Coordinating your pants and shoes is important, but is often made more complicated than it needs to be. The question is, what color pants should you wear with brown shoes?
Brown shoes can be worn with neutral-colored pants (eg. grey, navy, or black) in formal or business-casual settings. In smart-casual settings, consider wearing brown shoes with pants in colors such as maroon, burgundy, burnt orange, and forest green.
There are a few essential factors to consider before choosing the right pair of pants for the brown shoes you’re wearing.
After going through these, we’ll run through some great examples you can try out for yourself (with pics).
Let’s get to it.
Color Matching Brown Shoes With Pants: Guidelines
Running through these points is a great place to start. Consider all of them whenever you color-match brown shoes with your pants.
1. Consider The Dress Code
The dress code matters when choosing the right pair of pants to wear with your brown shoes.
Here are the main dress codes you’re likely to come across:
- Formal – Dark, neutral-colored pants (eg. navy blue, charcoal grey, black) should be worn with the brown shoes.
- Business-Casual – It’s best to stick to neutral-colored pants with your brown shoes, but not necessarily dark neutrals. Light neutrals can also work (eg. beige, light grey)
- Smart-Casual – You’ve got the freedom to wear both neutral-colored pants with the brown shoes, as well as lighter, brighter, and bolder-colored pants if you want to.
- Casual – It’s unlikely you’ll be wearing brown dress shoes to these settings in any case.
While a dress code may not be explicitly obvious, it’s possible to get a good idea of what might be expected based on the setting and the event.
2. Consider The Shade Of The Brown Shoes
The shade of your brown shoes should also be considered when choosing the right color of pants to wear.
Ultimately, it depends on how much contrast you want between the pants and the shoes.
In more casual settings, having more contrast between the pants and the shoes works well. It’s eye-catching and attention-grabbing.
In these cases, consider a light-colored pair of pants with dark brown shoes, or vice versa.
On the other hand, in more formal settings, having less contrast between the pants and shoes is advised.
In these formal settings you’ll most likely be wearing dark-colored pants – so pair them with dark brown shoes. However, if you were wearing light-colored pants, wear them with light brown shoes to reduce the contrast.
3. The Shoes Should Match The Belt
A common mistake people make is to somehow try to “match” the color of their shoes to their socks, pants, or something else.
The color of the shoes should match the belt.
This is one of the few “rules” you really need to remember. It’s one of the keys to making an outfit appear well-coordinated.
So, when wearing brown shoes, wear a brown belt no matter what the color of your pants is.
4. The Socks Should Match The Pants
This is the second “rule” to consider.
The socks should match the pants.
This isn’t as important as the shoes matching the belt, but it’s still important.
It doesn’t need to be an exact match, but the closer your socks are to the color of your pants, the better.
So, when wearing brown shoes and navy pants, try your best to find a pair of dark blue socks and you should be good to go.
Brown Shoes And Pants Combinations
Brown shoes are versatile enough to pair with a variety of different colors of pants. But as you’ve learned, some may be more appropriate than others for the setting you’re dressing for.
In general, stick to neutral-colored pants for more formal settings and consider non-neutrals for more casual settings.
Example: Brown Shoes With Tan Or Khaki Pants
A monochromatic color scheme consists of different shades of the same colors.
So, if you’re wearing brown shoes, consider a pair of brown pants, but be cautious.
Avoid wearing brown pants that are too similar in shade to the brown shoes. The two items should be noticeably different for this look to work.
If they’re too similar they’ll appear to blend into each other too much – rarely a stylish effect.
So, if you’re wearing a pair of light brown pants (eg. khaki or tan), wear a pair of dark brown shoes.
If you’re wearing a pair of dark brown pants, wear a pair of light brown shoes to create some contrast.
Neutral Color Scheme
Example: Brown Shoes With Grey, Navy, Or Beige Pants
When dressing for formal or business-casual settings, pairing brown shoes with neutral-colored pants is the best way to go.
Neutral colors are those which don’t appear on the color wheel. The key neutrals are white, black, and grey, as well as those in-betweens such as beige, off-white, and cream.
While navy blue isn’t technically a neutral, it’s often labeled one in men’s style given how easy it is to pair with other items.
I’ll be talking about wearing black pants with brown shoes in more detail later on.
In the image above you can see brown shoes paired with grey, navy, or beige pants. As you can see, the outcome is dressy and subtle.
Perfect for those events where you don’t want to risk underdressing.
Remember, the more formal the setting is, the more likely it is that a dark and neutral pair of pants would be better.
If it’s a little more relaxed (eg. business-casual), you could wear light and neutral-colored pants if you wanted to (eg. beige or off-white).
Brown Shoes With Warm-Colored Pants
Example: Brown Shoes With Maroon Or Burnt Orange Pants
“Warm” colors are reds, yellows, and oranges.
They appear on the “warm” half of the color wheel, with the “cool” colors (blues, greens, purples) on the opposite half.
Brown shoes can easily be paired with warm-colored pants, with the result often being eye-catching and vibrant.
However, it’s best to reserve the combination for “smart-casual” settings, as it’s likely to be a little too attention-grabbing for more reserved dress codes (eg. formal and business-casual).
In addition, if you want to wear warm-colored pants with your brown shoes while still remaining subtle, consider a dark and muted shade of a warm color.
So, instead of scarlet red, go for maroon or burgundy pants.
Instead of mustard yellow, go for burnt orange pants.
Brown Shoes With Cool-Colored Pants
Example: Brown Shoes With Hunter Green Or Cobalt Blue Pants
As I mentioned earlier, “cool” colors are blues, greens, and purples.
Brown shoes can be worn with cool-colored pants pretty easily, with the result often looking a little dressier than wearing them with warm-colored pants.
However, it’s still best to reserve this combo for smart-casual settings and stick to neutral-colored pants when dressing for anything more formal.
Pants in “cool” colors often have a more laid-back and relaxed feel to them, compared with the more vibrant aesthetic of “warm” colors.
Once again, if you’re looking to keep things subtle, go for a dark and muted shade of a cool color.
Instead of cyan blue, go for royal blue.
Instead of lime green, go for forest green or hunter green.
Brown Shoes With Black Pants
The concept of wearing brown shoes with black pants often leads to a lot of confusion. There are so many opinions out there on whether it’s OK or not.
Here’s the bottom line:
Yes, it’s fine to wear brown shoes with black pants. But dark brown shoes tend to work a whole lot better than light brown shoes here.
In fact, the dark brown shoes with black pants can actually be worn in more formal settings given how neutral the pairing comes across.
But the less contrast between the black pants and the brown shoes, the better.
The easiest way to achieve this is to choose a dark brown pair of shoes to sync well with the pants.
The darker the pair of brown shoes, the better.
In addition, don’t forget to wear a pair of black socks to match the pants. Doing so will help the pants blend seamlessly into the shoes without a noticeable break in the colors.
Brown shoes may be known for their versatility, but it’s important to recognize that they may work better with certain pants colors depending on the dress code and setting.
Hopefully, you’re now several steps closer to choosing the right combo at the right time.