The meaning of life… paper or plastic… blondes or brunettes (or redheads)… life is full of questions and decisions. Some big, some small, some regarding footwear! Which brings me to the age old fashion question… black or brown?
Many men are in the same (somewhat) directionless boat when it comes to knowing when to wear black or brown shoes. I could get into a lot of detail as to why I think the ignorance of how to properly wear what shoe, along with other sartorial customs, has become so persuasive in modern culture, but that would involve much more time and energy than just one little blog column so instead, I will give you a few rules on when it is best to wear each.
The old adage that if you can afford one pair of shoes then buy black and if you can afford two then also get brown stands as true today as it did when the first oxford came into existence. The reason anyone wears a black shoe is the same reason that you wear black stocks when dressing up – it is the bare minimum that you need do in order to be “dressed up”.
It also, of course, goes with almost anything, whether it be the traditional suits of midnight navy, dark grey, dark brown, or black, you can never go wrong with a black shoe and you will always be sure that you’re going with the safe bet. The only time that black is a horrible choice is when your clothing happens to be extremely light, or extremely bright. It is no wonder that in the land of linen (otherwise known as Miami) or in the resort areas of the Caribbean you will find black shoes about as often as you will see a down filled parka or a polar bear.
Brown is the color that steps into black’s place when your attire may be more fitting of a leisure activity. Hence why the majority of sandals are of the brown variety (and here is where I BEG you to leave the dark socks as far away as possible from the sandals! But that is an entirely different column/rant). Brown also adds a bit of spice to lighter dress suits such as plain grey or traditional navy. It is the slightest sign that you indeed have “stepped it up” a bit in your attire, going from well dressed to best dressed. However, you want to make sure to stay away from brown with the richly colored dark suits such as the aforementioned ones that are black’s domain (except of course, dark brown). Instead of appearing to have stepped it up, you may look like you stepped out of a badly managed strip-mall clothing store.
And that is that my footwear challenged friends. Simple and straight forward, your question has been answered. You may not yet be ready for the cover of GQ but at least now you know that at your next interview or cocktail party, you will be wearing the correct shoes.