We discuss brown leather lace-ups extensively on this site. I always recommend brown dress shoes over black in pretty much every situation.
A question I always get (but haven’t really addressed) is which shade of brown is best.
I’ll tell you right now, it’s all a matter of preference. It also can depend on the rest of your outfit. For now, let’s discuss the most common variations of brown you may see out there.
By the way, for illustrative purposes, all shoes are from Allen Edmonds. Click the photos for a slightly larger version.
What’s your shade?
Keep in mind that, like everything in life, there isn’t an absolute, exact color for everything. Basically, one company’s shade of brown could be slightly darker than another company’s shade, even if they’re called the same thing.
As long as they’re similar, just know they’re in the same shade group.
Tan, Cognac, Walnut
This is the Allen Edmonds Strand in Walnut Calf, one of my personal favorites.
The light shades of brown are usually referred to as tan, cognac, or walnut-colored, and can vary slightly, but they all look similar to this.
This is my preferred shade of brown; it looks great with everything from dark denim, to charcoal suiting trousers, to olive chinos. In my eyes, it’s hard to go wrong with such an eye-catching shade.
Brown, Brown Burnished
Dial it down a bit and you’re at your standard brown leather. This is the Allen Edmonds Whitney Cap Toe in brown burnished calf.
Editor’s note: By the way, are you still unsure about the levels of formality when it comes to leather shoes? I covered it in this article.
I haven’t seen it called anything else but “brown”, but if you have, let us know below in the comments. I’d consider this a medium brown.
Oh, by the way, did you notice how there’s a little dark brown or black in this pair, especially noticeable at the toe? AE refers to the color as “brown burnished”.
Burnished leather gives the shoes an antiqued, buffed, worn-in look with darker shades of brown at the heel and toe. The darker tones add a bit of dimension to the overall shoe color.
It’s a subtle thing, but at EG we’re all about the little details, and I like this one.
There is also a burgundy-colored leather among the most common shades of brown leather shoes. It looks like a dark brown with hints of red tones, depending on how the light hits it.
This is the Allen Edmonds Delray in Chili.
Usually this is called Burgundy or Chili. It’s a nice alternative to your standard brown leather. Depending on how picky you are, it may be challenging trying to choose a pair of pants that work.
I think charcoal trousers, dark navy trousers, or a muted khaki chino (not too light) can look great.
In reality, all these shades are flexible so you can pull off any look, especially when utilizing the rest of your outfit.
EG Recommends these brown dress shoes
Keep in mind I used these Allen Edmonds models for illustrative purposes, and these variations in brown aren’t restricted to AE only. You’ll see similarities in shades across all brands when you go shopping.
Familiarize yourself with the different shades of brown so you’re a more educated shopper the next time you’re in the market for shoes.
Does that help? Still have questions? Leave em in the comments below.
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