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Brown Shoes – A Must for Well A Dressed Man’s Closet

Brown Shoes – A Must for Well A Dressed Man’s Closet

Brown Shoes

Brown shoes could be worn with almost anything ranging from jeans of cavalry twill to corduroy, flannel and worsteds or tweeds. This men’s fashion review will focus on the oxford shoe. In addition to the oxford shoe in general, we will explore brown shoes, in particular. We will discuss how to talk about brown shoes, how to wear brown shoes, how to combine them and when not to wear brown shoes. Within the context of brown shoes, the brown cap toe oxford shoe will be looked in particular.

The Cap Toe Oxford Shoe

A Must for Every Man’s Closet

In the United Kingdom, The term Oxford shoe refers to a formal lace-up shoe. Shoes with closed lacing (Oxfords/Balmorals) are considered more formal than those with open lacing (Bluchers/Derbys). Some claim the Oxford shoe was a product of Scottish and Irish shoemakers.

brown shoes
Stacy Adams Men’s Dickinson Cap-Toe Lace-up Oxford Shoe

The Captoe Oxford shoe is often referred to as a Balmorals after Balmoral Castle in Scotland – even to this day. Regardless of the complete story of the origin of the oxford shoe, what is clear is that they were a result of a quest for a more comfortable shoe and that they were first associated with university students rather than with the older generation of the time.

Wearing Brown Shoes

Where did the taboo about wearing brown shoes come from? In 19th century Europe, Beau Brummel set the tone for men’s fashion. He was a big proponent of black eveningwear. So people wore black shoes. At that time, rules like “No brown in town” or “No brown after six” just ensured that people dressed in a socially acceptable way. So well dressed men wore black shoes instead of brown shoes.

Edward The Prince of Wales

By the 1930s, Edward, the prince of Wales, became the arbiter and he basically dictated what people in European society, and by extension, the British Empire, wore. If he would wear something, the general public would pick it up shortly thereafter. Edward was a big fan of brown shoes. Oftentimes, he would wear brown and white Spectator shoes. So brown shoes became more acceptable among the general public.

Today’s Style and Fashion

Today, dress codes are much more relaxed than they were fifteen or sixteen years ago. If you wear a well-fitting suit today or a combination, you are much better dressed than the average person. So “No brown in town” and “No brown after six” are simply not valid anymore. What matters is that you look good. It’s much better to wear a well-fitting suit in Brown shoes than to wear an ill-fitting suit with black shoes in town after 6 pm.

Black Shoes and Brown Shoes

Most debonair Italians only wear black shoes for funerals, for weddings and for black tie, white tie events.
Otherwise, they go with brown. So can you. One of the really nice things about brown leather is that it develops a patina, unlike black shoes. That means over time, you get this nice look of the leather and it’s really pleasant and it’s not something you can achieve with dark shoes. Also, you can really see leather textures on brown shoes much better such as scotch grain, or pebble grain or suede. With black, they just disappear.

Formal Dress Shoes

Generally, it is important to keep in mind that a shoe with more texture and more broguing is less formal and a shoe that is a plain, cap-toe leather Oxford shoe is more formal regardless of its color.

When to Wear Brown Shoes

brown shoes, oxford shoe
Crockett & Jones for J Crew Malvern Brown Monk Strap Shoes

So, when should you wear brown shoes? Well, Brown shoes could be worn with almost anything ranging from jeans of cavalry twill to corduroy, flannel and worsteds or tweeds. Unlike black, brown comes in a variety of shades so you can really create a unique color palette in your shoe closet. Here are some guidelines on how to wear brown shoes but keep in mind that it’s just that.

Tips on Wearing Brown Shoes

These tips are general guidelines. They are never absolute. Use them to help you create your own look.

Business Suits and Dress Shoes

First, let’s start with business suits. This category includes three-piece business suits, two-piece business suits, solid, small patterns, fine stripes, and plaids.

Black Shoes

If your suit is black, you should wear black shoes. When you should have a black suit, to begin with, is another question, but don’t combine black suits with brown shoes. Just stick with black. For Charcoal suits, I personally prefer black over brown, even dark brown because I think it just works together much better. Definitely avoid Tan. You can try it with a dark reddish brown or red pair of shoes.

Black, Burgundy, or Brown Shoes

For mid-grey suits, black works but in terms of brown, you can really start combining now, you can wear dark brown, maybe burgundy red and you can even try lighter shades of brown. For dark Navy suits, black is an option, but you really want to go with brown for a more modern look.

I think burgundy is outstanding, tan can work, mid brown can work and it’s really all up to you and how much contrast you want to create. For a lighter navy, I think black oftentimes looks better but again, you can try to ease in with darker shades of brown, chocolate brown, medium brown, maybe add suede as a texture to counteract the worsted business suit style and can work really really well.

Brown Shoes

If you wear a dark brown business suit, such as a charcoal brown, you definitely want to wear brown shoes. Make sure to get a little bit of contrast, can be chocolate brown, medium brown and since it’s business, try to stay in the darker shade of brown area and don’t go with tan.

Cap Toe Oxford Shoe

Okay, to sum it up, black remains the number one color for business suits. When you’re in doubt, stick with black. Your first pair of shoes should be a black pair of cap toe Oxford shoe. A brown cap toe oxford shoe also works. Stick with darker shades, not so much broguing or plain leathers. Maybe throw in a pair of suede shoes to mix it up and create an interesting look.

Casual Suits and Green Suits

Two, casual suits are just bolder and their colors have louder patterns, maybe interesting textures such as corduroy or cotton linen blends and brown shoes work really well here. For green suits and jackets, brown is the only way to go. Avoid black .


Suede has a really lovely texture that makes things matte but relaxed. It is great to combine it with all shades of brown. Light green and dark olive green also work well with brown as well as suede. For Khakis, dark brown, reddish browns, mid browns (especially tan) work well. Khaki and beige are really versatile and look much better than anything black. Stay away from black and try to keep enough contrast between your khakis, your pants and your shoes.

Cordovan, Oxblood, or Burgundy Red

If you have tan colors, what’s really great is Cordovan or Burgundy red. In fact. this is one of those shades which is almost not brown any more but it’s so super versatile. You should have this color in your shoe closet. If you don’t know what kind of pair of brown shoes you want to get, start with something reddish brown. It will truly go with almost anything you have in your closet.

White Outfits and Tan Shoes

With white and off-white combinations, wear tan. Of course, you can also go with darker shades of brown. Tan has a milder contrast without blending in, so it looks really nice. For any kind of brown, casual suits, you can wear only brown. Spectators are great in white and brown with it. Of course that’s really loud and a really strong contrast if you’re comfortable with it. If it’s too much for you, no problem, go maybe with a darker brown or chocolate brown. However, always make sure to create enough contrast between the shade of brown and your shoes.

Three, sport coat and odd jacket combinations and fabrics with more texture. If you have corduroy, donegal, saxony, all of these kinds of rich woven texture and strong fabrics, you are even more casual and so you should only wear brown, try to go with broguing, suede or scotch grain rather than just plain cap-toe oxfords because it really kind of works much better with these kinds of garments. If you have dark or even black corduroy hence, you can wear tan shoes or tan boots and it creates a really nice contrast and it works surprisingly well.

Otherwise, I would say stick with black but tan for this more casual form of black garment is much better. For charcoal grey flannels, I think black is better but you can try it with dark brown and see if it works well together. I think that it can look very nice and it’s not too contrasting but the look overall is very debonair. With mid grey, I suggest you go with burgundy red, black will work well but since it’s more casual, I think this is a much more suitable color and definitely avoid tan because it’s just too strong of a color and it doesn’t look nice with a mid grey. With blue garments, I basically wear any shade of brown. It really depends on my mood and what I’m going for.

Of course If i wear dark chocolate brown, the whole combination is less noticeable. If I wear a bright tan, it really stands out more but you can really wear an entire range. So if you really have a lot of blue suits, it really doesn’t matter what kind of brown shoes you wear with them, anything works. With denim, you should avoid wearing black and most browns work well but I think that a medium, reddish brown like this one or a burgundy red work best. Make sure your shoes have some broguing. I think Derby shoes are better than Oxfords and it really works well together because it underlines the casual character of your jeans with the more casual look of the shoe. With any kind of green shades, you should go with brown shoes every time. Avoid black and I think dark works really well.

For casual garments, if you want brown tones, khakis, tans and so forth, you can really play around with brown. I would say try wearing boots because they add another element of casualness, especially with thicker soles and broguing. Overall, Brown is the best shoe color for sport coat combinations and odd contrasting trousers so to start, I think you should have at least, three pairs of brown shoes. One would be a burgundy red shoe, can be with plain leather. Then the next one would be a dark chocolate brown Derby full brogue so you have that and then a medium red-brown, it can be Oxford, maybe half brogue and that will cover your entire range. In the beginning, avoid things like tan, or avoid spectators simply because these shoes only work with much fewer outfits and in the beginning you want to make sure that you can wear almost any shoe you have in your closet with almost anything you have in your wardrobe so you can create a lot of unique different outfits. Now that you know when to wear brown shoes, the question becomes when not to wear brown shoes? So, number one rule would be, do not wear brown with any sort of eveningwear, black tie, white tie or even formal three-piece suits that are dark and charcoal.

You should always stick with black. Also if you are at a wedding and if you wear maybe a stroller suit, when you think about wearing a morning coat, black is the only suitable color. If you work in a very white collar environment, let’s say a traditional law firm, maybe a bank, I would also say when in doubt, stick with black. if you want to test the waters, maybe go with a dark burgundy red but avoid really light colors like tan at all costs. Other than that, brown shoes are a really great investment into your wardrobe because they’re so versatile, they look great with everything, you can create a beautiful patina, you polish them properly and also think about going with suede because it adds this softer texture but you should avoid it if in your area, it rains a lot because suede does not really age well when it gets wet. If you enjoyed this video, please check out our article about how to wear brown shoes which is much more comprehensive and sign up for our newsletter so you’ll never miss a video again.

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