Shoes and Suits: How to Match Them Up [Infographic]

A sharp-dressed man looks distinguished and commands attention. What’s more, every man should have at least one nice, expensive, designer suit. However, failing to match shoes to that designer suit properly is a major fashion faux pas. Here are some tips for choosing the right suit and shoe combinations.


Understand the Difference between Formal and Casual

Before you can truly understand how to pair shoes with suits, you must first firmly understand the difference between a casual suit and a formal suit. The most formal suit of them all, the tuxedo, requires a much more formal shoe type than a more casual suit. Shoes are the same way; some are considered formal (shiny black leather) while others are on the more casual side (soft tan suede). A good rule of thumb is to pair casual suits with casual shoes and formal suits with formal shoes.

Pay Attention to Color

The most common formal suit colors are charcoal gray and navy blue. These are incredibly versatile, and they give you plenty of room when it comes to accessorizing with ties, dress shirts, and even shoes. Black, brown, red, and burgundy shoes pair well with a navy blue suit, though it is important to tone down the brightness of your tie if you choose a red or burgundy shoe. A charcoal gray suit is perhaps the most versatile of them all, and it pairs well with black or burgundy shoes. Brown is a no-no with gray, though, since gray and brown contrast visually. Black suits, although they are classic, give you very little in the way of versatility. You should only pair black shoes with a black suit – no exceptions.

Consider the Situation

Another important consideration is the type of event. The formality of the event dictates the formality of the suit and therefore the shoe. As an example, you should usually only wear black suits to funerals and very strict business meetings. For everyday formal affairs, such as business office attire, stick to gray or navy blue. For dinner reservations in a casual yet upscale restaurant, a brown suit with less formal brown leather shoes suffices. Bear in mind that suit colors other than black, gray, brown, and navy are casual.

Style and Finish

The finish of a shoe is also important when pairing it with a suit. For example, a shiny black patent leather shoe does not pair well with a casual light gray suit. Patent leather is for extremely formal events, such as ballroom dancing or a wedding. On the other hand, a soft, brushed suede is casual. It pairs well with a casual suit and is appropriate for most business attire. The most versatile style and finish is traditional leather; in this case, the color dictates the formality.

Men’s dress shoes, like Clarks come in various styles. Some simply slip on, others have laces, and some even have tassels or faux laces tied in bows. For the most part, you are free to choose the style you like best as long as the color and finish follows the rules above.