Color matching suits with shoes is often made more complicated than it needs to be. Sticking to some basic rules will always see you through. So, what color shoes go with a navy suit?
When wearing a navy suit for a formal occasion, stick to black, dark brown, or oxblood dress shoes. When wearing a navy suit to a “smart-casual” setting, you’ve got a wider range of shoes to choose from, including tan brown, and burgundy.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
After going through a couple of key principles and guidelines to stick to whenever matching navy suits with shoes, I’ll go through five shoe colors to try out for yourself.
Let’s get to it.
How To Color Match Navy Suits With Shoes
Consider these whenever you’re trying to figure out which shoe color would be best.
Formality is huge when it comes to matching shoes with suits and navy ones are no exception.
In general, the darker the shoes, the more formal they’ll look.
You won’t be able to get more formal than black, but dark brown is also widely considered a reasonable option in formal settings.
Lighter, brighter, and bolder dress shoe colors (eg. tan brown, and burgundy) are considered more casual. This is mainly because they lead to a greater amount of contrast between the shoes and the dark navy suit.
When considering formality, you’ll also need to think about the style of dress shoes you’re wearing.
For formal occasions, Oxfords and Derbys would be most appropriate. For smart-casual settings, a pair of monk straps or even loafers might be suitable.
Consider The Type Of “Navy”
While navy is considered a dark shade of blue, it’s true that people refer to a wide spectrum of blues as “navy”. Yes, sometimes incorrectly.
Some “navy” shades are lighter than others.
It’s important to consider this too.
How dark is your navy suit?
The darker your navy suit, the darker you’ll want your shoes to be. A deep and dark shade of navy will always look more formal than a lighter shade of navy.
They’d be better served with a dark pair of dress shoes (i.e black or dark brown). This is to reduce the amount of contrast between the suit and the shoes.
If, however, the navy suit is on the lighter end of the navy spectrum, you’ve got more options. While you could easily go for black or dark brown shoes, a pair of lighter dress shoes (eg. tan brown) could also work great.
5 Shoe Colors You Can Wear With A Navy Suit
Here are five great options you could confidently wear with a navy suit, as long as you stick to the guidelines listed above.
Ideal Dress Codes: Formal, Business-Professional
Example Settings: Weddings, corporate office settings, galas
The beauty of wearing a navy suit with black shoes is that it’s hard to go wrong. There’s no risk of underdressing because it’s the most formal option you could go for.
It’s perfect when an invitation clearly specifies “formal” as its dress code. It’s also usually the best option if it says “black-tie optional” and you aren’t keen on wearing a suit.
In black-tie optional settings, you’ll want to make sure you at least wear a suit that leans towards the more formal end of the formal spectrum. Wearing black shoes is one way to do it.
The navy suit and black shoe combination is also perfect for “business-professional” settings. In other words, those work settings where you’re required to wear a suit.
You want a combination that’s formal enough for the setting and not too attention-grabbing. To do this, reduce the contrast between the navy suit and the shoes by choosing a shoe color that’s dark enough.
Black is often the best option (while dark brown can also work).
Another great thing about wearing a navy suit with black shoes is that it gives you a little more freedom when it comes to the style of dress shoes you wear.
You can get away with wearing more “casual” styles of dress shoes like monk straps because the dark color is enough to offset how casual it’ll look.
Overall, black shoes are ideal when you need to dress formally or you simply want to play it safe.
Ideal Dress Codes: Formal, Business-Professional, Smart-Casual
Example Settings: Weddings, corporate office settings, galas, conferences, garden parties
Dark brown is arguably the most versatile shoe color you could wear with a navy suit.
You could comfortably wear the combination to a very wide range of dress codes, including more casual ones.
That’s why, in many ways, it’s worth owning a good pair of dark brown dress shoes before any other color.
They’ll quickly become the workhorse of any wardrobe.
While dark brown dress shoes are dark enough to confidently be worn to formal and business-professional settings, they can also be worn to more smart-casual and “social” settings where a suit is required.
When it comes to these more casual/social settings, a pair of black shoes can actually often be seen as too much. It may seem as though you’ve dressed for a conference and not to have a good time.
Dark brown dress shoes are the ideal middle ground. Formal, but not too formal.
Ideal Dress Codes: Smart-casual, Business-casual
Example Settings: Office parties, garden parties
Tan brown is a light shade of brown. Because of this, tan brown shoes will definitely look more casual than black or dark brown shoes when wearing a navy suit.
The reason why light-colored shoes look more casual when wearing a dark-colored suit (like navy) is that it produces contrast.
The more contrast you’ve got, the more casual things tend to look.
Because of this, you’ll need to be a little more careful with where you choose to rock a navy suit with tan brown shoes.
You need to make sure the setting is casual enough for it to work.
In general, it wouldn’t be the best option for formal settings and even business-professional work settings.
The contrast between the two items would draw too much attention. When you’re dressing formally, that sort of attention isn’t usually a good thing. Stick to black or dark brown dress shoes instead.
Tan brown dress shoes are perfect for more laid-back, social, and casual settings where you’re looking to dress down a navy suit.
Smart-casual settings would be perfect. I’ve also written business-casual in the “ideal settings” list above, but it’s important to be careful with this.
Technically, suits aren’t a great option for truly “business-casual” settings in the first place. A dress shirt/OCBD + chinos/slacks combination would be much more appropriate.
However, if you feel as though you could wear a navy suit to a “business-casual” setting, a pair of tan brown dress shoes would work great with it.
Ideal Dress Code: Smart-Casual
Burgundy is a deep shade of red with purplish hues. What’s great about owning a pair of burgundy dress shoes is that they stand out.
It’s a more unusual color for dress shoes that just isn’t as common as black or dark brown.
Because of this, it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd.
However, it’s important to make sure you’re wearing them in appropriate settings.
It’s true that burgundy is a dark shade of red and at the end of the day, the darker a color, the more formal it looks.
But given how it’s a less traditional color, when worn with a traditional and formal navy suit, it’ll generally lead to a more casual appearance overall.
In other words, a navy suit with a bold and striking pair of burgundy shoes will always look more casual than black or dark brown shoes.
So, try to reserve burgundy shoes for more “social” events where a suit would be perfectly appropriate.
Smart-casual settings would be ideal.
Ideal Dress Codes: Formal, Business-Professional, Smart-Casual
Oxblood is another classic dress shoe color that’s very similar to burgundy. However, it has less purple and more dark brown hues than oxblood.
This tends to make oxblood look more traditional and formal than burgundy.
At the same time, they have a slightly more eye-catching appearance than a standard pair of dark brown dress shoes.
Overall, oxblood would also be fine to wear to formal and business-professional settings as a substitute for dark brown.
They tend to look a little more stylish and interesting.
But you could very confidently wear oxblood dress shoes and a navy suit to smart-casual settings as well.
Just like dark brown, oxblood has the benefit of versatility, being suitable for a wide range of dress codes.
When it comes to color matching shoes, navy suits give you options. However, it’s always best to stick to the classics.
While taking risks is encouraged in men’s style, there are certain guidelines and “best practices” you’ll really want to go by.
The five shoe colors listed in this article are great options. It’s just important that you consider the formality of the setting you’re attending when choosing the best one for you.