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How to Match a Shoe to a Suit

Jos. A. Bank | How to Match a Shoe to a Suit


You have probably heard the adage, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” While first impressions are based on a number of factors, physical appearance is what others notice first. Learning how to present yourself from head to toe can help get the meeting off on the right foot.

The shoes you wear with your suit can impact on how others perceive your professionalism and style. The wrong pair of shoes can ruin even the most expensive suit. Avoid being cited by the fashion police by asking yourself these three simple questions when choosing what shoes to wear.

1. Where am I going?

Running shoes are not appropriate for a wedding, just like shiny patent leather dress shoes look strange when paired with khakis. As you can see, the type of event or destination will guide your shoe decision. Below is a simple breakdown of what types of shoes work best with different environments.

• Formal: black leather closed-laced oxfords or cap toes are the best choice for formal events like weddings and graduations. They can go with almost any color suit, dress pants or blazers. This shoe is a staple in a man’s closet. For black-tie events, match your tuxedo with a pair of black patent leather shoes.

• Business professional/formal: leather monk strap or wingtip shoes in black, brown or dark burgundy work well with most suits in your professional business wardrobe. Blue, yellow or any other color in the spectrum, while bold, are viewed as inappropriate.

• Business-casual: tan or brown suede loafers or slim dress boots are completely acceptable if your office allows casual pants like khakis, jeans or corduroys. A tasseled loafer will add a little more formality to your look.

2. What color is my suit?

Select a shade that is slightly darker than your pants as a basic rule for choosing the right shoes. You do not need to have a pair of shoes in every color to create well-matched outfits. Having different shades of black, brown and tan in a few different styles is enough. If you enjoy wearing patterned or plaid sportcoats, your shoes should match the color of your pants. Below are some general rules for suit color combinations.

• Black suits, including pinstripe, look best with black shoes. However, a dark burgundy colored shoe is also a great complement to this traditional suit.

• Brown or linen suits can be worn with all different shades of brown and black shoes. Since linen is a light, casual fabric, look for a light to medium brown suede loafer.

• Navy suits are highly versatile. The most popular choice is brown but almost any shoe color will also match this suit.

• Gray suits pair well with a variety of colors including black, lighter brown or camel.

• Charcoal suits look best with black or dark burgundy shoes.

3. What color are my accessories?

Consider the color of your accessories when looking for a matching pair of shoes. Your belt and watchband, if possible, should be the same color as your shoes. A metallic wristwatch will match any color suit and shoe. The color of your socks is the exception. Match your socks to your suit and not your shoes to avoid the illusion of wearing “booties.” If you are wearing a leather jacket, the color, texture and type of leather ideally will match or complement your other accessories. A shiny, black leather jacket should not be worn with matte, brown leather shoes.

The next time you find yourself staring into the closet, let these questions guide your ensemble and you'll sure to impress anyone you meet. If you're still wondering what works and what doesn’t, visit any of our locations near you and one of our professional stylists will be happy to help.

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