While there isn’t technically a “wrong” answer here, there will definitely be a better option for you. So, should you wear brown or black shoes with a blue suit?
When wearing a blue suit, black shoes often work better in more formal settings or when the suit itself looks more professional. Brown shoes are more appropriate in more casual contexts or when the blue suit has features that are more casual.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
Let’s run through the key factors you should consider when choosing between brown or black shoes for the specific blue suit you’re wearing to the specific event you’re attending.
Brown Vs Black Shoes With A Blue Suit: How To Choose
Make sure you ask yourself all four of these questions before making your decision.
While they may not all be equally important to you, there’s a good chance that a couple of them will swing it for you either way.
How Formal Is The Occasion?
Black shoes are more suitable than brown shoes for more formal occasions. This definitely holds true when wearing a blue suit.
In general, the darker the dress shoes, the more formal they’ll look.
Black dress shoes are as formal as you can get, especially the “dressier” dress shoes such as cap toe Oxfords.
Dark brown comes a close second, but won’t ever look quite as formal as black.
Let’s say you’re wearing a business-professional worsted wool dark blue suit to a business meeting, interview, or any other event where you want to dress “formal”.
A pair of black shoes would usually be a better option than brown shoes.
They’re more likely to come across as formal and professional. It’s not to say that a pair of dark brown shoes wouldn’t work – they probably would.
But they aren’t considered as traditionally “formal” as black shoes would be.
Now, let’s say you’re dressing for an occasion that isn’t quite as formal. Maybe it’s a social event.
You have to dress sharp but not quite as sophisticated.
In these cases, a pair of brown shoes – even in lighter shades of brown – may be perfectly acceptable.
They’ll look more casual, but that may be exactly the aesthetic you want in any case.
How Formal Is The Blue Suit?
More formal-looking blue suits usually look better with black or dark brown dress shoes, while more casual-looking blue suits often work well with shoes in a lighter shade of brown.
If you don’t think assessing the formality of the occasion is particularly useful for deciding in your case, consider how formal your blue suit itself looks.
There are certain features of suits which make them look more “formal” and others which make them look more “casual”.
Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s actually pretty easy to tell the difference and it’s a great way to decide what else you should be wearing with it.
Here are some features of “casual” suits you should look out for:
- Casual suit jackets usually have a lighter lining and less shoulder padding
- Casual suits are made from fabrics that are less shiny and more rugged/wrinkly
- Casual suit pants often don’t have a break
- Casual suits usually come in lighter colors and often have patterns
If you feel as though your blue suit meets some of these criteria, there’s a good chance it may fall into the “casual blue suit” category.
In this case, consider a pair of lighter brown shoes (eg. tan) as they’ll probably compliment the overall aesthetic very well.
If, on the other hand, your blue suit seems to fit into the “formal suit” category, a pair of black or dark brown dress shoes would often be more appropriate.
For instance, a dark blue, shiny worsted wool suit with structured shoulders, a heavy lining, and no patterns, would probably be better suited to a pair of solid black cap-toe Oxfords.
What Color Is Your Belt?
Your belt should match your shoes. If your choice of belt is pretty restricted, it may make your decision pretty simple.
If you’re wearing a black belt with your blue suit, wear black shoes.
If you’re wearing a brown belt with your blue suit, wear brown shoes.
In a way, yes it is.
But not having access to both a brown and a black belt is never a good thing.
As we talked about earlier on, there are certain factors that would make either a pair of black or brown shoes more appropriate in any given situation.
If your choice of shoes is restricted by your availability of belt colors, you could end up with a less-than-ideal look.
As a side note, when you’re matching brown shoes with a brown belt, it does help to consider the specific shade of brown as well.
Light brown and dark brown can actually look quite different from each other.
So much so, that dark brown shoes with a light brown belt can actually look like they don’t match given how far apart they are on the color spectrum.
Because of this, do try to match dark shades with dark shades and light shades with light shades.
They don’t have to match exactly but trying your best to match the shade of your belt and the shade of your shoes is always beneficial.
It’s just more likely to produce a balanced end result.
What Sort Of “Blue” Is The Suit?
Dark blue suits would look more in sync with black or dark brown shoes, while light blue suits would blend more effectively with shoes in lighter shades of brown.
“Blue” is a primary color with an unbelievable number of variations, shades, and hues.
You’ve got lighter shades such as sky blue and azure. You’ve got darker shades such as cobalt, navy, and Prussian.
In fact, “blue” can mean so many different things that trying to color match a “blue” suit without defining what that type of blue is first usually isn’t wise.
The question is, why does this matter when choosing between brown and black shoes?
It matters when you care about how much contrast you want between your suit and your shoes.
Having a lot of contrast between your suit and shoes (in terms of color) is a bold and eye-catching appearance. However, it’s also a more casual appearance.
Having less contrast between your suit and shoes is a more subtle and professional look.
If you’re wearing a dark blue suit, you’ve got the option of going for less contrast or for more contrast, depending on how formal/professional or casual/eye-catching you want it to look.
A light brown pair of shoes with a dark blue suit could work well, but it’s a more casual appearance. In contrast, a black or dark brown pair of shoes would also work well but will look more subtle and professional.
If you’re wearing a light blue suit, a pair of light brown shoes would look more subtle due to there being less contrast between the suit and the shoes.
While a pair of black or dark brown shoes would be fine here too, the contrast would lead to a bolder and more striking appearance.
There you have it. Hopefully, everything you could ever need to know before making your decision.
Using a logical, stepwise approach to choosing between brown and black shoes depending on your specific circumstances is the best way to do it.