Footwear rules that’ll make you a fashion “shoe-in”

Footwear rules that’ll make you a fashion “shoe-in”

Q I’ve always been told that men should not wear brown shoes with a blue or a black suit, that you should wear only black shoes. Yet I see a lot of guys wearing brown shoes with them. Which is right?

A I give it a split decision. My first response is never wear brown shoes with a black suit. But the answer to whether brown shoes can go with a blue or gray suit depends on a few elements — color rules, occasion, and personality.

COLOR RULES: The usual rule is there are only three acceptable men’s dress shoe colors: black, brown, and a variation of brown called cordovan. Cordovan has a hint of red in it, but is not as red as burgundy.

A widely accepted element of dressing well is repeating colors in at least two items in your combination. Traditionally, black shoes go with clothes in the gray/black and also in the blue family; brown shoes go with clothes in the brown family.

These are your safest, most appropriate choices, guaranteed to be correct. This opens the door to why black, rather than navy, shoes go with clothes in the blue family. The honest answer comes under that strange category of some things are true just because they are and with no logical explanation. The answer veers from the usual color coordination rules: quite simply, no well-dressed man ever wears dress shoes in any shade of blue. (Apologies to Elvis.) Another possible reason may be that navy blue is “nearly black.” A common question is, “What color shoes do I wear with the weekend mix of navy blazer and khaki trousers?” Cordovan is the answer.

DRESSING FOR THE OCCASION: For all important events, it is more professional and more formal to wear black shoes with your navy or gray suits than any creative variation. The best business advice is never, ever, go to a job interview wearing anything other than a pair of black shoes with a navy or gray suit, and a white or very light blue shirt. No matter how much you may think of yourself as an inventive dresser, professional attire should be more of a consistent “uniform” rather than an expression of your personality. Getting the job and projecting that you are a team player are your immediate goals, not impressing the interviewer with your off-beat individuality.

Besides matching and repeating colors, shoe color choice is also about balancing the degree of elegance or formality of your combination with the event you are attending (which explains why brown shoes are much more commonly worn than black with casual weekend clothes).

THE PERSONALITY OF THE WEARER: If you see a guy who’s not a particularly great dresser wearing brown shoes with a blue suit, most often it’s because he does not know much about dressing and what goes with what. But, occasionally, you will see a truly knowledgeable, sharp dresser wearing highly polished brown dress shoes with a gray or blue suit.

For some reason, it is immediately apparent that he selected them on purpose. The man who knowingly pairs a brown shoe with a gray flannel or a navy suit displays his ability to use color with sophistication. His unexpected choice contrasts beautifully and looks great. Even so, keep in mind that this is more of a creative way of dressing, best reserved for the self-confident guy and the social event he is heading to.

The good news is if you are thinking this much about it, you probably are making wise choices. This is especially true if you follow my sage advice!

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