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How To Wear A Black Shirt With Khakis (7 Tips)

December 21, 2022
How To Wear A Black Shirt With Khakis (7 Tips)

Some styles sound good in theory but are tough to pull off when you try them out. But is this one of them? More specifically, can you wear a black shirt with khakis? 

Black shirts can be worn with khakis to smart-casual and business-casual settings. Pair casual-looking khakis with black T-shirts, polos, and Henleys. Consider pairing more formal-looking khakis with black OCBD shirts and dress shirts. 

Although that’s the short answer, as always, there’s more to it. 

After going through some crucial tips for wearing this combination effectively, I’ll run through a couple of frequently asked questions on the topic to really round things up nicely. 

Let’s get to it. 

7 Tips For Wearing Black Shirts With Khakis

Consider all of these tips before putting together your outfit. They should see you through no matter where you’re going. 

1. Stick To Smart-Casual And Business-Casual

The black shirt and khakis combination should only be worn to smart-casual or business-casual settings. 

Under no circumstances should it be worn to formal settings. Even if you were wearing the dressiest of black dress shirts, the khakis simply wouldn’t cut it in a formal setting. 

If a 2-piece suit wouldn’t be required, you would still be expected to wear a blazer and dress pants combination instead at a minimum. 

So, stick to smart-casual or business-casual. 

Smart-casual settings are those where wearing a T-shirt and jeans wouldn’t be enough. For example, eating at a mid-level restaurant, first dates, garden parties, and so on. 

For these occasions, a black T-shirt, polo shirt, Henley shirt, or OCBD would be great options to wear with a pair of khakis. 

It would strike a nice balance between smart and casual. 

Business casual dress codes can be confusing but can be thought of as a mixture of casual attire and business attire. These are settings where jeans wouldn’t be acceptable but a suit would be too much. 

Classic items of business-casual clothing include OCBD shirts, dress shirts, dress shoes, cardigans, sweaters, and knit ties. 

Yes, khakis are also a classic example of business casual clothing and could easily be paired with these items. 

Go for a black OCBD or a dress shirt when wearing khakis to a business casual setting. 

2. Try To Match The Formality

Try to match the formality levels of the specific black shirt and khakis you’re wearing. 

In other words, try to pair casual black shirts with casual pairs of khakis and more formal black shirts with more formal-looking khakis. 

Remember, khakis can never be considered “formal”, but it’s no secret that some will look more casual than others. 

Here are the features of a more casual looking pair of khakis: 

  • Loose/baggy fit
  • Patch pockets
  • Brighter and bolder shade of khaki

Here are the casual styles of black shirt that would go with a casual pair of khakis: 

  • Black T-shirts
  • Black polo shirts
  • Black Henley shirts
  • Black OCBD (maybe)

Here are a couple of examples of casual black shirt styles being paired with khakis (from Amazon). 

Here are the features of a more formal looking pair of khakis: 

  • Tapered, slim fit
  • Patch or jetted pockets
  • More muted shade of khaki

Here are the formal styles of black shirt that would go with a more formal pair of khakis: 

  • Black OCBD
  • Black dress shirt 

Here’s an example on Amazon: 

While these “rules” aren’t set in stone, it always helps to try and match the formality levels. 

At the end of the day, a shiny wool black dress shirt may look a little strange with a casual-looking, baggy pair of khakis with patch pockets. 

man in a black shirt
Image From Deposit Photos

3. Tuck Most Black Shirts In

This may sound a little strange, but in general, most black shirts will look better when tucked into a pair of khakis, no matter how casual the shirt may be. 

This includes T-shirts, polos, and Henleys too. 

There’s just something about tucking them into the khakis that makes the outfit look a lot more intentional. 

It may be due to the color contrast between the black and the khaki producing a nice 2-block effect (top and bottom). 

Either way, it’s worth experimenting with. 

Remember, when tucking the shirt in it’s important to wear a belt to avoid the awkward bare belt loops appearance. 

In fact, let’s talk about belts right now. 

4. Wear A Black Belt

While black and khaki are both neutral colors, mixing the two does still produce a pretty striking and bold contrast. 

You’ll want to be careful with the additional colors you choose to throw into the mix. 

In general, it’s best to wear a black belt. 

One reason for this is that it’s also best to wear black shoes (as per the last tip – we’ll get there shortly). It’s usually best to match your belt and your shoes as closely as possible. 

Another reason is that a black belt would blend seamlessly into the black shirt without producing too much of a contrast. 

While a brown belt could work, it’ll clash with the black shoes and potentially the black shirt as well. 

5. Consider Dark Brown Socks 

Khaki should be considered a light shade of brown. It’s the color spectrum it lies closest to. 

In general, socks should be matched to the pants you’re wearing and not to the shoes. 

Because of this, brown socks will usually work best. 

If you’re looking to wear a pair of statement socks that sharply contrast the other items you’re wearing – that’s fine too. 

But if you want your socks to blend seamlessly into the rest of your outfit, brown would be the best way to go here. 

But why dark brown in particular? 

Well, it’s because black shoes work best with this combination. A pair of dark brown socks would produce a nice, gradual transition from the light brown pants (i.e khakis) to the black shoes. 

6. Forget The Tie 

In general, it’s best not to wear a tie when wearing a black shirt with khakis. The sharp contrast between the black and the khaki looks better on its own without the addition of a colored tie. If you do wear a tie, stick to dark and neutral tones. 

While some may disagree, a black dress shirt with the top button undone and tucked into a pair of khakis would look better without a tie. 

At the end of the day, the most formal dress code you’d be wearing the combination for would be business-casual. 

This is a dress code that doesn’t really require a tie and so you’ve got the freedom to go without one. 

However, there are likely to be plenty of people who are still keen on wearing one. 

If you do decide to wear one, try to add just a hint of color and keep it as dark as possible in order to reduce the contrast with the black shirt. 

Burgundy red, wine red, and charcoal grey are reasonable options here. 

7. Go For Black Shoes

Black shoes work best when wearing a black shirt with khakis. The shoes and the shirt will sync with each other well and effectively color block the khaki pants between them. 

The style of black shoes you go for really depends on how formal the black shirt you’re wearing really is. 

Sneakers, boat shoes, or even suede dress shoes would work well with more casual black shirts (i.e T-shirts, polos, and Henleys). 

Black leather dress shoes (i.e Oxfords, Derbys, monk straps, and loafers) can be worn with black OCBD shirts and dress shirts. 

black double monkstrap shoes
Black leather monk straps 

Image From Deposit Photos

It’s possible to wear shoes of other colors as well, as long as they’re kept neutral. For example, a pair of white sneakers would pair quite nicely if you were wearing a casual black shirt. 

Overall, due to the overpowering nature of the black shirt, a pair of black shoes would be the safest option and the easiest to color match. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a couple of frequently asked questions on this topic to really finish things off in style.  

Can You Wear A Black Shirt With Khakis And Brown Shoes? 

A black shirt with khakis should generally not be worn with brown shoes, as the combination works a lot better with black shoes. Brown shoes would clash too much with the black shirt. 

While this isn’t a rule that’s set in stone, it’s definitely one of the more important ones when wearing this combination. 

The brown shoes may sync well with the khakis, but unfortunately, this doesn’t do much for the harmony of the outfit as a whole. 

Stick to black shoes and go for dark brown socks to gradually transition from the light brown (khaki) pants and the black shoes. 

Can You Wear A Black Shirt With Blue Khakis? 

Black shirts can quite easily be worn with blue khakis, ranging from light shades of blue such as cyan and ultramarine to dark shades such as navy and midnight. The blue and the black blend well and produce a subtle yet elegant contrast. 

“Blue khakis” should technically be referred to as “blue chinos”. The term “khaki” is simply used to refer to a pair of chinos that happen to be khaki-colored (i.e light brown). 

Chinos that are of other colors should be called chinos and not khakis. 

But anyway, the black shirt and blue chino pairing works incredibly well due to the harmony between the two colors, regardless of the specific shade or tone. 

Top things off with a black belt and black dress shoes and you’re left with a glorious smart-casual or even business-casual outfit suitable for a variety of different settings. 


There you have it. Hopefully, that’s everything you could ever want to know about a rarely discussed topic. 

It’s a combination that may not be common, but can be done effectively if you stick to some basic principles. 

After reading this, you should be several steps closer to achieving just that.