Find out how to match your shoe shade to your pants
If it's true that a man's outfit is judged from his shoes on, then it is his hue that first influences a person's judgment. Shoes, like everything else in men's fashion, have become less stiff lately – these days you can wear oxfords with jeans and sneakers with a suit. However, the key to peeling off is in color matching. Setting the shade incorrectly can make you look like a car salesman in one evening or have turned into your comfy shoes for your commute.
And like everything else in your wardrobe, nail color is the easiest and most difficult thing to get dressed in the morning at the same time. It's easy to stick to sound combinations – black shoes with black pants, brown shoes with brown chinos – and never set foot wrong. But it's a path that can quickly lead to boredom and financial ruin. If you don't want to just wear a pair of pants colors at a time, you'll need a rainbow of shoes to get enough options.
"A black pair of shoes would be the fanciest color in my opinion as it is a must have in every man's wardrobe," said Andrew Nicholas Vieira, senior director of men's product development at Aldo. “Everyone needs a clean, simple black leather lace-up shoe.
“Your next color on the line would be tan. Here I would recommend going for a style with more detail, like a toe cap or brogue. Overall, I don't think there is any least intelligent color, but the real mistake would be not to explore your options. My recommendation would be to have fun with your decorated silhouettes and keep your black pairs classy. "
For the beginner in shoe color, there are a few basic rules to help you make your choice every morning.
- Block colors are always smarter than anything else.
- In general, darker tones are smarter than lighter ones. They're also more versatile.
- Cunning is determined by both decoration and shade: black derbies are smarter than tans, but chocolate oxfords can be more sophisticated than either.
- Sneakers and smart shoes follow different rules: white oxfords are a bit strange, but white sneakers go with anything in your wardrobe.
- It doesn't matter what color your shoes are when they are worn out. Find a suitable polish or a neutral polish when you've decided on something a little wilder and keep it in good condition. They also last longer.
- If you wear something light on your feet, anchor it elsewhere with neutrals. Brave shoes are easier to take off if you don't wear a Hawaiian shirt.
In almost all cases, black shoes are the smartest version in any category.
"A pair of black oxfords is probably the most stylish shoe you can have in your wardrobe," says Luke McDonald, a stylist at online men's styling service Thread. "And that limits what other clothes you can wear them with." You can think of it as a bit like a black blazer; They look great but try them on with jeans and you will look like a street mage.
To start from the top down, black should be your first choice for black tailoring, whether you need something for a black tie or just a formal work shoe. "They're also good for tailoring gray or charcoal, especially in more formal offices," says McDonald. Regardless of what some people think, wearing black with blue isn't going to hurt your fashion ego, although you'll stick to darker navy tones rather than something more solemn like royal blue.
Casual pants are more difficult. If you wear black shoes with chinos in the brown spectrum, stick to less formal styles. "A derby looks better than an Oxford because it's a bit clunkier and more relaxed," says McDonald. The same goes for jeans. "Oxfords would only ever work with very slim black jeans, and even then you will look like a forgotten member of the libertines." If you insist on black shoes with your dark denim, your best bet is to go for Chelsea boots or Dr. Martens to decide.
If you're the type who likes colorful chinos, the sudden switch to black shoes can feel a bit severe. You can lessen the impact by tying the hems and even losing your socks and making your shoe style as elegant as possible – slippers are preferable to anything with laces.
Finally, you should probably avoid shorts and black shoes when you run out of school uniforms.
Brown is the most forgiving shade for smart shoes. The breadth of shades of brown available means there is a shade for just about every situation except for the smartest offices. Even a pair of bespoke chocolates, John Lobbs, will make you black in some investment banks. But with something other than a black suit or tuxedo, brown shoes add personality and feel less stuffy.
"The lighter the shade, the more relaxed the look," says McDonald, "especially when you add details too." A pair of brown brogues is less formal than, say, oxfords of the same shade.
Brown should not only be suitable for tailoring, but also for chinos of any color. However, be careful not to fit them too closely together. As with double denim, you want at least two differences between your pants and your shoes so that you don't look like you're wearing the bottom half of a romper.
Dark browns look great with indigo denim, but are also great for washed-out hues. Just make sure you choose a less formal style – suede chelsea boots are perfect, as are chunky brown work boots.
Black jeans and brown shoes are a minefield of disagreement and one not worth marching into when you have personal doubts. However, if you're confident, this look can work as long as you stick to shoes in a shade that's more black than brown. Again, boots are easier to take off, especially Chelsea's, which give you the air of someone who has just left One Direction to find their own direction.
Ox blood shoes
Although technically a color, ox blood can appear almost neutral. They tend to work much the same way as brown, although a bit bolder. They add an ounce or two more personality to what you wear. "Making a statement with smart shoes shouldn't mean leaving your comfort zone too far," says Vieira. "Instead of going for a flamboyant style, it could be so easy to incorporate new colors into silhouettes that you already wear every day."
Even so, it is still easier to pull ox blood if you attract them with a touch. Derbies are a more versatile choice than oxfords because while they may not go with your fanciest suits, you can wear them with anything from navy tailoring to jeans and chinos. However, if you live in suits, two burnished ox-blood oxfords with a Berluti-style patina can be a special kind to make them feel more varied. They are particularly good for preparing your work clothes for the wedding.
Casual styles offer much more leeway. The oxblood penny loafer is a classic and can be your summer companion, from light-washed denim to tan, navy and even brightly colored chinos. Take off your socks and tie the hems for a Dickie Greenleaf on the Riviera feel.
Tan is Braun's most casual tone. "Best for more relaxed styles like brogue derbies or boots," says McDonald. "Tan suede shoes can look great too, but you have to wear them with fairly informal outfits." In smarter styles, tan is a great way to personalize an outfit – the kind of look-at-me tailoring that pervades Pitti Uomo is often complemented by a tan lover or brogue. It's an especially good anchor for lighter shades of blue or to clog up patterns like pinstripes.
Tan goes well with jeans of all colors and chinos of any color, especially in summer when they are used to brighten up your look a little. You can even get away with brown shoes with shorts, especially if you're wearing something cordless like a penny loafer or something with texture like suede.
Blue can be an uncomfortable color for smart shoes – although it's a neutral staple anywhere in your wardrobe, shiny blue leather looks a little stressful. However, once you've settled on more casual styles, blue is the perfect way to add some personality to the look. Textured leathers like nubuck are good for the navy, says Vieira, and can even be worn as an unexpected pop of color in black casual outfits.
Like nubuck, suede is an Elvis-approved method of removing blue shoes. The raised nap adds a depth you can't get with leather, making blue shoes appear flashy rather than flashy. As long as you don't try to pull them on too loose, blue suede brogues work well with any suit color (as long as it's not black) and chinos, especially for an ankle flashing role.
Even more casual, navy is perfect for desert and chukka boots, especially since it's dark enough not to show rain stains if you get caught in the shower. “Both models go great with jeans,” says McDonald. "They're sturdy, but still smart enough for a nice restaurant or bar." However, try not to coordinate your shoes and pants too precisely here either. When in doubt, use a lighter colored sock in a complementary shade like red to break things up a bit.
When Common Projects launched its Achilles Low almost 15 years ago, the Italian-American shoe brand helped cement a new category in men's fashion: the sneaker that behaved like a chic shoe. While all-white tennis shoes weren't new – Adidas was already pumping out Stan Smiths, though not quite the numbers they do after the Common Projects – they couldn't be worn with a suit as easily as you could in denim shorts.
But now, as long as you get a perfectly clean pair, free of logos, and made from good quality leather, white minimalist sneakers can be worn with almost anything (in the right context, of course; they're probably not the best pair with tailoring for partnership interviews at your law firm ).
They go well with every suit, including black – although it is best to swap the shirt and tie for a turtleneck or a long-sleeved polo – and go perfectly with every pair of jeans, from high-quality Japanese selvedges to torn stone wash. The same applies to chinos, shorts and parachute pants. Whatever pants you have, white sneakers will work.
In fact, the only tricky thing about white sneakers is keeping them that way. "Box-fresh versions work with a suit," says McDonald. "Not beaten, stained sneakers. To keep them pristine, prep them with Crep Protect spray and then keep some baby wipes in your pocket or desk drawer for you to touch up during the day."
Wherever white trainers led, his lighter plumage brothers followed. It was time strong sneakers were meant for exercise only. Now they have snuck off the streets and into the offices, a flashy way to show your affinity for the latest hype brand and Nike Drop. "But all of those colors make them a lot less versatile," says McDonald. "In fact, they only work with neutral colors unless you can do some very advanced color adjustment." Even then, you can leave a migraine headache on viewers.
Because brightly colored sneakers are so casual, it's smartest to stick with jeans (anything from white to washed to black is fine), joggers (think gray, black, or navy), or chinos (tan and navy are safest). "You should let your shoes do the talking," says McDonald. "If they're the brightest thing in your outfit, they're eye-catching. If you have too many other bright colors, people don't know where to look."