Black shoes are easy. You can wear them with grey or navy suits (though personally I find navy with black to be a bit too police-uniformly), and no one will bat an eyelid. It’s no wonder, then, that they remain the footwear of choice for the besuited masses. But black shoes can also be a bit boring, and perhaps too severe for certain outfits and circumstances. Brown shoes, on the other hand, offer an almost limitless variety of shades and hues to play with. The Italians discovered this aeons ago; it’s about time the rest of us followed suit.
Finding the right kind of brown shoes to compliment your existing wardrobe is a both matter of personal taste and common sense. Generally speaking, the darker the shade of brown, the more versatile the shoes will be. Chocolate brown shoes, for example, can be worn with pretty much any colour suit apart from black and the very darkest shades of grey. For this reason, your first – and probably second – pair of brown shoes should be dark in shade.
Brown shoes become trickier to pull off the lighter in shade they become, but I’m a long-standing fan of medium shades of brown with rich, ruddy hues to them. And provided the leather is of a good quality, medium brown shoes will, over time, develop a wonderful patina – just be sparing with the coloured shoe polish. I find that it’s better to stick with neutral unless I seriously need to cover up scuff-marks or scratches.
I have something of a love-hate relationship with tan shoes. They always look great in shoe-shop windows, but I find that, when worn with navy suits especially, they can look like overripe banana skins. With lighter shades of clothing, however, tan shoes can look good. But if you’re a frequent wearer of light grey, khaki and/or light brown suits and trousers, you’ll get a fair amount of use from a pair.