There comes a time in every man’s life when a decision must be made. Does he follow tradition and play it safe, or does he look at that grey suit in his closet and say, “You know what, dammit? Brown shoes. Today is a grey suit with brown shoes day.”
Individual proclamations may vary.
Fictional musings aside, though, putting these handsome, neutral colors on the same team is a great way to add some interest and personality to your look.
But as with any sartorial swing you take, there’s some nuance to familiarize yourself with if you want to pull it off. It starts with picking the right shade of grey for the right season. From there, it’s all about coordinating your suit with a complimentary belt, shirt, tie, socks, and accessories.
Choose wisely and you’ll elevate your look in a way that few others do. Choose poorly and… actually, we don’t have to worry about that since you’re already reading this. Funny how that all worked out.
To help lend research-bolstered credibility to my personal opinion that pairing a grey suit with brown shoes results in a classic and handsome look, I pored over dozens of products, styles, shades, photos, and my own experience.
How To Style A Grey Suit With Brown Shoes
Pulling off a grey suit with brown shoes is far from an expert-level move, but you’ll still need to take a few style cues in order to do it well. Start with the season. During the spring and summer, light to medium shades of grey are ideal.
As the weather transitions in the cooler months, so too should your greys to darker tones. The same applies to the shades of brown in your shoes—light suit color means light shoe color and so on.
Of course, accessories like belts and watch bands are also in play, so make sure they’re a similar color to your shoes. And since both grey and brown are subtle, neutral colors, feel free to add in more vibrant pops of color in your socks and either your dress shirt or tie.
One word of caution there: Don’t go overboard when it comes to the colors you choose or it can end up backfiring. Pastels and light, solid tones are a nice fit with a grey suit and brown shoes, especially during the summer. For the winter, darker colors like navy are a strong play.
That all said, let your personal style and tolerance for taking fashion risks be your guides. The loose tips we’re talking about today are about as far from black-tie formality as it gets. Think business-casual workplaces, weddings, and other settings where classic, low-stakes styling is most appropriate.
Seasons. If there’s one word capable of guiding you to grey-suit-brown-shoes nirvana, it’s “seasons.” If you live in a four-season climate and have the means to stock your closet with a borderline excessive array of grey suits, let Mother Nature be your guide. Spring and summer call for lighter shades of grey while fall and winter demand moodier tones like charcoal and taupe.
But if stocking your closet with a rainbow of greys isn’t in the cards (which… sure, I get it), at the very least you’ll need a handsome-as-all-hell pillar suit capable of rising to any occasion. Enter: Sid Mashburn’s Mid-Grey High-Twist Kinkaid No. 3 suit. Its neutral tone doesn’t take sides and wants nothing more than to accompany you and your equally-neutral brown shoes to wherever it is you go when you go places. Repeat: Not taking sides.
Your shoes’ shade of brown should be in lockstep with your suits’ shade of grey. In other words, light goes with light and dark goes with dark. Stockholm-based Morjas makes some exquisite Oxfords available in several shades of brown, each of which is handmade using 128 meticulous steps.
It bears repeating that pairing a grey suit with brown shoes requires a modicum of thought and plenty of confidence. I’ll cover the thought, you cover the confidence.
Even if you’ve already procured the perfect shoes in the perfect shade of brown, it’s all for naught if you don’t nail the style of those shoes. What’s the best style? It depends. If you’re wearing your grey suit and brown shoes to the office or in a formal setting, Oxfords and derbys are excellent choices—just go easy on the broguing unless it’s a more casual affair.
Speaking of casual, it’s perfectly acceptable on such occasions to go with loafers, driving shoes, or other buttoned-down styles in lighter shades of brown. If the occasion is somewhere in the middle, you’ve got plenty of options like Northampton’s Grove Desert Shoe that nicely straddle the casual-form line.
When it comes to socks, you can either go the incognito route or the fun route. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Fun all the way. Yes, but keep in mind that some occasions are more formal than others.
When that’s the case, matching your socks with the shade of your pants is a clean, all-business look. As for the fun part, almost any color and pattern will do for laidback occasions like weddings, post-conference cocktails, and business-casual office scenarios.
And even though there’s a bit of wiggle room here, you’ll generally want your shoes to speak to your tie, pocket square, and other accessories. A good first stop on your sock quest is Mryqvist, which has dozens of cozy socks available in multiple colors.
Ah yes, the age old question: Should your shoes match your belt? Yes. Yes they should, especially when those rakish leather shoes are brown and that impeccably tailored suit is grey. If you’re wearing a watch with a stainless steel band, you’re good to go.
If the band is leather, you’ll want to keep its shade in the ballpark of your shoes and belt at the very least. I personally avoid wearing a pocket square with this look, but if you must, be sure to consider how it looks with your shirt, tie, and socks. By no means do they have to match, but they should be cohesive in a way that doesn’t attract the wrong kind of attention.
Before we touch on which color shirts to pair with your grey suit and brown shoes, a quick word on the best types of shirts to wear. The suit-shoe combo will be doing most of the heavy lifting, so keep your shirt simple. A classic Oxford button-down is going to be a winner every time for most situations.
If it’s warm out or you’re generally active, something like Rhone’s Commuter Dress Shirt made of a breathable four-way stretch fabric should work nicely. As for color, white, sure. But the neutral tones of grey and brown also open the doors to light pastels and subtle patterns.
Lighter shades of blue are versatile and timeless, as are understated pinstripes or gingham variations, especially if you’re forgoing the tie and sticking with your blazer.
Things loosen up a bit when it comes to tie color. Feel free to experiment with bold colors, patterns, and textures as long as they’re appropriate for the season and occasion. Where some guys tend to trip up is matching the tie to the shirt.
Solid, neutral shirts in lighter shades can tolerate a busier tie. If you’re going with a patterned shirt, take things down a notch with your tie. If you’re looking for a handful of universally wearable ties in colors like navy and maroon, brands like Tie Bar offer a seemingly endless selection of ties to stock up on for any occasion.
Successfully pairing a grey suit with brown shoes shouldn’t be looked at as an expert-level move. It’s a classic, timeless look that anyone can pull off with a little bit of thought and confidence.
Keep the shade of your suit and shoes light during the warmer months and darker during colder months. From there, think about the style and colors of your shirt, socks, and accessories and you’re good to go.
In short: Whenever you want to. But to expand a bit, you can wear a grey suit with brown shoes year-round as long as you don’t take a one-shade-fits-all approach to your suit and shoes. In other words, go with lighter shades of grey and brown during the spring and summer, then darker shades during fall and winter.
Rocking a grey suit with black shoes is a timelessly handsome look, sure, but it’s also pretty expected. Wearing a grey suit with brown shoes is still a classic look, but it takes things to the next level in terms of showcasing your personal style and ability to pull off a less traditional combination.