Colour guide for shoes
The wrong colour on your shoes will definitely kill your whole appearance
A black or charcoal suit requires black shoes and a brown suit requires dark or light brown shoes. A light grey suit – as well as a blue or navy suit- on the other hand, opens up your choices of shoe colour. These style rules are universal. Then there could be local etiquette rules implying that brown shoes should not be worn in the evening or even in the city. But local and national etiquette rules are a completely different story.
So first of all, these rules are an overall guide. They are not absolute by any means. Going for a unique look and make a conscious decision of breaking the rules is always okay, but being unaware of the rules could easily make you look like a total dork to say the truth.
A very common blunder is assuming that black is neutral and that black shoes go with any suit.
We could simplify massively and say that there are 5 common suit colours; black, navy blue, charcoal, medium- or light grey and brown. Continuing the simplifying path one could say that there are 3 main shoe colours; black brown and burgundy (Bordeaux, oxblood or cordovan).
A black suit
A black suit requires black shoes. You should avoid other shoe colours. That actually makes the black suit the least flexible, but that is also why it is most often used in business, funerals or black-tie parties. I would recommend charcoal or navy blue that is appropriate enough for most occasions.
The navy blue suit
The navy blue suit comfortably goes with all if the 3 main colours. This is a very safe choice for most situations. Black shoes signal business whereas brown is a little more casual and burgundy even creative.
A charcoal suit
A charcoal suit goes perfectly with black shoes. It is the best choice. It could also go quite well with burgundy shoes. But stay away from brown shoes. Why? Because brown shoes are usually lighter and will almost “force” people to look at them. They will stick out a little. There is also a more abstract contrast between the more formal charcoal and the less formal brown. Burgundy shoes will look more relaxed than black shoes, but still very classy.
Medium-or light grey suits
Medium-or light grey suits are less formal than navy blue suits, but still offer the same flexibility. They could be used in many less formal office situations where you don’t have to be strictly business. But in that case I would definitely go for the black shoes. Choose your brown or burgundy shoes to give yourself a more casual look. And the lighter the grey the more casual and easier to apply pattern to your shirt.
The brown suit
The brown suit is a little special and also a personal favourite of mine. It goes perfectly with brown and burgundy shoes. Well, most brown shoes. The thing is that there needs to be a visible difference in shades between the shoes and the suit and generally it’s better when the shoes are darker than the suit. You don’t want the shoes to take all the attention. Avoid black shoes. The general understanding is that black shoes never match brown suits, although I actually have worn black shoes to a brown suit. But that was a perfectly conscious decision at that specific occasion. And the shoes were matte and the suit was very dark brown. Brown is more casual than the darker colours and traditionally seen as both academic and casual.