Formal Dressing 101: How to Pair your Suits and Shoes the right way


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“Dressing a man isn’t rocket science. It’s easier than pie,” says popular opinion.

At face value, it seems true. Like how hard can it be?

Very hard apparently given the number of fashion flops that assault our eyes on a quotidian basis.

Today, we start on the issue of shoes.

Pairing Suits and Shoes

There’s more to footwear than picking between Oxfords, Brogues, Loafers or Monkstraps. The real problem lies in pairing the right shoe color to the right outfit color- or in this case, to the right suit color.

The good news is there is a method to this madness of suit-shoe pairing. And the bad news? Your trusty, all-weather black shoe won’t work for all suit colors.

Navy Suit

We start off with navy, the most versatile of suits. One can hardly go wrong with navy as it complements virtually every skin tone.

This shade of blue goes beautifully with those aforementioned trusty black shoes, burgundy shoes, tan shoes and all shades of brown shoes (depending on the statement you want to make).

The reason for this versatility is because touches of black, burgundy and brown blend in effortlessly with large amounts of blue without being too distracting.

Pairing Suits and Shoes

Given its ease of color coordination, navy suits are the safest options for attending a job interview as they help give one a certain air of levelheadedness which the interviewers subconsciously pick up on.

For a more contemporary look, navy suits can be paired with white or off-white canvas kicks.

Black Suits

Pairing Suits and Shoes

The first stingy suit color on our list. Contrary to popular opinion, black doesn’t go with everything. The only thing that works well with a black suit is a pair of black shoes.

Unless one is going for a sprezzatura look, burgundy and brown shoes with a black suit are an absolute no as they produce a decidedly brash effect.

Black suits should also be reserved for extremely formal occasions, black tie parties or funerals.


Charcoal Grey Suits

Pairing Suits and Shoes

Grey suits are less formal that navy and black suits but have an appreciable amount of options when it comes to appropriate shoe colors.

Charcoal grey suits go better with black and burgundy shoes, with the former creating a more formal look and the latter giving a more relaxed (but still classy) look.

Brown shoes shouldn’t be worn with charcoal grey suits as the contrast created between the two is too stark and distracting.


Light Grey Suits

Pairing Suits and Shoes

Light and medium grey suits have as much versatility as navy blue suits. Their uncharacteristic light color makes them a bit unsuited for the traditional or strict business setting.

Pairing Suits and Shoes

However, they can be worn in relaxed office settings. While black shoes will give your medium grey suit a more serious and formal look, burgundy and brown shoes, especially when worn with a patterned shirt, will project a relaxed but dapper air.


Brown Suits

Pairing Suits and Shoes

Brown has a pride of place as our second stingy color. Although brown suits can go with burgundy shoes, a brown-brown combination is always best.

Some people might cringe at the thought of an all brown ensemble, the rule of thumb that gives a brown suit a very trendy air is to combine it with brown shoes of a darker shade.


Because it provides a clear contrast and prevents the eyes from being drawn downwards. The whole outfit would look odd if both browns appear identical.

Brown suits are traditionally worn in academic circles and casual settings but sometimes the rules can be bent.


Cream/Beige Suits

Pairing Suits and Shoes

This chichi suit color is more temperamental than you’d ever imagine and definitely not for the faint of heart.

As they are neutral colours, there is a common misconception that just like black they go with anything.


With neutral suits, the trick is to find colors that are different enough to cause a contrast but similar enough to complement its earthiness. A yin-yang sort of thing if you will.

That being said, light brown and tan shoes make for a perfect marriage especially if you’re gunning for a bougie Italo vibe.

Pairing Suits and Shoes

Black or white shoes can go too. Shoes in some shades of blue can work with this shoe shade particularly in summer which is coincidentally the best time to wear neutral shoes.


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