Brown dress shoes
June 16, 2023

The Best Colours to Wear with Brown Shoes

Brown Shoes At a Glance

There are no official rules of fashion. Yet, there are many unwritten rules when it comes to menswear, especially where footwear is involved. While most men might be familiar with the rules surrounding the classic black shoe, that might not be the case with increasingly popular alternatives like brown shoes. Read on to find out how to properly style your brown shoes!


Things to Avoid

three things to avoid with brown shoes

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  1. Do not wear a black suit with brown shoes
  2. Do not wear brown shoes to white tie or black tie occasions 
  3. Do not wear pants and shoes of the same shade


General Principles

  1. Ensure that there is only one main ‘pop’ of colour in your outfit. If you want to wear a red shirt with brown shoes, go with a subtle colour for the pants (Eg. grey or charcoal).
  2. When in doubt, go with a Chino! Chino pants are more formal than jeans but not as stiff as dress pants, and provide a good match with virtually every type of brown shoes. You can try something less conventional, such as grey chinos, which look best with darker shades of brown, or a forest green one, with the earthly green shade complementing brown shoes nicely.

    Brown shoes with chino pants (forest green, white and grey)Image Credit via Pinterest

  3. Keep Contrast in Mind: The more your shoes contrast your clothing the better (without being excessive). When you can’t decide between two shoes of different brown shades, place them right beside your clothing. The one with the greater contrast is the one you should pick!
  4. Try to keep the colour of the belt the same as the shoe (as much as possible). When you are in a rush and don’t have a matching belt – try wearing suspenders!

Specific Style Tips 

1. Dress Code


Formal suits with brown shoes (navy, forest green or off-white suits)

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For more formal occasions, brown shoes of darker shades (Eg. walnut or mahogany) are preferred for their subtlety. Specifically, brown shoes are best suited for business casual or even smart casual outfits. The slight pop of colour is a nice fun break from the classic black look, while still retaining some semblance of elegance. A trending style option is to pair brown dress shoes with navy, forest green or off-white suits. 
However, it is still important to note that for more formal events, nothing can trump the sophistication and sharp look that a black dress shoe is able to provide.


Semi-formal (Coordinating Separates)

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As for semi-formal occasions, an interesting way of ensuring that you do not overdress is the use of coordinating separates. Coordinating separates involves wearing dress pants and a suit jacket that is not part of the same suit but still complements each other. Brown dress shoes, in particular, are perfect for coordinating separates. 
Here are a few styling options that you can try out: 
  • Khaki-coloured trousers with a navy blazer and dark brown penny loafers
  • Chino pants with a brown coat and dark brown tassel loafers
  • Brown shoes are acceptable with Brown and Black Separates (with the Pants being the piece that is black in colour)


2. Styling from the Top Down

 Styling Brown Shoes Summary

Black shirt with Brown shoes

outfits with a black shirt and brown shoes

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Outfits with a black shirt work best for a dressy evening or a smart-casual setting. 
A matching pair of pants can then be selected according to the desired contrast. For a more formal outfit, go for one with low contrast – pair your black shirt with a pair of dark brown shoes and charcoal or navy pants. Alternatively, an outfit with high contrast can be worn: The black shirt will match well with dark brown shoes and grey or khaki pants as well.

Grey Shirt With Brown Shoes

Outfits with Grey shirt and Brown shoes

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The more professional the setting, the more likely a lighter grey shirt would be the more appropriate choice when wearing brown shoes. In comparison, Charcoal shirts are typically more suited to more smart-casual environments, similar to how black shirts are. 
Again, when it comes to selecting the pants, it is a matter of contrast. For the more casual charcoal shirt, a high-contrast outfit can be achieved with khaki pants and chestnut brown shoes. Similarly, the lighter grey shirt can be paired with darker-coloured pants (Eg. forest green and navy) and chestnut brown shoes to form the perfect outdoor outfit.


Forest Green Shirt With Brown Shoes

Outfits with forest green and brown shoes

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Given the versatility of forest green as a neutral colour, it is suitable for most formal and smart casual events.  
Also, as mentioned previously, a low-contrast outfit will be more appropriate for a formal setting. Thus, the forest green shirt can be paired with a pair of charcoal pants and dark brown shoes for formal events. As for a more contrasting outfit, the forest green shirt can be worn with khaki pants and dark brown shoes. Alternatively, a pair of khaki shorts will also do.

Blue Shirt With Brown Shoes

outfits with blue shirt and brown shoes

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Like the forest green shirt, outfits with blue shirts are also suitable for formal and smart casual settings. While light blue shirts are more subtle and thus more suited to formal and professional events, navy and other dark shades of blue are more appropriate for smart-casual ones.


A possible formal outfit would be pairing the light blue shirt with grey pants and dark brown shoes. But, that’s not to say that the light blue shirt cannot be worn more casually. Try wearing a more uncommon colour (Eg. forest green) for a fun, casual look. As for the navy blue shirt, khaki pants and dark brown tassel loafers make a good combination to try out.


Pink Shirt With Brown Shoes

Outfits with pink shirts and brown shoes

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A pink shirt has become an ever-popular option for men everywhere. Still, for business-casual and professional settings, it is best to stick to lighter shades of pink which are seen as more appropriate. Similar to the black and charcoal shirts, darker shades of pink (Eg. salmon) should be saved for smart-casual occasions.


Even in its more muted variation, a pink shirt is typically the focus of any outfit. Stick to neutral-coloured pants (Eg. khaki) to avoid any colour overkill or colour clash. 


Red Shirt With Brown Shoes

outfits with red shirt and brown shoes

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Red is a bright and bold shirt colour, which will naturally grab all the attention – A fun option for a semi-formal or casual outing. But, this also means that the pants and the brown shoes worn alongside the red shirt need to be subtle and understated to let the red take centre stage. A neutral pants colour such as khaki or black will work well here. 

White Shirt With Brown Shoes

outfits with a white shirt and brown shoes

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A white dress shirt is by far the safest option on the list. After all, white is the most versatile shirt colour, to the point it runs the risk of underdressing. 
While white is neutral enough to wear with all the pants colours discussed above, do remember to consider the amount of contrast and the dress code when finalising what pants colour and shade of brown shoes to wear!

3. The Devil is in the Details (Accessorise Accordingly)

It is a generally accepted rule that the colour of all leather accessories should match. This means that the colour of your belt, watch strap and suspenders (leather button strap) should be an exact match of your brown dress shoes!


Brown Shoes through the Seasons

Arden Teal Brown Shoes


A pair of brown shoes can also be styled according to the seasons. Chestnut and other lighter shades are perfect for the warmer months of summer and spring. As for winter, wearing darker shoes would look great as well. Regardless, the warm brown hues will be a stylish accent to any outfit you might wear year-round.