Color matching shoes with suits is an art form in itself. But it doesn’t need to be complicated. The question is, should you wear brown or black shoes with a navy suit?
When wearing a navy suit, brown shoes would work better for casual settings, while black shoes would be more appropriate in formal contexts. Darker variations of navy would also look better with black shoes, while lighter variations work well with brown shoes.
Although that’s the short answer, as always, there’s more to it.
Let’s go through the main factors you should consider when choosing between the two.
Brown Vs Black Shoes With A Navy Suit: How To Choose
Consider all of these factors before making your decision. There are rarely ever any one-size-fits-all answers in men’s style.
The same is definitely true here as well.
If you’re wearing a navy blue suit to a truly formal or professional setting, there’s a good chance that black shoes would be more appropriate than brown shoes.
Black dress shoes will always look more formal than even the darkest pair of brown shoes.
If you were going to wear brown shoes to a formal setting, it’s always a safer option to wear dark brown instead of light brown.
But ultimately, if you feel as though you need to dress up for the occasion, you should strongly consider a pair of black cap-toe Oxfords.
For smart-casual, business-casual, or “formal” settings which aren’t really that formal, you’ve got a lot more flexibility.
A pair of light brown shoes goes well with a navy blue suit in more casual settings, as the contrast between the light and the dark is eye-catching and attention-grabbing.
2. Variation Of “Navy”
While most people have a vague idea of what “navy” is, there’s actually a lot of variation.
People usually refer to any shade of dark-ish blue as “navy” and this isn’t always correct.
That’s why it’s important to discuss navy as a spectrum of different tones and shades of dark blue, with some of those dark blues being lighter than others.
To keep things nice and simple, the darker the shade of blue, the more likely it is that black shoes would pair better with it than brown shoes.
Dark tones pair well with other dark tones. That’s why black or very dark brown would blend better with darker shades of navy blue.
This is especially true if you want a more formal or professional look. The less contrast you have between your suit and your shoes, the better.
But if you wanted a more casual and striking appearance to your dark navy blue suit, choosing a light shade of brown would actually be a pretty good way to achieve it.
If you were wearing a relatively “light” shade of navy blue and you didn’t want much contrast between your suit and shoes, go for a lighter shade of brown shoes.
It all depends on how much contrast you want between the suit and the shoes.
For example, if you did have a lighter variation of navy, a pair of black monk straps like these may provide just enough contrast to look eye-catching.
3. Style Of Navy Suit
Not all navy suits are the same. Some will appear more formal, while others will appear more casual.
More casual-looking navy suits will often look better with shoes in a lighter shade of brown. More formal-looking navy suits often look better with black or dark brown shoes.
We’ve already talked about how color can make a suit look more or less casual.
Here are some other features to help you tell the difference between a more “casual” navy suit and a more “formal” one:
- Formal suit jacket shoulders have more padding and look more structured.
- Formal suit jackets usually have a heavier lining
- Formal suits are often shinier (eg. worsted wool) while casual ones are often less shiny and made from more rugged and wrinkly fabrics
- Formal suit pants often have a break
- Casual suits often come in lighter colors and possibly even patterns
While a pair of black shoes would usually look fine with a “casual” looking navy blue suit, it usually won’t look as good as a pair of brown shoes.
Here’s an example of a “casual” looking blue suit that would work well with a pair of shoes in a light shade of brown.
It all comes down to the fact that brown, especially lighter shades of brown like tan, will look more casual than black.
4. Belt color
When you’re wearing a suit, the color of your shoes should ideally match your belt. If you haven’t got much of a choice with your belt color, it may heavily influence whether you wear black or brown shoes.
If you’re wearing a black belt with your navy blue suit, wear black shoes.
If you’re wearing a brown belt with your navy blue suit, wear brown shoes.
It’s a simple principle, but it’ll always serve you well.
When you’re wearing a brown belt, you’ll want to try and consider the shade of brown when choosing your shoes.
This may sound restrictive, but it works well.
A dark brown belt will look great with a dark brown pair of shoes, with the same going for a light brown belt and a light brown pair of shoes.
Mixing shades of brown isn’t a disaster by any means, but trying to sync your shoes and your belt as much as possible is a great (and relatively easy) way to take things to the next level.
Frequently Asked Questions
To finish things off, here are the answers to a couple of frequently asked questions on this topic.
Black Or Brown Shoes With A Navy Suit For An Interview?
When dressing for an interview in a professional setting, a navy suit with a pair of black or dark brown shoes would be a good option. While a pair of lighter brown shoes may be OK, darker tones will always appear more elegant, sophisticated, and professional.
Navy is a great suit color for an interview because it’s dark and it’s neutral. It isn’t bold, bright, or striking.
It’s subtle and easy to combine with other items of professional attire.
When attending an interview, you want to appear well-dressed while drawing as little attention to your clothes or sense of style as possible.
You don’t want to risk putting any interviewer off or distracting them with unusual or attention-grabbing style choices.
Because of this, minimizing the contrast between your suit and your shoes would be a good idea.
As your navy blue suit will be dark, it’s usually best to go for darker colored shoes.
That’s why black and dark brown would work so well in this context.
Sure, they look effortlessly formal.
But an even more important reason would be that they would lead to there being very little contrast between the suit and the shoes.
Black Or Brown Shoes With Navy Pants?
Darker and more formal-looking navy blue pants often work better with black shoes, while more casual-looking navy blue pants usually work better with brown shoes.
Navy pants are dress pants. These are different from navy suits because they don’t come with a matching jacket.
Dress pants will still look pretty formal but won’t look quite as formal as suit pants.
Because of this, it’s possible to wear dress pants with non-matching jackets and get away with it.
When you’re wearing navy pants, you’ve got more flexibility with your shoe choice. You could quite confidently wear black, dark brown, or light brown shoes without much trouble.
However, it would still be reasonable to stick to the same principles that were listed earlier when making your decision.
Try to match more formal-looking navy pants with darker shoes (black or dark brown) and consider lighter shades of brown for more casual-looking navy pants.
That’s hopefully everything you could ever need to know before making your decision.
It isn’t complicated and at the end of the day, there’s no “wrong” answer.
However, as with most aspects of men’s style, there are better ways of doing it and worse ways of doing it.