you can wear a lighter color of jeans with Chelsea boots in tan.

alternative to black shoes jeans

A perfect casual look for the weekend: a pair of jeans and Oxford Brogues in tanCredit: @andhattiemakesthree.


As you’ve seen, shoes other than black are an excellent complement to your looks. This color gives your clothes a great contrast you wouldn’t have with black shoes. Make sure you select the right shade of brown, tan, or burgundy to match with your suit or trousers.

Also, remember to think about the occasion, season, and time of the day. This will not only determine whether black or another color is a good way to go but also how formal or informal your shoe should be.

Check our cheat sheet for quick reference: 

In the end, some of the best things in the world are colors other than black: Coffee, chocolate, and dark beer. We can now add shoes in brown, tan, or burgundy to this repertoire.

All suits and trousers in collages and cheat sheet are from Suitsupply. Check their amazing clothing here.


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Lakshmi Jul 29, 2020

Yes..You are right. Everyone should know alternatives.

Andrew Apr 14, 2021

I have several pair of AE i am going to try a pair
Great prices

Rajat Dhameja Jul 29, 2020

This article very well explains color combinations and pairing for suits and shoes.

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