There’s an old English proverb that you can read a man by the shine on his shoes. Certainly, choosing the right shoe is a decision that can make or break your outfit. With that in mind, here are three tips on selecting a shoe that will have you looking your best from tip to toe (literally).
Colour Code: As a rule, brown shoes are best with a navy suit, and black shoes are best with black, grey and charcoal. There’s some room to play with that - black can be fine with navy (navy is the most versatile suit you’ll ever have, after all) and brown can be acceptable with a very light grey, but if you’re ever unsure stay in your comfort zone. When it comes to more interesting colours for your suit, it’s generally a good idea to keep your shoes simple and conservative, or risk looking like a rainbow lorikeet. Black shoes are always safe, particularly with bright colours like red or green. Brown shoes pair well with more Autumnal shades of suit, like brown or dark green. If you’re ever in doubt, try it all on; the shoes should never catch your attention unless they’re supposed to be the highlight (in which case, the suit should be simple and in a neutral colour, like navy, grey or black).
Formality Rules: Perhaps as important as colour is the style of shoe and how formal it is. There are ways to play with black patent leather slippers (those really shiny shoes) with casual outfits but ordinarily they’re very formal, and, unless you’re an extremely funky K-Pop star, should be worn with a tuxedo only. Oxfords are your work-horses and are more versatile - they work with all of your business suits. Brogues and loafers are great for your smart casual outfits or lending a more casual vibe to your formal get-up - chinos, tailored casual and even jeans. There’s a lot of overlap between the categories, so the trick is in the details - you can bring the formality of a business suit down by a notch with loafers, but make sure the loafers are more formal in colour and style. And you can bring the formality of a casual look up by sticking to more conservative Oxfords (particularly in black) - just make sure the cut and quality is precise, so it doesn’t look like you’re wearing school shoes on the weekend.
Rules Are For Bending (Sometimes): A decade ago the idea of wearing loafers to the office, or white trainers with a suit, was laughable. Now it’s widely acceptable and on trend. The trick is to play within your comfort zone - don’t try to walk the catwalk if you haven’t done your due diligence. Those details (the right white sneakers, the right loafers, the cut of your trouser hem, the shade of your suit) will make all the difference, and show the pros from the pretenders. If you aren’t sure, hold off and play it safer.