Style rules can be difficult to figure out at times, especially when you seem to hear different opinions from different people. The question is, can you wear a brown belt with black shoes?
A brown belt should usually be worn with brown shoes, not black ones. The belt should match the shoes whenever possible, especially in formal outfits. This is considered traditional and not abiding by this rule often makes an outfit look incomplete.
That’s the short answer, but there’s more to it.
After going through the main reasons why it’s usually not a good idea, we’ll go through a couple of exceptions where it might be OK.
Let’s get to it.
3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Wear A Brown Belt With Black Shoes
Consider all of these reasons before making your decision. There’s a good chance they’ll put you off for good.
1. Traditionally The Belt Should Match The Shoes
While they may not always make sense, going against tradition is a quick way to make an outfit appear uncoordinated.
Traditionally, the belt is supposed to match the shoes. This is especially the case with formal outfits (eg. 2-piece suits), but potentially also with smart-casual and business-casual outfits as well.
This rule-of-thumb has essentially become the norm, so much so that not matching the belt and the shoes looks odd.
In fact, it’ll even look strange to those that aren’t particularly style-conscious or fashionable.
They’ll just notice that something doesn’t look quite right. This is usually because it goes against “the norm”.
So, wherever possible, try to match the belt with the shoes.
Wear brown belts with brown shoes and black belts with black shoes.
The more formal your outfit, the more important it is to stick to this rule. While the shades don’t need to match exactly, the more they match, the better.
If you’ve gone for a dark brown belt, strongly consider going for dark brown shoes. If you’ve gone for a light brown belt, light brown shoes would work so much better.
2. It Makes An Outfit Look “Incomplete”
Wearing a brown belt with black shoes often makes an outfit look incomplete. This is especially the case when it comes to suits, but is also true of smart-casual and business-casual outfits as well (eg. shirt and chinos combos).
The reason for this is that a matching belt and shoes pairing is a great way to tie an outfit together.
It’s almost like a way of polishing off an outfit. You’re applying the finishing touches.
While it may not seem important, it’s the nuances such as this that actually make all the difference.
It can make the difference between an outfit looking well-coordinated and complete or looking poorly coordinated and incomplete.
Wear a brown belt with brown shoes or a black belt with black shoes and complete your outfit. Don’t underestimate its importance.
3. It Creates A Formality Mismatch
A brown belt is more casual than black shoes – this leads to a formality mismatch.
You can’t get any more formal than black dress shoes. If you’re dressing for a truly formal setting, black dress shoes would be the way to go.
However, if you were wearing black dress shoes to a formal setting, combining them with a brown belt is a quick way to make it look less formal.
Brown belts are more casual than black belts and would look especially odd when worn with a formal suit and black shoes.
It’s perfectly reasonable to wear a brown belt with a suit to formal settings. But it’s important to note that it’ll look less formal and that it’s still important to wear it with brown shoes.
In addition, the darker the shade of the brown belt, the more formal it’ll look.
So, when you’re wearing black shoes to a formal setting, wear a black belt to avoid a formality mismatch and ensure your outfit looks formal enough as a whole.
2 Exceptions Where A Brown Belt With Black Shoes May Be OK
While it’s usually not a good idea, here are a couple of exceptions where it might be (just about) acceptable.
It’s Casual Attire
The more casual your outfit is as a whole, the less important it is for your shoes to match the belt.
You could argue that belts aren’t usually worn with casual attire in any case. But it’s hard to deny that there are exceptions.
For example, if you’re wearing jeans and black sneakers, a casual brown canvas belt probably wouldn’t look too unusual.
However, the darker the brown canvas belt, the better.
You’re Looking To Make A Statement
If you were looking to make more of a statement with your outfit, wearing a brown belt with black shoes may be a way to do it.
Contrast and odd pairings will draw attention. Going against the norm will usually catch the eyes of those around you.
It could be said that there are better ways of achieving this.
However, if the rest of your outfit was pretty “out there” to begin with, a brown belt with black shoes probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
4 Tips For Wearing A Brown Belt With Black Shoes (If You Had To)
Once again, avoid this combo wherever possible. However, if you were still intent on wearing it, here are some tips to make it look more acceptable.
Keep It All Casual If Possible
As mentioned in the previous section, the brown belt and black shoes combo looks more acceptable when things are kept casual.
Canvas belts and sneakers come to mind.
But even if you didn’t want to go that casual, try to avoid wearing the combination with formal attire (eg. suits, leather belts, dress shoes).
If You’re Wearing A Suit, Wear Black
If you were still keen to wear a brown belt and black shoes with a suit, wear a black suit.
The non-matching belt and shoe combo already produces a lot of contrast. Reducing the amount of contrast in your outfit as a whole is a good way to counteract this.
While it’s usually not important to match the suit to the shoes, in this case, it’s worth doing.
Compensate for the unusual contrast you’ve got between the belt and the shoes by reducing the amount of contrast between your suit and your shoes.
Go for a black suit.
Go For A Very Dark Brown Belt
The closer the belt is to the black shoes, the better. If you’re wearing a brown belt, go for the darkest brown belt you can find.
A dark brown belt worn with black shoes will look less strange than a light brown belt worn with black shoes.
In fact, a dark brown belt could be so dark that most people wouldn’t even notice that they don’t match the shoes. This is good.
Match The Socks To The Pants
It’s usually good to match the socks to the pants, just like it’s a good idea to match the belt to the shoes.
This is another rule of thumb. It isn’t quite as important as the shoes/belt rule, but it’s always worth considering.
You’re sort of “breaking the rules” by wearing a brown belt with black shoes.
Try to make sure that’s the only rule you don’t stick to. Keep the other style choices that make up your outfit nice and ordinary to prevent it from looking too eccentric.
If you’re wearing a navy suit, go for navy socks.
If you’re wearing dark brown chinos, go for dark brown socks.
It isn’t essential, but when you’re not matching your belt with your shoes, it’s more important than it might usually be.
A brown belt should be worn with brown shoes, not black ones. This is especially important in formal settings.
While taking risks with style is usually encouraged, there’s always a point beyond which you risk looking unstylish or even eccentric.