I wanted to cover some typical questions I get about matching pants and shoes, and hopefully cover it broadly enough so you can easily get dressed in the morning.
By the way, this is part of a series called Back To Basics. See the other posts here »
OK, so hypothetical scenario: Let’s assume we’re trying to pick out a pair of pants, and we have only two pairs of shoes in our closet:
- brown leather shoes (in this case, brown brogue wingtips from Allen Edmonds)
- black leather shoes (black captoes from Johnston & Murphy)
Side note: If you can only own two pairs of shoes, let it be these, or some similar variation, they will go with practically everything.
If you ask me, when choosing between brown or black leather shoes, 99% of the time, I wear some type of brown leather shoe.
Brown is richer and more interesting than black lace-ups. That’s just my opinion, and I know black is appropriate in most of these situations. I just like brown better because looks more interesting.
EG Recommends these dress shoes
Black or Brown: A Visual Guide To The Ideal Color Pairing (of Pants and Shoes)
Looking for the full version? Download the full-sized graphic here (click to view, or right click and Save as…)
A.) Black suiting – Black, naturally. This is probably the only time I will say no to brown being an option. Good thing I never wear black pants.
B.) Grey Suiting – Brown warms up the palette, but black works if you must.
C.) Dark, inky denim – The safest, most appropriate variation of denim for all situations. Brown looks best. Yes! Exception? If you’re wearing a black sport coat, or a black button-up. (Brown shoes can work with a black button-up, but you have to accent it with large amounts of swagger.)
D.) Navy suiting – Brown ideally. Black will work, but brown is more interesting (especially with a suit)
E.) Dark Khaki / Olive Chinos – Brown (this seems like an obvious choice)
F.) Medium Khaki Chinos – Brown (also an obvious choice?)
G.) Cream Trousers, Chinos – Brown, because it plays nicely with the off-white hue
H.) White Denim – Brown, exceptions: Black upstairs
This is by no means a hard-and-fast reference or guide, simply a place to start. Just because I endorse one color, DOESN’T mean the opposite can’t work.
In theory, either color shoe can go with any of these pant colors, but it also depends on what shirt you’re wearing (also: what type of shoe, what type of pants, how cool you are, etc.)
Try this: If you typically play it safe (i.e. black lace-ups with dark denim and a black button-up), try out your pair of brown wingtips with a lavender shirt. Or swap out that black button up for a dark red / white bengal stripe shirt. Or swap the dark denim for an olive gingham. Lots of options pair nicely with brown, and you owe it to yourself to try them out.
Which shoes with with pair of pants: The Takeaway
Start with this visual guide, but don’t constrain yourself to it. Be experimental with your colors, and don’t be afraid to clash a little once you’ve mastered the basics. I mash up colors all the time, and I like to wear patterns, colors, and textures that you wouldn’t normally think to put together.
Try it out and let me know
Snap a photo or two of your outfit and post it in our private Facebook Group (free to join, by the way).
Crop your head out if you’re shy. We have a great group of 2000+ guys ready to help you out.
Learn a few shortcuts to dressing well
Enter your first name and email, and I'll send you a free eGuide with quick and easy tips you can use today.