Should your belt match your shoes?

Should your belt match your shoes?

Q. While wearing a traditional navy blue blazer, gray flannel slacks, and cordovan or brown shoes, what is the proper belt color, brown or black? Must the belt match the shoes? Thank you for your response.

A. I see why you are having difficulty answering this question; it’s because of your choice of shoes. The more usual choice to go with a navy blazer and gray trousers would be black shoes. But, because you have decided on brown or cordovan (reddish-brown), you have created somewhat of a problem.

There are a few possible reasons for your choice. Your brown or cordovan shoes may be favorites of yours, either because of their looks or their comfort. Or, you may be one of those men who avoids black shoes because you think of them as a bit too serious and dressy. (They are the dressiest color for men’s shoes.) On the other hand, you may just prefer to wear shoes in the brown family because they are a bit unexpected, to stand out. Wearing brown shoes, instead of black, with blue or gray clothing is something that many sharp dressers like to do. 

Cordovan color shoes are widely considered the ideal/logical answer for what to wear with the traditional pairing of a navy blazer and khaki pants. Certainly, I am happy to note that you did not ask about the possibility of wearing either gray or navy shoes to repeat the color of the trousers or the blazer. Except when dressing super informally in colorful, fun moccasins or boat shoes, these colors are not something that a well-dressed man would wear.

So, to return to your question: the belt should match or tie-in-with something else in your attire. As you noted, most how-to-dress advice suggests that a man’s belt should be in the same color family as his shoes, though they need not match exactly. I think that a black belt would look wrong, and I lean towards a good-looking belt in some shade of brown.

Alternately, how about a departure/escape from tradition altogether? If you decide on a pair of braces (suspenders) rather than a belt, you can choose a stripe or a pattern and avoid having to choose between a black or brown belt (but any leather trim should be brown).

If you’re wondering how to finish your combination for a polished effect, consider a classic shirt in solid white, light blue, or pale yellow. (Skip interesting patterns and bold stripes.) Most blue ties will work well. Or, to complete the mix: with brown shoes, consider a tie with a small red-and-yellow pattern; but if your shoes are cordovan, I’d recommend repeating the reddish shade with a tie or sweater vest in burgundy. Since your jacket, trousers, and shoes are slightly offbeat (yes, they really are not a traditional combination), you don’t want to choose accessories that are unusual or eye-catching in any way. Your aim should be to look cool and sophisticated, not overdressed.  

Categories: Male Call