There are some eternal debates that are difficult to settle. Beatles or Stones? Paper or plastic? Liberal or conservative?
Perhaps most importantly, black or brown shoes?
While there’s space in any well-stocked closet for both, we at Bespoke Unit are strongly in the brown shoe camp. Sure, black shoes offer formality, sobriety, and sleekness. But brown shoes can offer similar formality with superior style.
If we think about this in terms of color theory, we understand that brown is the combination of all the colors on the spectrum, whereas black is the absence of light. As color is always more interesting than its absence, brown shoes will enhance nearly any trouser it’s paired with in a way that black ones don’t. Brown shoes also take on a wonderful set of highs and lows in the leather, and a patina forms over time that lends richness and character. Black shoes simply can’t compete in this department.
As you will see below, brown shoes are much more versatile than you might think. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on dark brown shoes, meaning anything from a tobacco color and darker.
A good rule of thumb is to keep the shade of brown shoe similar to the shade of trouser you’re wearing, with one ironic exception. Keep dark navy with dark brown, light grey with light brown, etc.
NOTE: There are exceptions to every rule.
Use your good judgement, and feel free to leave us a comment if you have questions!
Read on for full explanations and reasoning of the above coordination suggestions. Or, click here to go see our Ultimate Shoe & Trouser Color Coordination Matrix showcasing how to match any color shoes with any color trousers.
How To Coordinate Dark Brown Shoes With Different Trousers
Best Trouser Matches
Dark brown shoes with navy trousers is one of the best combinations in the history of combining things. You can truly see the blue of the trouser come out, and the highs and lows in the leather begin to shine. Dark brown suede shoes can also be a lovely option here.
While it’s common to pair charcoal grey trousers with black shoes, a smarter way to go is with a dark brown. Your charcoal trousers will come to life in a way that you wouldn’t expect, and you’ll stand out in a positive way.
Olive trousers are Earth-toned, so dark brown shoes are your best complement. This holds particularly true in a business setting, but you can also have some fun like you see in the picture above. Purple socks and monk straps will jazz up any ensemble!
Tan is really just a light shade of brown, so it stands to reason that you would want to wear brown shoes with them. Choosing dark brown shoes will provide you with a nice level of contrast while keeping you in the same color family.
A pair of dark, sleek jeans is a smash hit with some beautiful dark brown shoes. Wear something like this out to dinner with friends or on a date. A bright pair of socks won’t hurt, either.
Acceptable Trouser Matches
These combinations will work but may be better enhanced with a different shade of brown.
While we’d typically opt for a light brown shoe with a light grey trouser, a dark brown shoe will work.
Again, we would more often opt for a light brown shoe here. Dark brown is still acceptable, however.
A medium blue trouser and a dark brown shoe never hurt anyone. That said, darker blue (like navy) would be a better pairing with dark brown shoes.
While a light tan is a more harmonious complement, dark brown shoes can work with a pair of Nantucket reds.
Unless you’re a miracle worker or a UPS employee, don’t make these color combinations. No offense to UPS employees, we understand it’s a dress code thing.
Dark brown shoes pair as well with black pants as Honey Nut Cheerios pair with, say, buffalo sauce. Neither make sense, and both will make your stomach turn.
Interestingly, we don’t want to wear dark brown shoes with dark brown trousers. There’s not enough color contrast to be interesting, and we suggest wearing a lighter brown or tan shoe instead to break up the look.
Links To Other Shoe & Trouser Coordination Resources
Shoe & Trouser Master Coordination Matrix – FREE Download