The Men’s Guide to Wearing Black vs. Brown Shoes (Watch Video)

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Do you have trouble deciding which color dress shoes to wear and when? Is there a better-colored shoe to wear and is it more appropriate for a certain occasion?

The most popular colors of dress shoes are your black and brown shoes. Most of us have both options in our closet but have a hard time deciding which color shirt or pant goes with black or brown shoes. And if you didn’t know, there happens to be a lot of shades of brown when it comes to shoes! There is tan, cognac, chestnut, chocolate. When it comes to black, there is only black.

So, if I’m stuck, I’m typically going to choose the easier option and wear black. It’s easy to make black your default. However, is that the correct option? The more we research and think about it, probably not!

In this post, I will share with you some important things to keep in mind on when to wear black vs brown shoes.

One Black Shoe and One Brown Shoe


Rules for Wearing Black Shoes

Black Shoes

Black is a color that symbolizes power. It makes anything with this color look serious and solemn. And there are occasions and events where you will need to go with shoes in this color, so in this section I will be sharing with you some important rules on when to wear black shoes.

Rule # 1 – If You Need to Be Formal

Undoubtedly, black is the most formal of all the shoe colors out there. If you pair it with anything whose color looks lively, it almost cancels out the liveliness the other color brings. So if you need to look formal, your best bet would be to pair your outfit with black shoes.

A shoe in this color is always going to be more formal than your brown ones.

Rule #2 – Pair Your Black Shoes with Dark Suits

Black shoes should be paired with your darker suits in colors such as black, charcoal grey, and midnight navy. Certain dress codes, such as a black-tie, also require black shoes. Pairing it with outfits that are lighter in color will definitely make you look incoherent.

Rule #3 – If You Need to Be Taken Seriously

Black dress shoes are to be worn when you want to be taken seriously. They’re to be worn when the stakes are high!

Weddings, funerals, job interviews, or any type of business situation are a few instances when it’s appropriate to wear that black dress shoe.

Because black as a color gives off a vibe that is authoritative, intimidating, and devoid of humor, wearing black shoes in situations that call for a sense of formality will be your best choice. A man in black always look like someone who is not to be messed with!

Rule #4 – Never Do Black Shoes When…  

Sometimes, wearing your black dress shoes may also be inappropriate. If you are wearing a lighter color or brighter color, then black is not going to be your choice because the contrast difference will be too extreme causing strain on the eyes. You might get some looks, and not the good kind!

Since black is known for being more elegant and those lighter colors are more commonly used for casual looks, it can be a bit confusing to those you come in contact with.

Pairing a pair of black shoes with a blue seersucker suit is just not going to look right!

And then there are jeans! Jeans are casual which means black shoes are not the more fitting option. Never wear black shoes with jeans. We’ve seen some guys pull off black shoes with jeans, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Man wearing a black suit



Rules for Wearing Brown Shoes

Brown Shoes

While browns go well when paired with most other color, it is important to remember that this color comes in many different shades, and some varieties may look better with specific colors and styles of clothing than the other varieties. When it comes to dress shoes in this color, there are things that you should keep in mind when deciding when to wear brown shoes.

Rule #1 – Brown Shoes Aren’t As Formal

Brown shoes are never going to be as formal as black shoes which give brown the advantage of having more options when it comes to the casual side of dressing. They can be a great choice for more relaxed or business casual attire. However, it’s still important to consider the occasion and the overall look you’re trying to achieve.

Rule #2 – Are black or brown shoes more versatile?brown shoes and accessories with blue jeans

You can mix brown shoes with countless pants and shirt fabrics ultimately making brown shoes more versatile. Not only can you pair them with pant colors such as khaki or navy, but they also work well with different shirt patterns and fabrics.

Rule #3 – What color do you wear brown shoes with?

It’s best to wear brown shoes with blue jeans and any standard chinos such as your tans, olives, greens, and navy! Brown shoes look great with navy, light grey, greens, browns, anything neutral, or anything with earthy tones.

Rule #4 – Shade Matters

Dark brown will be your most formal shade of brown which would be your choice for a wedding or formal event that doesn’t require a black tie. Medium shades of brown shoes can allow you to be dressed up for work or dressed down for the weekend.

Tan is going to be your most casual shade of brown.

Rule #5 – The Most Important Rule for Brown Shoes

Can you wear brown shoes with black? Brown shoes are never to be worn with black. This means no tuxedos or black suits. This is really the only rule for the brown shoe.


Brown Shoes with brown accessories

How to Know Which Shoes You Need

What Clothes Do You Own?

Ask yourself this: When you look into your closet, do you see a bunch of dark clothes, a ton of lighter color clothes, or an easy mixture?

If it’s hard to tell, categorize your closet by darks and lights and see which section is bigger. This will help you become more aware of what your style is – ultimately helping you understand the right shoes.

You can use this guide to choose a good shoe color. For example, if you wear a lot of run pastels, a light brown should work great. If you mostly wear dark grays, you’ll probably want to invest in another couple of pairs of black dress shoes.

Black VS Brown Shoes Graphic

We hope you found these tips on whether to wear black or brown dress shoes helpful! At last, we decide what we want to wear and when. You choose what you think looks best and you never know… maybe you’ll start a new trend!


Erin @ Wardrobe Hackers

Erin @ Wardrobe Hackers

Content Creator for Wardrobe Hackers

Erin is a fashion enthusiast, all-around craftsy girl, marketer, and devoted mom. She’s been with Wardrobe Hackers since day 1, as the author and “star” of our very first blog post and Youtube video. Before joining Wardrobe Hackers, Erin had her own custom wreath-making business (Front Door Décor) and prior to that, she managed key accounts with Enterprise. She lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband, two young girls and a beagle that sheds (a lot!).


  1. Toby Ryan

    Thanks for explaining how brown shoes tend to be more casual and allow you to wear a variety of different kinds of clothes with them. My brother is thinking about getting some shoes so that he can make a good impression at his new job, but he needs to find some that will allow him to jog home comfortably. He should consider getting some brown shoes for their versatility.

  2. RD

    Thanks for the tutorial…it reinforced what I was taught..


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