Can You Wear Brown Shoes With Black Pants?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Taft and contains affiliate links. Learn more.

by  David Martin | Last Updated: 

It’s a moment we’ve all witnessed. You’re out, traversing life and trying to look good doing it and then you see it: brown shoes with black pants. 

Your internal fashion faux pas police sound the sirens and you’re once again left to wonder whether the offender is a style icon or the physical manifestation of fashion-inept homeschooler stereotypes. You ask again, “Can you wear brown shoes with black pants?”

Dear reader, despite the years of fashion pundits telling you brown shoes and black pants is as forbidden as horizontal stripes on suits, I’m here to tell you otherwise. 

It turns out that some hundred years ago, brown shoes and black pants were a common style. Shoe leather at the time was commonly brown, with only the upper-crust demographics being able to afford black leather options. 

While this fashion was driven mostly by necessity, there are ways to do it right. In fact, many would say the old rule has been done away with and brown shoes with black pants is in.

5 Things to Consider Before Wearing Brown Shoes and Black Pants

Taft Dragon 3.0 jacket over shoulder3

Before going out there and slapping on any old pair of brown shoes with your black pants, it’s important to be aware of several best practices. While these practices are mostly guidelines, they’re important to consider in order to pull off this nuanced style well. 

1. Do You Feel Confident?

This is an important but often overlooked consideration. Even equipped with the knowledge of how to wear brown shoes with black pants, if you’re not confident in the style, it won’t work. Granted, that’s probably why you’re reading this article. 

By the end of this article you should have the knowledge of how to pull off brown shoes and black pants in nearly any scenario, and ideally that knowledge will lend confidence. If, however, you’re still not feeling James Bond-level self assurance, don’t sweat it. Stick with what you know.

2. The Contrast Sweet Spot

Much of what determines whether brown shoes and black pants actually works is the contrast between shoes and pants. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 black chinos walking down stairs1

Saying “brown shoes” is a bit ambiguous. There’s easily thousands of tones, shades, and hues of brown shoes that justify some clarification in considering this pairing. 

I aim for browns in the middle of the spectrum. If tortilla tan and dark chocolate brown are the spectrum’s extremes, I’m going for something like walnut, pecan, caramel, or gingerbread. While some of this is aesthetic preference, these tones also provide versatility in matching and formalities, as I’ll explain later. 

These medium brown tones hit the sweet spot of contrast against black pants. Not too much, not too little. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 black chinos corduroy jacket21

Tan shoes with black pants have too much contrast. The amount of contrast degrades the formality of your outfit and leaves you more casual than you may have intended. That said, you can always see what works for you: there’s infinite room for personal preference here.

There’s a time and a place for tan shoes (tropical and spring wardrobes, Operation Desert Storm, etc.) but it’s not with black pants. 

At the opposite end of this contrast spectrum are browns that have too little contrast—think ebony and dark mahogany. These tones are too dark to contrast the black of your pants, but they also don’t match.

If you’re looking for a surefire way to get people wondering if you got dressed in the dark, here’s your ticket. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 boot detail on stairs

Some pairings of dark brown shoes and black pants will be so close in tone that onlookers will need a triple take to determine if your shoes are brown or black. Said onlookers will then need a triple take to determine if you’ve meant to do this. 

Thus, that leaves us with the mid-tone browns, like the Taft Dragon 3.0 Boots I’m wearing below. Hand-made in Spain and featuring sueded full-grain leather and Goodyear Welt construction, these water resistant boots are rugged enough to handle any situation and keep you looking good doing it.  

Taft Dragon 3.0

Made with waxed suede leather and a sturdy Goodyear welt, the new Taft Dragon is a big improvement on past iterations and a beast of a boot with a slim, sleek profile.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

The rust brown of these boots is a balanced contrast against the solid black of my pants. The contrast is easy to see and I didn’t have to make any sacrifices to the formality of my outfit. 

As long as you stick in the middle brown tones of walnut, pecan, and rust, you’re off to a good start. To make this foundation of an outfit stronger, we’ll next consider the style of pants you’re wearing. 

3. Black Pants Styling with Brown Shoes

For clarification, I’d like to point out that when we refer to brown shoes, we’re specifically referencing brown leather shoes, which also includes brown suede shoes. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 corduroy jacket1

This is important to mention because brown shoes of any other material will likely be aggressively casual and won’t necessarily fit any appropriate outfits. 

Which, finally, brings us to the topic of matching our brown shoes to appropriate black pant styles. If you were hoping this article would give you permission to break out some old brown fabric Skechers to rock with black sweats, I have bad news. 

Sweats, joggers, and any other type of athletic pants shouldn’t be paired with brown shoes of any type. While this is largely a conflict of styles, it’s also a conflict of interest between you and your wellbeing. 

Taft Dragon boot brown boot styling with black pants

For brown shoes and boots, I exclusively wear jeans, chinos, and occasionally suit pants. While there is a good bit of variability between each combo of shoe and pants, here are some rules of thumb.

Jeans 

When wearing jeans, I go for a more casual brown shoe, such as the Taft Dragon Boot. Throwing in a clean pair of boots elevates the entire outfit to a status of rugged sophistication. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 ripped black jeans2

If you’re feeling an extra dose of grunge, try out some black ripped jeans. Paired with Taft Dragon Boots and a crisp white tee, you get the benefit of stylish comfort and sophistication but with a dash of edge and mystery mixed in.

Chinos 

Since chinos are more formal than jeans I like to pair them with more formal shoes. Chelsea Boots are crazy comfortable and go a long way in dressing up a simple outfit. 

Taft Jude

Hey Jude, don't be a Blake-stitch constructed, woven hand burnished Italian leather boot. Ah, who can argue with those looks?

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Depending on the fit and length of the chinos I choose, I like to cuff the pants right at the Chelsea’s top. This is a more modern and casual look and goes great with a crisp white tee tucked into your chinos. 

How to wear brown shoes with black pants

This brings up an important point: shoes set the formality for your outfit. Picture that guy in the gym who walks out in sweats and dress shoes. Why does that make your skin crawl? 

The formality of the shoes doesn’t match the rest of the outfit. 

This brings up another important point. Forgive my tangents. The shine of your shoes, or lack thereof, is a big factor in determining formality. Take my Chelseas, for example. 

They’re suede, obviously not shiny. This is a more casual look than if the Chelseas were shined leather. In fact, cuffed chinos and a white tee begins to feel unbalanced with the addition of shiny leather Chelseas. I suggest dropping a crisp, neutral button-down or quality sweater on top of the white tee. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 black chinos white tee4

The Taft Dragon Boots are also a perfect pairing with black chinos. I like to cuff the chinos for a more rugged look and finish the outfit with a neutral button down. 

Suits 

While seldom, occasions exist where brown shoes can be worn with a black suit. To match the formality of the suit I’d suggest wearing brown loafers or oxfords. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by SOXY (@soxy)

This will always be more casual than wearing black shoes with a black suit, but it’s a fun modern twist on a classic style. Given the formality of a suit, I’d never suggest brown suede shoes with a black suit. Stick to shiny brown leather to pull this look off well.

4. Make the Details Match

Speaking of suits, now is a good time to mention a small but crucial consideration. When pairing brown shoes with a black suit, make sure any accessories and details match your shoes. Wearing brown shoes with a black suit, black belt, black watch, and black tie is an excellent way to instantly destroy anyone’s faith in your sense of fashion.

Taft Dragon 3.0 with watch and belt

Side-step this landmine by matching your belt and watch band with your shoes. Again, tone matters. Chestnut brown shoes and a dark mahogany belt is a no go—match the detailing tones as closely as possible. 

Another consideration is the color of your socks. It goes without saying that white socks have no place in any outfit beyond workout gear and the occasional street style, and certainly not with brown shoes and black pants. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 lacing boot with watch

When in doubt, I’ll go with black socks to accompany this pairing. It’s simple, foolproof, and inconspicuous. Depending on the top I choose, neutral-color heathered socks can also be appropriate and add a bit of flair to an otherwise casual outfit. 

5. The Occasion for Which You’re Dressing

Now, for a bit of application. The event you’re dressing for will determine the formality of your outfit, which will in turn determine your footwear and as we’ve discussed, inform the rest of what you wear. It’s a self-affirming and self-compounding loop—Warren Buffett would be proud. 

Date Night: While the formality of your date can vary, let’s assume you’re going on a casual date for dinner and drinks. You’re feeling confident and self-assured in your fashion acumen after reading this article, and want to give the old brown shoes and black pants combo a spin. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 black chinos with neutral sweater

I’d hit the evening with either my Taft Dragon Boots or Chelsea’s, black chinos, and a good sweater. As for details, I’d choose a watch with a brown band to match my shoes. Since your belt won’t be showing it’s not hugely important that it’s brown, but that’s the kind of thing that would subtly nag at my confidence’s subconscious. 

And that’s it: you just effortlessly nailed the rugged, sophisticated look, and you’re comfortable doing so.

Taft Dragon 3.0

Made with waxed suede leather and a sturdy Goodyear welt, the new Taft Dragon is a big improvement on past iterations and a beast of a boot with a slim, sleek profile.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Office Wear: For those of us who go into the office but are generously given agency over our clothing choices, I like to start with Chelsea’s. Footwear sets the tone, and Chelsea’s lend a sense of casual professionalism. 

The, “This guy can close deals and execute but also throws back beers with strangers” vibe is what I’m always after. 

How to wear brown shoes with black pants chelsea s

I’ll finish the outfit with a pair of black chinos and a crisp, neutral button-down. 

Taft Jude

Hey Jude, don't be a Blake-stitch constructed, woven hand burnished Italian leather boot. Ah, who can argue with those looks?

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Semi-Formal: Semi-formal events are those that generally require a suit, but not a tuxedo. For more modern, relaxed semi-formal events, pairing brown shoes with a black suit can be appropriate. At its most casual, I’d match a pair of shiny brown dress boots or shiny Chelsea’s with a slim black suit, taking care to make sure my details match the tone of my boots. To step it up a notch, I’d swap the boots for a good pair of brown lace-up oxfords and keep the other details the same. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by SOXY (@soxy)

Formal: Truly formal events require tuxedos, bow ties, and patent leather. I’d recommend against trying brown shoes with a black tuxedo, as you won’t have the benefit of a belt or other accessories to pull the outfit together. 

6 Different Ways to Style Brown Shoes and Black Pants

To give some extra inspiration for how to wear brown shoes with black pants, here are a few of our favorite guys in the style space pulling it off with no sweat.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Gentlemen’s Lounge (@gentlemenslounge)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by One Dapper Street (@marcelfloruss)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Barron | Minimalist Wardrobe (@effortlessgent)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Barron | Minimalist Wardrobe (@effortlessgent)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by One Dapper Street (@marcelfloruss)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Khoi N. | Style for Men (@thegentwithin)

Conclusion

As with many topics in men’s fashion the answer to this question was more nuanced than one might expect. These rules are typically unspoken and unwritten, just practices to be observed and applied. However, that should never keep you from trying more modern styles like this. 

For everyday life, my favorite brown shoes to pair with black pants are the Taft Dragon Boot 3.0 in Rust. Featuring hand-stitched, sueded full-grain leather and Goodyear Welt construction, these water resistant boots are rugged enough to handle any situation and keep you looking good doing it.  

Taft Dragon 3.0

Made with waxed suede leather and a sturdy Goodyear welt, the new Taft Dragon is a big improvement on past iterations and a beast of a boot with a slim, sleek profile.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

So, can you wear brown shoes with black pants? Absolutely, especially if the basic rules presented in this article are followed.

If you have questions about occasions or situations I may not have covered, feel free to drop a comment below!

FAQs

What color shirt goes with black pants and brown shoes?

You can never go wrong pairing a crisp white shirt with black pants and brown shoes. In addition, light blue, light pink, and light greens create handsome pairings.

What other colors go with brown shoes?

You can easily wear khaki, navy, blue, off-white, white, and most pastels with brown shoes.

Can you wear grey pants with brown shoes?

Grey pants can always be worn with brown shoes. All shades of grey pair well with medium to dark brown shoes.

TAM's Top August Picks Under $50

Bespoke Post Weekender
Get 20% off by following our links
Check Best Price
Armaf Club De Nuit Intense Man
Quality, affordable Creed Aventus clone
Check Best Price on Amazon
If you click these links and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.