In the world of styling they say a man can be judged by the state of his shoes, and if that is indeed the case, it is best to be prepared. The mass acceptance of street style as a legitimate fashion staple has made room for a more relaxed approach to styling in and out of the office. Think sneakers with a slim fitting suit or jeans paired with a black dress boot, and although it’s easy to mix and match – it is the colour combos that make the outfit.
You have the standard black on black, brown with nude and other tonal variations, but mixing it up is a whole different skillset all together art – but fear not we’re here to help.
Starting with the basics for the colour novice:
- Block colours are always the easier option over multi-colour
- It is easier to dress with darker tones – these combinations end up being way more versatile
- Different styles follow different colour rules: white trainers make more sense than white oxfords
- Scuffed shoes are not cool – make sure you look after them
- If you’re wearing bright shoes tone down the rest of your outfit – and vice versa
If you’re ready to graduate to the finer details, take a look below.
Black shoes are always the easiest and most classic option for a dressed up look. Everyone should have a pair of black dress shoes in their kit for any kind of occasion. Paired with black tailoring you can’t go wrong.
“A pair of black Oxfords is probably the most dressed-up shoe you can have in your wardrobe,” says Luke McDonald, stylist at men’s online styling service Thread. “And that limits what other clothes you can wear them with.”
When it comes to dressing down a pair of black shoes, opt for a less formal style like Derby or Chelsea boot. And if you love a bright chino then tone down the harsh black by separating the hem and loosing the socks. And note to self, if you want to avoid looking like a school boy, don’t pair them with shorts.
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After black, brown shoes tend follow. Brown shoes work with a wide variety of pants due to the multitude of shades available and they work great for many occasions like the daily office look, drinks at the bar and even for a wedding. “The lighter the shade, the more relaxed the look,” says McDonald, “particularly if you add detail, too.” Even if they are the same shade, a detailed brogue is less formal than the oxford.
Other than formal tailoring, brown can be teamed with almost every colour of chino – just make sure you have at least two shades difference if you’re looking to do a brown pant to avoid looking too matchy-matchy.
Again, if you want to down-play your look, try a chunkier style of shoe, and if you aren’t experienced in matching brown and black then step away and leave it to the experts.
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Although similar to the brown shoe, the Oxblood counterpart adds an extra element of style and boldness to a look. If you don’t want to move out of your comfort zone but want to mix it up a little bit then Oxblood is a good way to go.
“Making a statement with smart shoes shouldn’t mean going too far out of your comfort zone. Instead of opting for an extravagant style, it could be as simple as integrating new colour-ways in silhouettes you already wear on a daily basis.”
Not quite as easy to pair with a formal suit, the colour lends itself to a more casual approach if that is your thing. You can wear them with everything from navy tailoring to chinos and jeans. If you want a pair to wear to the office and also the odd wedding, an Oxford is the best option and again if you want something more casual, a penny loafer is a great everyday shoe.
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Continuing down this colour-way, we present the tan shoe. Although technically considered apart of the brown shoe family, the shade difference is far more casual. “It’s best on more relaxed styles like brogue Derbies or boots,” says McDonald. “Tan suede shoes can also look good, but you need to wear them with fairly informal outfits.”
Due to it’s more relaxed style, the tan shoe looks good on any wash of denim, any chino and can be worn with shorts when the weather is warmer.
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One of the more trickier colours to get around, the blue shoe when done right makes a great statement piece.
Formal shoes are the hardest to get right so stick to a more casual ensemble. Materials like nubuck and velvet work well due to depth it creates – making them cool, not flashy. As long as you don’t pair them with a black suit, suede brogues work with any colour of suit and the same for cropped chinos.
If you want to look even more casual, the desert and chukka boot looks great in navy. “Both styles look great with jeans,” says McDonald. “They’re rugged, but still smart enough for a nice restaurant or bar.”
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Arguably born by Common Projects which launched its Achilles Low almost 15 years ago, the Italian-American shoe brand put the white sneaker on the map and has remained a kit staple since. Although the white tennis-shoe was nothing new, Common Projects gave them a new lease on life – something that could be paired with a casual suit as well as the humble denim jean.
The minimalistic trainer can be pretty much worn with everything within the right context of course – obviously not to a corporate office. “Box-fresh versions work with a suit,” says McDonald. “Battered, stained sneakers don’t.
If you want to look fresh every-time you wear a pair of sneakers, make sure they are well looked after and replace them when truly needed.
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Probably the one that everyone is most curious about is the ever popular colourful trainer. There once was a time that the sneaker was exclusively found in the gym but street style has changed the game. From Nike to Adidas and everything in between, the sportswear labels big and small are monopolising on the bright and colour sneaker.
“But all those colours make them much less versatile,” says McDonald. “In fact, they only really work with neutrals, unless you’re able to pull off some very advanced colour-matching.” Due to their colourful nature, it’s best to stick with casual pairings like jeans, jogger and relaxed chinos.
“You should let your shoes do the talking,” says McDonald. “If they’re the brightest thing in your outfit, then they’ll draw the eye. If you have too many other bright colours, people won’t know where to look.”
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