Color-matching shoes with suits can be frustrating. Keeping things simple and having a selection of shoe colors to wear with a specific suit is often the best way to go. So, what color shoes should you wear with a charcoal suit?
Charcoal suits can be worn with black or dark brown shoes in formal settings. If you’re attending a semi-formal and smart-casual event, a charcoal suit could be worn with burgundy, oxblood, or even tan dress shoes instead.
That’s the short answer, but there’s more to it.
After going through a few guidelines for matching charcoal suits with shoes, I’ll run through the best shoe colors to try out for yourself.
Let’s get to it.
How To Color Match Charcoal Suits With Shoes
Consider these “guidelines” as opposed to rules, but run through all of them before you make your decision.
Consider The Dress Code
The more formal the setting, the more likely it is that black or dark brown shoes should be worn with your charcoal suit.
In more “casual” settings, shoes in lighter shades of brown, as well as oxblood and burgundy, can be comfortably worn with a charcoal suit.
The dress code is the most important factor to consider when choosing a pair of shoes for your suit.
In truly formal settings where there’s a real risk of underdressing, black shoes should always be worn.
Dark brown shoes would usually be a reasonable alternative for these occasions, but wouldn’t ever look quite as formal as black shoes.
While a charcoal suit would never really be worn to a truly “casual” setting, there are definitely events where a 2-piece suit would be required, but the general vibe is more relaxed and social.
A wedding reception or a dinner/dance would be potential examples.
Here, the contrast between a light brown (eg. tan) pair of shoes and a charcoal suit usually wouldn’t look too casual. You’d often get away with it.
While oxblood and burgundy are still “dark”, the reddish hue each of them has does make them look more social than a pair of dark brown or black shoes.
That’s why they’re also better suited to casual settings.
Consider The Shoe Material
Certain shoe materials look more casual than others, no matter what color they may be. A charcoal suit worn with dark brown cowhide shoes, for example, would look very different from one worn with dark brown suede shoes.
The napped and rugged texture of suede will always look more casual than shinier grains of leather such as calfskin or cowhide.
So once again, it’s important to consider the dress code when deciding what shoes you should wear with your charcoal suit.
The more formal the setting, the more likely it is that black or dark brown shoes in a shiny grain of leather would be appropriate.
The more “smart-casual” the setting, the more likely it is that suede shoes would be appropriate.
Suede shoes would also work better when worn with more casual suit styles. These are usually made from more wrinkly and less shiny suit fabrics.
Examples would include tweed, linen, corduroy, or even chino cloth.
In contrast, shiny calfskin or cowhide dress shoes would usually be more appropriate if you were wearing a formal worsted wool suit with its characteristic sheen.
Wear A Matching Belt
The easiest way to make a suit look well-coordinated is to match the belt to the shoes.
If you’re wearing black shoes with your charcoal suit, be sure to wear a black belt.
If you’re wearing burgundy shoes with your charcoal suit, wear a burgundy-colored belt.
When you buy a pair of dress shoes, try to also buy a belt that’s of a similar color if you don’t already have one.
It’ll make coordinating your suit so much easier.
The shades don’t need to be exactly the same. But the more similar the colors are to each other, the better.
5 Shoe Colors You Can Wear With Charcoal Suits
While they’ve already been mentioned, it’s worth looking at each of them individually to see which one would work best in your specific circumstances.
Black shoes would be the best option if you were wearing a charcoal suit to a formal setting where there’s a risk of underdressing.
Examples might include corporate work settings, interviews, and black-tie optional weddings.
The more formal an event or occasion is, the more likely it is that black shoes should be worn.
The charcoal suit and black shoe combination has a very business-professional feel to it. If you’d prefer a more relaxed and social aesthetic, consider one of the other shoe colors on this list instead.
When dressing this formally, it’s worth considering what style of dress shoe you go for as well.
Black Oxford shoes are considered one of the most formal options when wearing a suit. The closed lacing system of Oxford shoes has an elegant and sophisticated aesthetic.
However, you don’t necessarily have to choose a pair this formal.
Derby shoes are a notch more casual than Oxford shoes but are still considered appropriate in formal settings.
It’s also worth remembering that a charcoal suit worn with
Dark Brown Shoes
Dark brown shoes can be worn with a charcoal suit in formal, as well as more casual settings due to their versatility.
Dark brown dress shoes won’t look quite as formal as black shoes and may not be appropriate if you feel there’s a risk of underdressing.
But they’re usually a good alternative and have the benefit of producing a bit of contrast with the charcoal suit and prevent the outfit from looking too monochromatic.
Dark brown shoes are worth considering if you’re looking to dress down a charcoal suit just a little to prevent them from looking too business-professional.
Burgundy shoes can be worn with a charcoal suit in smart-casual social settings.
Burgundy should be considered a dark and deep shade of red. However, what sets it apart is the purplish hue that also comes across so well.
While it’s a dark color, it’s often too striking to be worn in business-professional settings.
The reddish-purple hues have a laid-back and social feel to them.
They’re a great option if you’re looking to dress down a charcoal suit, making it come across more relaxed.
Oxblood shoes can be worn with a charcoal suit in formal, as well as smart-casual settings. While they’d always look more casual than black or dark brown dress shoes, they’re dark enough to be considered appropriate in most formal settings.
Oxblood looks similar to burgundy – it’s a dark shade of red. However, it has less of a purplish hue to it and instead has more dark brown elements.
Because of this, oxblood dress shoes usually look a notch more formal than burgundy ones.
While they’d still be more appropriate to wear with a charcoal suit in semi-formal and smart-casual settings, oxblood shoes could be worn in more formal settings if you feel as though the contrast wouldn’t be considered too much.
It’s possible to wear tan shoes with a charcoal suit, but the contrast between the light brown and the dark grey can sometimes be overbearing.
Charcoal is very dark – pretty close to black. Pairing a dark suit with a relatively light pair of shoes produces contrast. In general, contrast is eye-catching and can sometimes be distracting.
Usually, a pair of tan shoes would work better with a light grey suit than it would a charcoal suit, simply because it leads to less contrast.
However, if you’re looking for a striking combination that does catch the eye, a pair of tan shoes with a charcoal suit would do it without being too in-your-face.
Avoid wearing it to truly formal settings – stick to black or dark brown shoes instead.
Charcoal suits can be worn with black, dark brown, tan, oxblood, or burgundy dress shoes. Which one you choose will depend on the setting you’re dressing for and how much contrast you want between the suit and the shoes.
Sticking to these options should serve you well, but be sure to consider the factors discussed in this article before making your decision.