Here’s Why You Absolutely Should Wear Brown Shoes With Black Pants

This is one of those fashion rules that's made to be broken.

I remember when I first started a part-time job as a teenager. About a month into my role, one of the more fashionable co-workers jokingly mentioned that I shouldn’t wear brown shoes with black pants. This was news to me as it seemed like a pretty common style at the time.

I switched to black shoes for a while after. But I soon realized that not wearing brown shoes and black pants is definitely one of those fashion rules that is made to be broken.

And you don’t have to take my word for it, some of the biggest names in fashion are happy to make the pairing, including Prada. So what is it about this pairing that illicit’s such strong reactions. Read on to find out.

Can You Wear Brown Shoes With Black Pants?

You can absolutely wear brown shoes with black pants. Your outfit will stand out more than if you stuck to black shoes, but it can still look good in many situations, especially at the casual end of the spectrum. Having said that, it is definitely safer to wear black shoes with black pants. And I would avoid wearing brown shoes with a black suit or tuxedo in most cases.

How to Wear Brown Shoes With Black Pants: 6 Simple Rules

1. Casual Brown Shoes with Casual Black Pants

Brown shoes black pants
The Brdwlk

Wearing brown shoes and black pants casually is the easiest way to do it. This is because the stakes are low and you have more room to experiment with the rest of your outfit. Casual brown boat shoes, loafers, and other leather styles pair seamlessly with black jeans, chinos, or even dress pants worn casually.

2. Brown Boots with Black Jeans

This is another low-stakes way to wear brown shoes and black pants. A boots and jeans outfit is a pretty casual and rugged look and one that is easy to get away with. Styles of boots like worker boots, chukka boots, and dessert boots in a variety of shades from light tan to mahogany will typically go with black jeans.

3. Stick to Black or Brown Socks

Brown shoes brown socks black pants

When wearing brown shoes with black pants it’s safest to wear black, brown, or dark gray socks. This is because you already have quite an aggressive color contrast between the shoes and the pants. Adding a third color to the mix means you would likley have too much going on in that area. If you really have to experiment with your socks, consider a very subtle pattern on a black background.

4. Brown Shoes With Black Dress Pants

This can work as long as you take some things into consideration. First is that I’d go for a mid-shade of brown. Too light and it will stand out too much, too dark and the opposite will happen. And you should also carefully consider the rest of your outfit. The next point can be a major help.

4. With a Brown Blazer, Shirt, or Jumper

Wearing a brown upper with black pants and brown footwear is a good way to ensure the color combination works. Try to stick with a similar shade of brown in both shoes and upper. If your shoes are dark, wear a dark jumper, if the shoes are light, wear a light jacket.

5. Tan Shoes and Black Pants

Black pants brown boots

Tan is one of the lightest shades of brown which ensures it adds the biggest amount of contrast when worn with black pants. It looks especially good when worn with black casual pants and something with a light shade on the upper.

6. Avoid Brown Shoes With a Black Suit

Wearing brown shoes with a black suit is pretty much always a no-go. I spent a lot of time browsing the internet while writing this piece looking for examples of this fit that worked and I really couldn’t find any that I liked. Yes, there are plenty of images of people wearing dark navy or charcoal suits with black shoes, but none of people in a completely black suit.

The reason for this? Well, places, where you’d wear a black suit, are typically very formal. And these situations often have stricter rules about what you can wear. And the other point is that even if your outfit looks ok, it would almost certainly look better with a pair of black shoes. If you absolutely have to wear brown shoes with a black suit, choose a pair that is mid-to-dark brown. Any shade lighter than this will look too casual.

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Duncan Elder

Duncan is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Boardwalk. He's a menswear writer who has spent the last 15 years developing his own sense of style, which lies at the cross-section of mid-noughties indie and Uniqlo-inspired minimalism.

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