When to Wear Brown Dress Shoes for Men?

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Men's brown dress shoes are distinctive within the world of men’s fashion. Contemporary designs have brought in a revival of earthy tones, dark browns, and minimalist style layering options and contrasts of primary striking brown shoe colors. A well-selected pair of men's brown formal shoes in the right tone and style can be extremely versatile. They can create a stunning pairing for both formal and casual attire.

Black men's dress shoes are the traditional go-to choice for most; however, brown dress shoes can often make the difference between predictable style and personality-filled fashion sense. Here, we’ll be taking you through a range of color combinations, style choices, and wardrobe pairings best suited to men's dress shoes in brown. When or even if you should wear brown footwear has long been a cause of heated debate.

It was none other than the very sartorially elegant Edward, Prince of Wales, who was responsible for many of the gentlemen’s fashions that we still see around today. He brought brown shoes into prominence. By the 1950s, brown shoes were getting a special mention in clothing guides of the day and had become more acceptable, with certain conditions. While black was still very much the respectable and accepted color for the evening, brown shoes had made their way into more regular daytime attire.

Thankfully, today’s fashion views are friendlier and less rigid in their rules and conventions, allowing you to take responsibility for your own decisions. With so many people today opting for casual looks, the fact that you own and are wearing brown dress shoes, you're already a cut above the masses. The fact that you can get brown shoes in so many different shades and hues has also added to their versatility. They're now considered appropriate for many casual and formal occasions.

So to quickly recap on the whole brown shoe debate, they can and are worn with just about anything these days. From jeans to corduroy, flannels to tweed, and every trouser fabric in between, there's a place for brown shoes. The real beauty of them is that, unlike black dress shoes, a brown dress shoe comes in a myriad of alternative brown color shades to create something very stylish. You can wear them with your business suits as well as your casual suits, with a blazer or sports coat for a smart trouser combination look.

Best colors to pair with men's brown dress shoes

The classic color contrast of black and brown is renowned due to the simplistic style that it brings to any men's outfit. Try a predominantly black look, using brown dress shoes and one other brown-shaded item of clothing, such as a jacket, shirt, or undercoat, to bring about a great binary contrast.

When it comes to color combinations, brown looks very dashing teamed with a range of other colors. In particular, it displays quite the fashion statement worn alongside red, green, khaki, tan, cream, and of course, all variants of light to dark browns. Brown dress shoes, then, are very versatile and well worth the investment. While they'll never replace your black dress shoes for very formal occasions such as with a black tie or tuxedo, they can be worn for pretty much any other event and with so many colors.

This works very well for both casual and formal wear when wearing black corduroys. The best effects are obtained by combining neutral colors. Here's a list of the best colors to pair with brown dress shoes:

•Black – Great pairing, although avoid using the color brown once only, always repeat in another item of clothing. Tan colored dress shoes pair well with most casual attire

•Charcoal grey – The best match to dark brown, but never pair a light shade such as tan

•Light grey – Great to create an alternating contrast, again repeat the use of brown

•Mid-grey – Suited to dark brown, reddish browns, or cherry

•Dark navy – A great contrast to tan and very dark shades of brown, a natural pairing

•Blue – Blues such as sky blue work very well with light brown shoes, although the striking contrast creates quite a statement

•Ivory – This is a great color to pair with burgundy shoes, make sure to find a matching belt

•Green – Almost every shade of green can be paired with brown dress shoes. Make sure you repeat the same shade of brown in another item of clothing. Limit the use of green to one item.

•Red – Red matches almost every shade of brown except those with a red tint, highlight, or undertone

Brown dress shoes and formal fashion

Brown dress shoes are not generally recommended for formal morning dress attire, or formal evening dress, such as white or black-tie events. However, anyone who works in a structured office environment will find a far better use for a pair of brown dress shoes rather than with plain black oxfords.

What to wear with brown dress shoes

Both dark and light grey suits work equally well with brown shoes. If opting for a dark grey suit, darker shades of brown are best, while lighter-grey shades such as light charcoal or ivory work better with light brown or tan colored dress shoes.

Be sure to only opt for a blue suit, of any shade, if you're sure that you want to stand out. The result of pairing a light brown style such as wing-tipped or tasseled Derby with a sky-blue suit and a neutral shirt is striking. Navy is a safe bet when it comes to brown shoes. Navy suits pair well with almost any shade of brown.

Types of Men's Dress Shoes in Brown

There are few brown men's shoe styles that are not suited to formal wear. This being said, there are specific dress shoe designs that work better than others. Here are the best dress shoe types matched to formal attire:


•Capped-toe styles


•Wing-tipped Derby’s

•Formal pumps

•Double-monk straps dress shoes

Casual combinations for brown dress shoes

Light-brown dress shoes pair surprisingly well with dark-colored jeans, but only when you accentuate that same shade of brown with a jacket of the same color. The rustic style is excellent, especially when wearing a neutral-colored T-shirt. White works very well, although any earthy tone such as light green, grey, or even soft colors such as plum or pink can create stunning results as well.

Dark brown dress shoes are also a good match for black pants, with the elegant appeal being highlighted even more through the addition of a brown hat and/or a watch with a thick leather strap. A casual appeal can be had with any brown shoe which doesn't carry too high of a shine. Change up the color of your laces to create a pairing between your choice of color and your shoes.

Top casual brown dress shoe styles

The No. 1 rule applying to brown casual dress shoes is to choose a pair that doesn't have a high-gloss shine. Similarly, you should be looking for single-color designs with a minimal amount of patterning and embellishments. Here are some brown dress shoe designs which work best for a men's casual wardrobe:

•Slip-on loafers

•Suede designs

•Single monk-strap dress shoes

•Plain-toe derby’s

•Solid-color styles

•Dress boots

Essential style factors

Brown is not a color that you can wear with every item of your wardrobe. It needs to be integrated into your other items of clothing. If you're wearing brown shoes, always make sure your belt is a match for both the color and tone. It doesn’t have to be exact, but it should be close.

When wearing brown dress shoes as a pairing to the color of your jacket, be sure to keep the color of your shirt neutral. It's tough to match vivid colors with brown shoes, especially in the case of casual wear, unless you repeat the color through the use of a matching hat. If you're undecided over which shade of brown to choose for any given formal suit, then go for the shade which is darker than your pants. In most cases, you can’t go wrong.

Elegance, versatility, and sophistication

A final word on what socks to wear with your brown shoes. That last stylish element is going to be determined by the rest of your outfit and more importantly, the color of your trousers. Variants of blues, contrasting browns, burgundy, and greens are attractive men's dress sock options contrasted with your stunning brown dress shoes.

When one looks at the long-term possibilities of a good pair of brown shoes, the styling options are nearly endless. A high-quality pair of brown leather dress shoes can even go through a process known as a patina, whereby an artistic coloring is given to either new or aged shoes. This brings out the neutral colors and creates a unique contrast, accentuating what is already there. Many high-end brands even incorporate this process into their craftsmanship to deliver superior designs, perfect for upmarket events, formal occasions, and style in the workplace.

On the other end of the spectrum, single-colored brown dress shoes can suit both casual and formal attire very well, making them supremely versatile. Every men's wardrobe needs a good pair of black Oxfords, but a few varying shades of stylish brown dress shoes will serve you even better.

In Essence

Brown provides incredible versatility as a color and the range of shades is remarkable. They range from lighter shades such as khaki through russet to dark brown via shades such as red-brown and chocolate brown which tends towards orange. It makes it entirely possible to wear a variety of these earth tones as a single, striking coordinated outfit and have the overall look stand out in all the best ways.

Dark brown shoes are in general more appropriate to formal events such as a business meeting or weddings, but so too are darker shoes that have a dark red hue. Conventional wisdom is that the closer a shoe color is to black the more suitable it is to formal occasions. Lighter brown shoes run to dressing in a more casual style.

Perhaps the greatest pairing is dark navy chinos and dark brown shoes. Almost without fail navy and dark brown go together. Think dark brown Oxfords, dark navy pants, and a brown shirt one shade lighter than the shoes, all held together by a belt of the same color as the shoes, and you have an image of casual sartorial elegance. A white shirt too would look exquisite.

Extra interest can be added to brown suits by using two-tone leather dress shoes.  This is a great way of enhancing the whole look but is less true of other color suits such as a grey suit. 

When choosing what brown shoe to wear make sure that the intensity of the shoe color matches the color of the clothes. A lighter green or blue goes with a lighter shade of brown and similarly more saturated, darker colors call for a darker brown.

As a side note, changing shoelaces can sometimes provide a striking visual effect just by introducing a different accent color. It would even be possible to change the eyelets to add yet another accent. These modifications are yet another possible variation. With black shoes, these ideas don’t really work, so this shows just how versatile the brown shoe is.

In contrast to several decades ago, brown is now more than acceptable. It is even desirable. Every closet should contain at least two pairs of brown shoes alongside some black shoes. A pair of brown oxfords, perhaps, with a pair of brown loafers or sandals is the mark of a well-prepared man. There would be nothing wrong with adding a good pair of brown boots into the mix as well.

Other than black-tie affairs there is really nowhere that a pair of brown shoes can be considered out of place. This is a huge change from the days before Edward, Prince of Wales and later King Edward VIII upended accepted fashion sense and directed people’s attention to the fantastic possibilities of brown footwear.

Last Updated on February 14, 2022 by admin_comfortabledressshoes