How To Wear Brown Shoes

How to Wear Brown Shoes & Boots

When I am out and about, men often ask me when to wear black or brown shoes. Regularly, sayings such as “no brown in town” or “no brown after six” are mentioned, when in fact things are quite different from when these rules were invented. Hence, I’d like to elaborate on when and how to wear brown shoes and highlight how you can combine them with socks and pants.

To understand the basics of Brown Shoes, make sure to:

  1. Watch the Video
  2. Read the article
  3. Check out the infographic at the bottom
  4. Download the free pdf pocket guide & cheat sheet here

History & Evolution of the Rules

If we go back in menswear history, we find that Beau Brummell (1778 – 1840) liked his black, champagne polished boots for town wear. Subsequently, leading arbiters such as Comte d’Orsay (1801 – 1852), Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871), Honoré de Balzac (1799 – 1850), Barbey d’Aurevilly (1808 – 1889), and Edward VII (1841 – 1910) followed his example and wore black footwear for formal occasions and in town. During this period, rules along the lines of “no brown in town” or “no brown after six” were very much respected, and ensured people were socially accepted.

Beau Brummel in black boots

Beau Brummel in black boots


By the 1930’s, Edward the Prince of Wales had relaxed some menswear rules, leading to softer materials and bolder colors. He also was a supporter of brown slip-on Spectators shoes and brown shoes in general. By the 1950’s, even English clothing guides such as Clothes and the Man by Sydney D. Barney advised: “Business and Day wear in town: a lounge jacket with matching waistcoat and trousers with footwear in black or brown, according to the suit.” In this context Barney declares, “Brown shoes with a dark blue suit are undesirable.”

On the other hand, evening dress was still rather formalized; Full Evening Dress with white tie and Dinner Dress both demanded black shoes.

So, you can see, by the 1950’s, the “no brown in town” rule was no longer valid, although black was still the color for evenings.

Three Neapolitans - Three Single Breasted Navy Jackets

Three Neapolitans – Three different pairs of brown shoes

Today, dress codes are much more relaxed than they were in the fifties, and if you wear a well-cut suit, you are likely to be more well dressed than 90% of the people around you. Even if you wear brown country boots to a restaurant for dinner, chances are that your shoes are still more elegant than many other men — unless it is a respected establishment with a dress code. Most of the debonair Italians I know wear only black footwear for funerals, weddings, and formal evening events. Otherwise, they prefer brown in varying shades – especially when paired with blue suits. In Britain black is often associated with business — although in my experience this is only true for a select circle. I noticed most men in England do not wear black shoes only for business, and if you walk on the streets in London, chances are you will find fewer well-dressed people than in Milan.

Just to be clear: Today, you can wear brown shoes in the evening and in town. Of course, a light tan may not be the best option for the evening, and a tuxedo goes best with black…

Wingtip Oxford Shoe with houndstooth bespoke suit

Wingtip Oxford Shoe with houndstooth bespoke suit

When to Wear Brown Shoes

Brown shoes can be worn with almost anything, ranging from jeans to cavalry twill and corduroy to flannel, worsteds and tweed. Unlike black, brown comes in an endless variety of shades allowing you to create a distinguished shoe collection that is unique. Here are a few guidelines that you can adapt as you please – just take a look in the mirror and use your sense of style.

1. Business Suits

For 3-piece or 2-piece business suits, in the following colors, in solid worsteds or flannels, pinstripes or faint windowpanes or Prince of Wales Checks:

  • Black: Wear black shoes and avoid brown.
  • Charcoal Grey: I prefer black over any form of brown. Maybe dark brown can work, but avoid tan.
  • Mid Grey: Black works but particularly dark brown or cherry is a suitable color. Avoid tan.
  • Dark Navy: Black works well but cordovan, tan and dark brown can look magnificent and dashing. Of course, you will stand out visually with light tan shoes and a navy suit – something to bear in mind.
  • Light Navy:  Black often looks better than brown in my opinion, but it really depends on the cloth. With pinstripes, I prefer to wear black shoes and never brown.
  • Dark Brown: Pair it with brown shoes and skip black altogether.
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Since a 3-piece suit is more formal than a 2-piece suit I have a tendency to wear black shoes more often with them than brown shoes.
    • If you wear a contrasting double-breasted waistcoat in dove grey or buff, go with black shoes as it is a similar ensemble to the formal stroller suit.
    • If you want to play it safe, always choose a shade of brown that is darker than your suit color.
    • Of course, if you are confident enough, you can pair lighter shoe colors with dark suits, but be aware that you will gather more attention that way.
    • Black remains the #1 color for business – so if you’re unsure, stick with black, and if you invest in your first pair of business shoes, go with a black captoe Oxford shoe.
    • If you wear belts, try to match the color of the shoe to the belt. Since there are so many shades of brown, it doesn’t have to be made of the same leather or the same color, just try to match it as closely as possible. If you wear suspenders, you won’t have to worry about this at all!

2. Casual Suits

Bolder patterns, material blends or brushed cotton, corduroy, etc.:

  • Green: Brown every time. I have no particular preference and combine it with all shades. Avoid black.
  • Khaki: Dark browns work well. Avoid black.
  • Tan: Cordovan, cheery and mid brown are great. Avoid black.
  • White/Off White:   I love to wear brown and white spectators with it, but dark brown, mid-brown or reddish brown works too.
  • Brown: Pair it with brown shoes and skip black altogether.

3. Sport Coat / Odd Jacket – Trouser Combination

Fresco, Tweed, Thornproof, Cheviot, Donegal, Flannel, Worsted, Corduroy, Velvet, Cotton, Linen, Gabardine:

  • Black: With black corduroy, I like to wear tan boots.
  • Charcoal Grey: I prefer black over any form of brown. Dark brown can work, but avoid tan.
  • Mid Grey: Black works but especially dark brown or cherry is a good color. Avoid tan.
  • Blue: I wear all kinds of brown with blue colors – cordovan, tan and dark brown can look magnificent and dashing. Of course, you will gather more attention with a light tan shoe – something to bear in mind.
  • Denim: Basically, all kinds of brown work well. I like tan and cordovan oxblood very much.
Chocolate brown half brogue oxford by Antonio Pio Mele

Chocolate brown half brogue oxford by Antonio Pio Mele

  • Red:   I wear all shades of brown, except reddish brown. Dark brown and tan are probably my favorite.
  • Green: Brown every time. I have no particular preference and combine it with all shades. Avoid black.
  • Khaki: Dark browns work well. Avoid black.
  • Tan: Cordovan, cherry and mid brown are great. Avoid black.
  • White / Off White:   I love to wear brown white spectators with it, but dark brown, mid brown or reddish brown works too.
  • Brown: Brown only.
  • Dark Brown: Tan is my favorite for dark brown.
  • Miscellaneous: Brown is the best shoe and boot color for sport coats and contrasting trousers. Sometimes you also see boots or shoes with fabric inserts, which can be quite stylish.
Tweed boot

Tweed boot

When not to wear brown shoes

If you wear formal morning dress (morning coat or stroller) or formal evening dress (white tie or black tie) you should not wear brown shoes – go with black. The exception for this exception could be a tuxedo in brown, as worn by Noël Coward, Nick Foulkes, or Lapo Elkann. In that case, a pair of matching velvet slippers could be an option, but that’s only for the very advanced clothes horse.

Don’t wear brown shoes with black suits.

Some would argue that you should not wear brown shoes to the opera. However, if you look at the general dress code at operas today, you will likely be more well dressed in a brown pair of shoes than the other attendees.

How to Combine Brown Shoes with Socks

Brown half brogue shoe with shadow stripe socks in blue & red with navy chalk stripe suit

Brown half brogue shoe with shadow stripe socks in blue & red with navy chalk stripe suit

A navy chalk stripe worsted suit is paired with chestnut brown calf leather brogue. This illustration is from the thirties and obviously, they wore dark suits with brown shoes even then. Moreover, they already had these beautiful shadow stripe socks in blue and red that can be worn with all kinds of navy suits. Alternatively, blue socks with clocks or blue stripes are a more subtle alternative.


Brown Oxford with patterns socks and pinpoint trousers

Brown Oxford with patterns socks and pinpoint trousers

Chinos paired with burgundy striped socks and mid-brown suede Derby shoes is unusual yet great. Of course, you can always mix up the look of the shoes with some shoelaces.

Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks in Burgundy & light grey paired with brown suede Derby shoes

Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks in Burgundy & light grey paired with brown suede Derby shoes

Light grey just looks better with black than with brown.

Chukka boot with rubber sole, yellow socks, and green trousers

Chukka boot with rubber sole, yellow socks, and green trousers

Green pants are great for mid brown suede shoes or boots — here the ensemble is brightened up with some yellow.

Dark brown Norwegian shoe with orange socks and patterned pants

Dark brown Norwegian shoe with orange socks and patterned pants

These checked pants are made of Shetland and they pair well with the rust-orange, over-the-calf socks and chocolate brown Norwegian shoes with with crepe soles.

Brown derby shoes with thornproof tweed and patterned socks

Brown derby shoes with thornproof tweed and patterned socks

The solid brown blucher or derby is a wardrobe staple because it pairs with almost every kind of informal outfit.

Mid brown monk strap shoe with green socks and classic prince of wales suit

Mid brown monk strap shoe with green socks and classic Prince of Wales suit

Here, a classic Prince of Wales suit is combined with a mid-brown monk strap shoe and green socks. Blue would work just as well, and perhaps even a combination of green & purple.

Brown oxford shoe with mid brown suit and purple socks

Brown Oxford shoe with mid brown suit and purple socks

This mid-brown herringbone suit pairs well with a mid-brown shoe, although a pair of contrasting socks would have been better. If you now want to create shoe/sock combinations yourself, take a look at this great selection of superior over the calf socks here.

Change The Look Of Your Brown Shoes With Shoelaces

One of the quickest and most simple ways to change the look and feel of your brown shoes is to simply change your shoelaces. The advantages are simple: it’s quick, easy, inexpensive and reversible … For quality cotton shoe and bootlaces for men’s dress shoes, click here.

Red Flat Waxed Cotton Laces on Derby Shoe in Criss Cross Lacing

Red Flat Waxed Cotton Laces on Derby Shoe in Criss Cross Lacing

Light Brown Cotton Shoelaces on Dark Brown Derby Shoes with Bar Lacing

Light Brown Cotton Shoelaces on Dark Brown Derby Shoes with Bar Lacing

Light Brown & Blue Socks with Suede Shoes in Brown

Light Brown & Blue Socks with Suede Shoes in Brown and green shoe laces

Brown Leather Textures

You will notice that brown box calf leather and suede shoes have been becoming more popular in recent years. Buffalo, reindeer skin, and alligator have been classic, yet expensive, brown shoe leathers as well. Generally, you should keep in mind that shoes with more texture are less formal. Sometimes you even see ostrich, pigskin, fishskin, or elephant hide for shoes. Most of the time, the last is not a classic shape and the entire shoe just screams for attention — personally, I don’t care for that.

Leather Patina

Unlike black leather, brown shoes will develop a patina over time, which can be further enhanced by leather dyes and special polishing techniques. I could easily write an entire article about that topic, which is why I won’t go into further detail, but take a look at a this beautiful patina.

Cognac Brown Derby Full Brogue with 2 inch cuff

Cognac Brown Derby Full Brogue with 2 inch cuff

Carpincho shoes & antique patina oxford

Carpincho shoes & antique brown patina Oxford


Brown shoes are not a substitute for black shoes, and every man should own at least one pair of black plain Oxfords. If you work in a white collar environment, you can invest in a few pairs of black shoes, but otherwise go with brown because it is more versatile, it develops a fantastic patina over time, and it is the better color for casual outfits. If you don’t work in an office environment and rarely attend formal evening events, a single pair of black shoes may be enough for you — whereas you can never have enough brown shoes! If you like formal evening wear, invest in a pair of black patent leather Oxfords (in Austria Derby’s) or opera pumps – it is historically the correct choice for evening wear, even though some prefer polished calf skin for evening shoes.

How to Wear Brown Shoes & Boots for Men
Article Name
How to Wear Brown Shoes & Boots for Men
Did you ever ask youself when brown shoes for men are better than black ones & do you want to know how to wear brown shoes? Read this!
Gentleman's Gazette
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57 replies
  1. Brock says:


    Thanks for the clinic. I thought I knew the basic rules about brown vs. black shoes, but I’ve definitely been making some mistakes.

    Question – if you could only buy three pairs of dress shoes, and one is your plain black oxfords, what would the other two be? Perhaps a dark brown cap toe and lighter brown wingtip?

    Awesome post…keep it up!


    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Brock, I could write another post about that… The short answer is, a mid brown brogue derby shoe, and a loafer of some kind in a oxblood brown. That way you can almost wear any outfit. Though your shoes will last much longer if you have more shoes available…

  2. BRENT SMITH says:

    What you refer to as ‘spectator’ shoes, I have always known as ‘co-respondent’ shoes. What is the difference, and how did they come by these names?

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      co-respondent is the British description for it. It’s the same thing. A lot of spectators wore them in during the heyday of classic men’s clothing and in Britain it was associated with flamboyant chaps that were often involved in divorce cases, a pun the legal term of a third party involved in an adulterous affair.

      • BRENT SMITH says:

        Thank you, Sven, for confirming what I suspected. In other words, co-respondent shoes could be thought of as being a little bit…’caddish’..?

  3. Thomas says:

    “Black is for no brainers” has been my motto when it comes to shoes, let your style rule don’t be ruled by old fashion styles.
    I have one pair of black shoes and they are patent leather to wear with my tuxedo.
    I’ve preferred shell cordovan for years and started incorporating various shades of brown in the last 10 years. It’s been part of my subtle anti-establishment independent movement ever since I graduated from college.

  4. Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken says:

    Dear Mr. Schneider,
    thanks a lot for this very enriching guide. Here’s another reason why this fine gazette stands out in it’s kind.
    Greetings across the Atlantic

    @ Brent Smith

    As far as I know the term “spectator shoes” is rather spread in the US, whereas British would prefer the term “correspondent”.

  5. DB says:

    My personal favorite: snuff colored suede shoes, any style, with dark navy pants. A Fall/Winter look, substituted with British Tan calf with light grey in Spring/Summer.

    • BRENT SMITH says:

      To Alkan Kizildel,

      You have the meaning right, but one should always use the word ‘town’ rather than the name London; the reason being that in England, London is the only ‘town’ that matters.

  6. JC says:

    I live in New York City and you could write an entire article on horrible shoe choices made by men wearing suits here.I just did an exhaustive search for the book you mentioned by Sydney D. Barney with no luck. Great article, as usual, and I’m sure I’ll reference it in the future.

  7. Alexander Cave says:

    The ‘never brown in town’ and ‘black only after 6pm’ are over-generalizations of English social dress codes (adopted to a great degree in Scotland and Ireland, thanks to the aristocracy and industrial plutocracy in the 19th century) which developed through the irrationality of fashion.

    English influence on the British Empire, and on the wider world in general, has seen essentially English dress codes being adopted, but misunderstood and misinterpreted, in places where such conventions have no historical base and therefore no real importance or significance.

    Particularly in North America, where the population owes more to the non-Anglo-Saxon world that to its English colonial origins, the application of English dress codes will always be confused and resented (if only for reasons of political history) and need not be followed too closely.

    However, within the British Isles, dress codes are still followed for good reason, and those that flout them will be regarded as undesirable because they either do not care for polite manners of convention, are being deliberately disrespectful, or are a cad of the first water.

    Put simply black is for formality and business wear; brown is for leisure and labouring. A gentleman (in the English sense) will only wear brown footwear in the country where his leisure is spent in country sports (hunting, shoot, fishing, racing) and his clothing will be made of a socially acceptable cloth, such as tweed.

    In the city (for commerce, trade, political, legal, Court or social business) the gentleman will always wear black footwear – essentially shoes, as boots are still regarded as equestrian (and therefore county activity) wear. Think of the origins of jodhpur boots, Chelsea boots, etc, and you will get the idea.

    It is a misconception to think oneself hip, happening, trendy or daringly individual to any degree to wear, say, two-tone brown brogues with a conventional dark business suit – but it is readily seen in London and other British commercial cities. What is done in Milan, Berlin, Paris or New York is immaterial!

    The only time brown is correct in town is on Friday, for the tradition was that gentlemen were only in the city on business and they would be returning to their country homes at the weekend. He my also wear brown at weekends in the city if he is at his leisure – in a park, perhaps, as this is taken as being in lieu of being in the country. The Duke of Windsor, when Prince of Wales, was criticized publicly for being seen walking (!) wearing a blue suit with brown shoes – perfectly acceptable because the man was at his leisure.

    No matter how smart, brightly polished or exquisitely made, brown shoes are always muddy – symbolically. To wear brown after 6pm signifies you have not bathed before coming in to dinner, and are literally soiled from your day’s activities. The brown-after-6pm wearer is also making a public proclamation that he has no care for his host, the company and surroundings, and would rather be with the beast in the byre.

    All that said, in an age when getting dressed-up means putting on clean jeans and designer t-shirt, does any of it matter. Of course it does – how could it be otherwise? If you want to follow English gentlemanly conventions, follow them all. If your preference is for other traditions, leave the English to one side (as, say, the Scots do when in Highland dress) and keep to those you favour – that way your dress will look ‘right’ and will still be gentlemanly.

    • Geo. Winters says:

      Mr. Cave opines, “Particularly in North America, where the population owes more to the non-Anglo-Saxon world that to its English colonial origins […]”

      While many Americans’ ancestors came from outside of the British Isles, culturally, we have much more in common with our British cousins than we do with anyone else. This is a large part of why American dress codes (such as they are) are much more akin to English ones than to European ones.

      Of course, we have our own ideas of how to do things—we’re funny that way—but downplaying the British, specifically English, origins of our ways risks missing something important.

  8. Park Jacob Weatherby says:

    Greetings Mr. Schneider,
    once again I enjoyed reading another well informative article here at GG it is enthusiastically encouraging to learn of the wide range and possibilities of incorporating brown shoes into our wardrobe.

    Just one question, I recently purchase a navy wide chalk stripe (2) piece suit and was pondering the idea of pairing it with a medium to dark brown suede brogue wingtip shoes any comment on that…or should I avoid it all together?

    Best Regards,

    P J Weatherby

  9. René says:

    Thanks for mentioning the Derby in the conclusion! I am afraid there are actually quite a few things slighty different in Austria.

    Best Regards,

  10. Hristo says:

    I know that style enthusiasts love brown shoes.
    But I think for beginners with moderate budget, the black shoes are the best option.
    Why? Because owning brown shoes simply blows up your wardrobe and your expenses.
    -> Think about suitable belts.
    -> Think about document bags and suit cases, notebook bags.
    -> Think about leather gloves.
    -> Think about the straps of the watches.
    -> Even the ribbons of your fedora or panama hats.
    -> Not to mention a set of different waxes in order to achieve a good patina of the brown shoes.

    Owning of even a single pair of brown shoes forces you to buy a number of other pieces that cost a significant amount of money. A set of a good belt, a leather document/notebook case, good gloves and a watch strap would cost easily over 1k.

    That is why I prefer to own only black shoes for now and to go for the premium quality instead of buying additional sets of bags, leather straps and belts that I do not necessary need.

    Of course as soon as a man has collected a good set of suits, shirts, ties, and black shoes, one could and should go for brown shoes.
    But this moment comes only after you have spent a good 5 digit amount of money on the basics(for example if you own a suit, you would also need a coat for the winter, and a trench-coat for the autumn).
    Most men do not seem to own enough of the basics in order to have the excess money to go for brown shoes, brown belts, bags ect.
    I personally(24 year old) have only 2 suits – both navy (1 MTM and 1 bespoke), 2 bespoke odd jackets, 1 MTM overcoat, 1 bespoke trench-coat and around 15 ties.
    For me it makes absolutely no sense to spend money of brown bags and belts in order to buy myself brown shoes. I prefer to use my budget in the next 2-3 years for one more bespoke suit and several ties.

    And maybe in 10 years I will come to the point where brown shoes will be an option. 🙂

    To sum it up:
    -> Less is sometimes more. Go for the quality, not for the quantity.
    -> If you already own a good wardrobe and you can afford to spend money for brown accessories, go for brown shoes. If you are at the beginning, use your money wisely. And go for black shoes.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear Hristo,
      I like your approach of buying just a few things but instead go for quality. Personally, I went that route as well, although I also opted for vintage goods as a student and consequently built my wardrobe with a bigger picture in mind – one day, I wanted a complete wardrobe.
      Now, if one has a limited budget, I agree with your less is more approach. However, as a student I think it would be no problem to have one have of black shoes with a black belt and one pair of browns shoes with a brown belt. Ideally you have at least three pairs of shoes but you have to start somewhere. Now, if you never wear suits, I even would go that far to suggest just one pair of brown shoes with a brown belt to start because it works much better with a casual wardrobe.
      It is always important to look at your needs and your environment. If you are going to be an intern at a law firm, go for black shoes. If you work in Media or Advertising, brown is probably the better choice, if you can only buy one pair of shoes.
      At the end of the day, it’s up to each individual what to wear, but I don’t agree with you that every person on a low budget should just go for black shoes, because brown shoes may work much better for them. And instead of a black bag, you can get a brown one, or a red or green one – again, depending on your position, surroundings and your taste.

      • Hristo says:

        Dear Sven,

        of course I agree with you.
        There are situations where brown shoes could be the beginner choice – depending on the needs. That is why a good tailor would always first ask you where are you going to wear your suit.

        For my needs black was the choice – for example I like classical music and often attend concerts. I also often attend events in the evening. And in the work environment I sometimes want to look more conservative.
        As for the casual situations – wearing brown shoes with jeans might look better than wearing black shoes with jeans. But wearing black shoes with jeans stills looks OK. And at the same time wearing good black cordovan shoes with jeans for sure looks better than wearing horrible rubber/synthetic/cheap leather sport-shoes of any colour as 99% of the male population(in Germany) does. 🙂

        There is one more thing I want to add. While having many shoes for sure increases their life, they should not be too many if you are a patina freak. Especially the cordovan leather really first need some wear if you want it to look good.
        And also wanted to make clear that of course I have several pairs of shoes and I don’t wear them on consecutive days. But the money save comes from not owning different colours of the accessories like gloves, belts, bags ect.
        In modern days the animals do not have as healthy life as 100 years ago. They need to grow and reach fertility and add weight much faster and this impacts negatively the quality of the leather. As a result good leather is rare and costs a lot. I payed over 250 EUR for my cordovan belt. And a pair of good leather gloves cost arond a 100 EUR. And you need several pairs from them – thin leather for more formal occasions and thick leather with thick lining for colder days.
        Leather document cases and notebook cases chaise astronomic prices.
        All these small things eat up your budget and then at the end most people end up with the opinion that they can’t afford a bespoke suit or a bespoke jacket. In fact this is more a matter of priorities and money management.

        • Alexander Cave says:

          Hristo –

          Your reasoning is rational, and your principles for black shoes no doubt suits you well, but, by imposing such limits, you are denying yourself a great deal of variety and pleasure in your wardrobe.

          The dyes used in shoe-leather colouring tend to mean that black is black, no matter what the finished surface of the shoe. Brown, however, takes in the seemingly limitless range of tones from ‘natural’ to the deepest chocolate colour, with tans, chestnut, cherry, oxblood, etc, all adding to the variety for choice.

          Black shoes do not have the same options for taking on age-patina in the same way as brown, and the gentler tones of brown shoes make them more easily adaptable with a wider range of casual clothes. The less-is-more principle only works with clothing if it is practiced with quality-not-quantity – a pair of fine brown shoes may do you decades’ of service.

          As for the patina, this is helped if the shoes are stored with wooden shoe-trees inserted, which give the strength and support necessary for a good polishing. Vigorously working polish into creases gets the slow process started, and using the army trick of heating the wax until it goes liquid (a hot-air paint-stripper tool is ideal, but the army used to favour a lighted candle) can produce the desired result quicker. The short-cut technique is to use a darker tone polish (some even advocate using black polish) than the shoes might ordinarily require, but this should be done sparingly and with care.

          As for value-for-money and longevity of leather goods, I have items of my grandfather’s that are coming on for a 100 years old, and which show little sign of needing to be retired through ill-health.

          • Hristo says:

            Thank you, Alexander,
            by the way do you use darker colour of the shoe cream(the layer under the wax) or of the water resistent shoe wax?

            • Alexander Cave says:

              Hristo –

              Having tried shoe-cream, I never use it and find the cire (leather wax treatment) we have here in France is far more suitable, and is absorbed into the leather in a way that cream cannot match. I use un-coloured for all but the darkest brown leather, as the lack of colouring allows the wax to remain softer and more oily – which aids its absorption. As a result, the shoes retain their original colour, but acquire a pleasing patina quite quickly.

              I have always used water-proof dubbin on those boots and shoes that get used in wet conditions – again, the oiliness of the dubbin produces a loved-and-well-cared-for appearance to the leather, even if the dubbin never brushes up to anything more that a sheen.

              Having learnt as a young man the army trick of ‘bulling’ to produce a mirror-like shine, all my black shoes for the past three or four decades have had that treatment – the time spent initially achieving the result has paid off well later. But you can over-do it – I have been asked if the heavily-grained regimental officer brogues that go with my day-wear Highland dress are patent! Try Kiwi ‘Parade Gloss’ if you want the next best thing without ‘bulling’.

        • Daniel Gerson says:

          It is not really a matter of priorities and money management, but values and social consciousness. The times when one could buy a belt for 250€ and walk the streets without a care in the world are over. Something I would consider an achievement.

          Besides, no one cares whether you wear the same pair of shoes on consecutive days or not and if they really should do, their priorities are properly amiss.

          Yes, caring for your wardrobe is fine and commendable, but do never ever fall for the idea that your wardrobe will ever change you or other peoples’ perception of who you are.

          So don’t enumerate every single piece of “expensive” wardrobe and then end by telling people it is all about priorities and money management.

          In the end, it will just make you look like a parvenu.

          • Hristo says:

            Dear Daniel,

            not wearing the same shoes on consecutive days has nothing about looks or being a “parvenu”, but about the care of the leather.
            Shoes need to rest for a day in shoe trees in order to dry from the human sweat and to prevent damaging the leather.
            Having 2 pairs of shoes, using shoe trees and changing them every day extends the life of the shoes. It really has nothing to do with looks. They could even be 2 absolutely identical pairs of shoes.

            It has also nothing to do with “expensive”, but about quality.
            The “expensive” belt I mentioned is from a small German producer, I’ve never heard before and most possibly nobody here has heard of. It’s price does not come from stupid advertisement or achieving a cult status, but from the materials used and from the quality of the work involved.

            I’ve also had a 30 EUR belt in the past. It broke after one year of use. Compare this with the leather peaces of Alexander that last for several generations.

            Buying high quality products in moderate amounts is the most sustainable thing you can do for the society.
            Yes, Prince Charles wears 4000 GBP Savile Row suits. But his suits last for decades and are being constantly repaired over time which is much more responsible then buying every year a new cheap suit produced under inhuman conditions in Asia and then trowing it away wasting thus the nature resources and producing pollution.

            • Daniel Gerson says:


              I appreciate that you believe in “Go for the quality, not for the quantity”, because that is certainly the right mindset, yet you have to understand that that is an approach one has to be able to afford and I am not referring to money alone.

              The most profane loss you will suffer is that of spontaneity. Not being able to buy something that appeals to you right here and now, because it doesn’t fit you purchase schedule or black gloves.

              As a natural result, you lose your individuality. Yes, you may say, that comes with wearing bespoke or MTM, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t, because you will always settle for a very conservative style with these expensive pieces, because that way they will always be “in fashion”. Yet where are you? Not in the patina of your shoes…

              Apart from those superficial issues, you may want to consider that there might be circumstances that will change your priorities and rightfully so. Family for example. Cause in 10 years time, when you want to start buying brown shoes, it is rather likely that one of your babies will have pucked onto your bespoke suit and you have to start saving up for another one before you can buy 500€ brown shoes.

              Last but not least, it shouldn’t come down to “I can, therefor I will”. See, when my grandfather retired, he could have chosen to buy himself a new S-class, but instead, he settled for a demonstrator C-class. It offered the quality he wanted in a package that suited the image of commendable restraint a true Gentleman should aspire to.

              So please embrace the notion that things don’t have to be the best, but simply good enough. It will allow you to live life in a more varied way and also make yourself more approachable, because people will otherwise find it hard to reach out to you with your aura of acceptance for nothing but the best.

  11. Hristo says:

    That is exactly why I do not like style forums and style discussion boards.
    I just wanted to point out that before buying shoes in various colours one should think about the hidden costs of accessories in the suiting colours. Nothing else.
    And somehow the discussion came to how am I going to feed my kids =) =) =)
    People, be happy and don’t take the whole style and shopping story so seriously. =)
    I start to believe that personal dressing discussions is something that should stay between the tailor shop walls and should remain private.

  12. Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Excellent article Raphael. Although I tend to experiment even more, but the suggestions are very aptly described.
    And I personally find the hues and aging / patination of browns far more engaging and of character than blacks. Perhaps I have only 5 or so black pairs from the 40 odd pairs I enjoy

  13. Ruben Mancebo says:

    Wow, is nice that i found this before deciding to buy some shoes, i was going to totally avoid brown shoes (as i always do), but the key is the context in which you use brown shoes. What about shoes from colors like red or white?, are white shoes only used with white suits?,

    Thanks, Ruben.

  14. Christopher says:

    I enjoyed your article, but depending on the situation I’m quite comfortable breaking the rules. For example, I have a great pair of deep cherry wing tips and will sometimes wear them with a black pinstripe suit. Before anyone passes out in horror, let me explain.

    The black suit has a very fine off-white stripe. I wear an off-white shirt to set off the pinstripe and add a paisley tie. The tie has a burgundy/dark wine base with dark grey, off-white, and touches of blue, purple, and lavender in the pattern.

    Both the suit and shoes have a formal look, but for different reasons. With the suit, it’s the color and fabric. With the shoes, it’s the style. The off-white shirt provides a neutral base for the tie, and the tie is strong enough to balance the shoes. The color of the tie is the most obvious anchor, but the curves and ornate pattern found in the paisley mirror the curves and design patterns in the wingtip.

    The above description may sound hideous to some, but it really does work very well. There’s a lot of harmony in the details, and it makes a bold and attractive statement. I think if you’re comfortable being noticed, and have the confidence to wear the clothes and not let them wear you, then it’s fine to go against the grain sometimes.

  15. Leonardo Costa says:

    It’s incredible this sith with different inforations and contents about men’s lifestile! We Brazilian need to share masculine fashion inovations around the world! Congratulations for the site! Até mais!

  16. Leonardo Costa says:

    It’s incredible this site with different inforations and contents about men’s lifestile! We Brazilian need to share masculine fashion inovations around the world! Congratulations for the site! Até mais!

  17. Janet says:

    Don’t you ever get bored with just black shoes? I like to see both men and women wearing all colors, whatever matches their pants or slacks, since pants and slacks are the nearest to the pants or boots.

  18. Scott says:

    I am looking at buying a pair of light brown boots. They call the color bourbon. What pants do I wear them with and does the belt need to match?

  19. Jean-Pierre says:

    Many thanks for this article, Sven.

    May I ask you, what are the references of these exquisite tweed shoes?

    Best, jpw

  20. Mark Hewitt says:

    Dear Raphael,
    A really wonderful article and the photos of shoes and sox are a treasure. The thing I like about brown shoes is the warmth they can bring to your personality plus it seems people in your company seem to relax more .
    I have a selection of brown types which also includes suede and boots too. I don’t go much on patina personally , preferring shoes to be pristine ; that’s just me though .


  21. Roberto Riveros says:

    Sven et al,

    Very interesting article. Thank you. Here is my take on this important issue: 1) Never wear, please, white socks with black or brown shoes. And please don´t ever use short socks with a suit. I dislike seeing GQ pics where men appear trending summer looks w/o socks. 2) Brown shoes look nice with gray suits. But, I also would opt for the burgundy red tone when wearing this colored suit. 3) I agree, no black shoes with a khaki suit or a camel one. Here´s my response to your opening question: I proudly have about 10 brown colored shoes, and about three pairs of brown toned boots. It´s essential for any wardrobe to have a plethora. I highly recommend to polish brown shoes with yellow colored shoe polish when you want to clean them and give them a nice finish.And real brown for really brown shoes. Tan ones work best with a red and yellow mixture. I love suede. But I need to learn how to clean them. As with traditional footwear I never use instant sponge ended or tipped shoe polish, but the real stuff.I would like to find Chinola down here in Colombia. I heard they are manufacturing new stuff, among them bikes and shoe polish, even watches in Detroit. And for winter, please know that suede is forbidden! But, if you hand polish them, the leather ones they end up waterproof. I despise how nowadays men´s footwear no longer has really thin “wooden” soles, instead they have some 4X$ ugky looking soles, that are really thick. How can one wear a 3 piece suit, my daily unform, with these ugly looking shoes. And I hate artificial leather. I think plastic, vinyl, acrylics m ake feet sweat and they can´t even breathe, hence Athlete´s foot and many bad odors. I also like having my footwear refurbished or renewed by hand, They do get that nice tone, I forgot the word Sven uses, I gotta learn it, cause it sounds kind of nice. I also enjoy more my handmade footwear instead of those from the big Chinese manufacturers,I invite other readers to consider coming to Bogotá, Colombia and purchasing genuine leather footwear and fashion. You can get good prices, and sui generis hides from farms that grow crocodiles, snakes and other animals. But I am way too conservative to wear reptile/alligator leather shoes. I prefer cattle, bovine and more traditional cow hides. I have also leather jackets , but that´s way off the topic. Thanks again.

  22. kannyana junior says:

    uhhhhmmm,Sven you are really moving my attention towards classic fashion of the 21 century gentle-man. i have seen and read all which is really of great help and has made me opt for new ideas about fashion. i for one love fashion and both black en brown shoes make a deal for me but i find it hard to match a black suspender on brown it applicable..

  23. Mark Hewitt says:

    Dear Raphael ,

    I just got myself a smart pair of flannel trousers in a maroon flannel with a herringbone pattern .

    What would be your suggestion as far as shoes go ? I have a nice leather bomber type jacket in a London type tan as well . They look like they could make it together .

    Also ; if you have not yet done a feature on mohair could you please try and squeeze that in

    Sydney Australia .

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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