When choosing between two colors, the first question you should ask yourself is whether it matters. In this case, it really does. So, should you wear brown or black shoes with a grey suit?
When wearing a grey suit, black shoes would be more appropriate than brown shoes for formal occasions, while brown shoes work better for casual settings. Suits in darker shades of grey also work better with black shoes, while lighter grey tones pair well with brown shoes.
Although that’s the short answer, as always, there’s more to it.
After going through the factors you should consider when making your choice in a little more detail, I’ll run through a couple of frequently asked questions on this topic to round things off.
Let’s get to it.
Brown Vs Black Shoes With A Grey Suit: How To Choose
Consider all of these factors before making your decision between black or brown shoes.
1. The Formality Of The Occasion
The formality of the occasion or event you’re attending should be the first thing you consider.
To cut a long story short, black shoes will always look more formal than brown shoes. This is true for even the darkest tone of brown in the shiniest grain of leather.
Black shoes will look more formal.
For occasions where you’re expected to wear a business-professional grey suit in worsted wool, a pair of black cap-toe Oxfords would be more appropriate than brown ones.
Black shoes would work a lot better for events where you want to make a point to dress up.
If you don’t have any black shoes to hand, a dark shade of brown would be a (less preferable) alternative.
At the end of the day, the darker the shoes, the more formal they look.
I know we’re talking about suits here and not tuxedos, but it’s worth mentioning this in any case:
If you’re wearing a grey tuxedo, you need to wear black shoes.
In addition, those black shoes should be in a style that’s appropriate to wear with a tuxedo such as patent leather Oxfords or Venetian loafers.
2. The Shade Of Grey
Darker shades of grey such as charcoal would look more in sync with black shoes as opposed to brown shoes.
Having said that, dark tones of brown can also look perfectly acceptable with charcoal.
Lighter shades of grey blend well with light brown shoes. You’ve got more flexibility here and can go for lighter tones of brown such as tan or darker tones of brown, depending on your preference.
The point here is that if you want a professional and subtle appearance to your grey suit, it’s best to match dark tones with dark tones and light tones with light tones.
But there may be times when you want some contrast between your grey suit and your shoes.
Having this sort of contrast is a more casual aesthetic, but it’s also more eye-catching and noticeable. If this is what you’re going for, contrast can be your friend.
An example of this type of contrast would be wearing black shoes with a light grey suit. Alternatively, you could wear a dark grey/charcoal suit with a light brown pair of shoes.
Both options could work well, but will definitely be more attention-grabbing and casual than matching dark tones with dark tones/light tones with light tones.
3. The Style Of The Suit
It’s no secret that not all grey suits are made equal. Some suits are more “casual” while others have a more “formal” appearance.
When you’re wearing a more “casual” style of grey suit, brown shoes often work better than black shoes.
Here are some features that can help you tell the difference between casual and formal suits:
- Casual suits are often of a lighter color and have patterns
- Casual suit jackets have less structure and lining
- Casual jacket shoulders are usually less padded and look more natural
- Casual suit fabrics are often more rugged, less shiny, and wrinkle easier
- Casual suit pants often don’t have a break and reach the ankles without wrinkling
While a pair of black shoes could work with a casual grey suit, a pair of brown shoes would usually work better.
There’s less likely to be a formality mismatch between the shoes and the suit.
Casual suits work better with lighter tones such as lighter shades of brown, while more formal suits work better with darker tones like dark brown or black.
4. Belt Color
When wearing a grey suit, no matter how formal or casual it may be, it’s important that your belt matches your shoes.
If you’re wearing a black belt with your grey suit, make a point to wear black shoes.
If you’re wearing a brown belt with your grey suit, make a point to wear brown shoes.
It’s important to note that if you really want to take things to the next level, try to match belts of a dark shade of brown with shoes that are of dark shades of brown.
The same goes for light shades of brown.
Ultimately, the more in sync your shoes look with your belt in terms of color, the more likely your entire suit is going to look well-balanced.
Wearing a brown belt with black shoes and vice versa is generally frowned upon. It’s easily noticeable and isn’t a risk worth taking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s finish by answering a couple of frequently asked and rarely answered questions to really round things up.
Black Or Brown Shoes With Grey Pants?
Darker and more formal-looking grey pants usually look better with black shoes, while lighter and more casual-looking grey pants look better with brown shoes.
Here, we’re talking about grey dress pants and not a full grey suit.
Dress pants are different from suit pants in that they usually don’t look quite as formal and can also be worn with a non-matching jacket.
Given that grey dress pants aren’t quite as formal as grey suit pants, you’ve generally got more flexibility in more than one way.
The color of the shoes you choose is one of those ways.
But at the end of the day, sticking to the same principles as you would when pairing a grey suit with your shoes would always serve you well.
Consider the formality of the event you’re attending – black shoes would be better than brown shoes for more formal events.
Consider how formal those grey dress pants actually look – darker tones (black or dark brown shoes) would look better with more formal-looking dress pants.
Black Or Brown Belt With Grey Shoes?
Brown belts usually work better with grey shoes than black belts, simply because grey shoes usually come in more casual styles or fabrics (eg. suede). As brown belts often look more casual than black belts, they’re usually the best choice here.
This is an interesting one. Grey shoes are nowhere near as common as brown or black shoes, but they aren’t non-existent.
When wearing grey shoes, the color of your belt isn’t as important as it would be with brown or black shoes.
The reason for this is that grey shoes are generally in more casual styles or fabrics.
With more casual styles of shoes, it’s less important to have a suitably matching belt to go with it.
To be honest, not many people actually own a grey belt and they shouldn’t really have to.
While you could wear a black belt, a brown belt would usually blend better with the casual appearance of the grey shoes.
In addition, a brown belt would also probably pair better with the other casual/smart-casual items you might be wearing such as jeans, khakis, polo shirts, etc.
There you have it. Hopefully, everything you could possibly need to know before deciding between brown and black shoes when wearing a grey suit.
Choosing between them may not be a simple one-size-fits-all answer, but using a rounded approach to deciding should make things pretty simple.