How to Style a Grey Suit with Brown Shoes The Right Way
Are you looking to shake up a tired look and reinvent your style with some Oliver Wicks inspiration? It sometimes seems as if men can't have fun with fashion. You either have the 'wear the same thing every day' tech crowd, the jeans-and-tee casual office crowd, or those who are wearing their double-breasted pinstripe suits with waistcoats and grenadine ties everywhere. So what's a man to do if you want to cultivate a well-dressed business-casual aesthetic that still looks fashionable and yet interesting? The grey suit and brown shoes combination look may be exactly what you're searching for.
We often advise men to add a charcoal grey suit style he fancies to their regular lineup. Why? It avoids the funerary look of all-black, it gives some variety from the navy (which is always a winner and looks great with brown shoes, too), and it works well with a variety of skin tones and undertones. In addition, a grey suit with brown shoes can add an extra layer of interest to your look and help you get more mileage out of your grey suit. So let's take a look!
Grey brings a lot of the same monochromatic suaveness to the table while offering a lighter, brighter canvas that's easier to wear and appropriate in many venues. In addition, a lighter grey suit may give you the exact oomph you are looking for.
Likewise, we often play it safe with black leather accessories like shoes and belts. And we certainly don't advise getting rid of these, either! They will always be a versatile and practical way to wear your grey suit. But let's find you a look that's a little more novel and interesting. Can you wear brown shoes with a grey suit? We say yes!
Why doesn't every red, blue, or brown look the same? We've looked at this before in another article, but let's dive into a little color theory. First, of course, we're all familiar with different shades- no one confuses a tan or cognac with a dark chocolate brown. But why can you hold two chocolate brown shoes next to each other and still see a difference?
It comes down to the undertone or 'color temperature.' Think of it as a translucent overlay, or a warm/cool lens, that affects how we perceive the overall shade. And making great wardrobe pairings often needs you to match that undertone, as well as the overall shade.
In general, if you're not confident in pairing up your grey suit with brown shoes, you want to start by matching the mood of the overall shade. The charcoal will look good with dark brown. Midtones look good together, like a medium grey with a chestnut. A light grey suit needs brown shoes, which are also light. And so on.
It doesn't stop there, however. Grey is a very unsaturated hue, so it doesn't have the in-your-face color temperature that some vibrant colors do. However, that doesn't mean it's utterly devoid of undertone. You want to make sure to use cool browns with icier greys and vice versa. Avoiding this clash is the true secret to a great brown shoe, grey suit look. Lastly, you need to match the whole lookup informality with the occasion.
Remember that not all men's shoes are created equally. Men's brown shoes are typically leather, meaning they could be a relaxed, informal cut (like a loafer or boat shoe) or a more formal look. Formal men's shoes are typically sleek lace-ups, with the Oxford, Derby, and Blucher being the most common types.
Unusual men's formal shoes include the Chelsea boot, an elasticated riding boot, and the Monk Strap or Double Monk. These have straps and buckles instead of laces. Also in this category, but worth considering separately, is the Brogue, which looks like an Oxford but can have any number of fancy punched designs.
Not every shoe will suit every occasion. Brogues are formal shoes but a bit flashy for the office. You wouldn't wear loafers to a wedding, but they'd be great with a blazer for a coffee date. And so on. Remember that brown leather isn't as forgiving of scuffs as black, so you will need to take care of your shoes and polish them, too!
Another critical thing to consider is fit. The modern fashion trend is slim-fit suits with a low rise (where the slacks sit around your middle, in this case at the hips). Of course, it's perfectly fine if you prefer more relaxed cuts (a pleated front is a great way to get some breathing room but stay styled) or higher rises- but none of them is an excuse for a bad fit.
The idea of 'tailoring' often scares people off. However, it's the critical secret to looking great in your suit. Oliver Wicks makes made-to-measure suits, and we still advise you to get a tailor to tweak the last little bits of the fit for the best possible look! It's a stylish man's secret weapon to looking excellent no matter what style he picks.
A grey suit and brown shoes bring a delicious mood to the table. You have a monochrome with a statement. You have two unusual shades paired, yet they are on a nature-based color spectrum that works magnificently together. It's a fantastic chance to stand out from the crowd without being flashy.
So, how and when do you power up your wardrobe with this chic look?
Let's start with some general ideas. First, we'd suggest going darker for daily style, beginning from the mid-grey spectrum. Lighter greys have a very summery vibe and run the risk of looking more like wedding attire than man-about-town or office dress unless it's very hot outside. But, of course, if it's summer, hot outside, you're going to a wedding, or it's time for lunch, go for it!
It's also worth considering the brown you choose. We'd advise darker and lustrous unless you are very fashion-confident. You don't want these to come over as men's work boots, but rather a stylish, conscious choice. If you're not sure how well the look will work in the situation, err on the side of a darker suit and darker brown shoes. Brighter will always come over as 'flashier.' Keep the brightness of the brown in line with the brightness of the suit- darker grey means darker brown, too. And don't forget undertones.
With these in mind, let's look at some places to wear your new combination.
This is your power pair that's going to bring a whole lot more to your style game. Not for the office, however, where the lighter, breezier look of the suit will probably be too informal. Unless you have a strictly business-casual office, of course, Stone grey carries dark and light shoes well. Add a mahogany hint if you're leaning into a warmer grey. This look works well for:
- Summer and spring 'man about town' looks, especially with hats or bracers.
- Hot weather evening events without strict dress codes
- Daytime dates and coffee dates
- Champagne breakfasts or weddings
- Fashion-forward events
A dark charcoal suit and brown shoes won't always look somber, but they will always look classy. So this is your grey suit, brown shoe pairing to bring out as a default. The fancier the event, the darker you should go. Always darken your shoes with your suit and up the formality of the shoe style as appropriate. Burgundy-based browns offer a little flair, while dark browns are safe and classic. Let's take a look at some potential scenarios.
- Evening weddings with a semi-formal or even cocktail dress code
- Autumn and winter events, especially evenings
- More traditional offices that allow business casual
- First dates or date nights with someone special
- The theater, art exhibitions, or anywhere you want to be dressy but not fashion-forward.
We've looked a little at light grey already. It's a powerful summer pair and very playful. It will look especially great in lighter suit fabrics like linen and carries a very 'lunch with the boys' vibe you can enjoy. Make sure shoes are either very bold, like cognac, or pale, like tan, for a light suit.
- Summer outdoor weddings or beach weddings- this would work fantastically with a classy patterned shirt. If you've ever wanted to try florals, now's the time.
- Informal summer events, lunches, and even golfing.
- Hot weather daytime events
Grey suits come in a wealth of fun patterns, and it's tempting to enjoy that. We'd argue for restraint, however. You're already making quite a splash in a men's grey suit with brown shoes, so you don't want to go overboard. A windowpane or pinstripe could be fun, but be sure to balance it with the shirt, shoe style, and tie you're wearing, and maybe keep it more straightforward, so the brown shoes take the spotlight!
Do you remember when we mentioned that grey could have a little color temperature? Use that to make your grey suit brown shoe look transition through all seasons. In fall, lean into suits that have a slight warmth- think colors described as pewter and taupe. Winter is for super-cool shades like dove grey, charcoal, and light charcoal, while spring and summer give you wiggle room for the barely-warm tones like stone and light grey.
Of course, while the grey suit and brown shoes make up most of your look, it's not all of it. So how can you accessorize well?
If you choose to wear a belt or other leather accessories, they must match your shoes in color and temperature. Especially the belt, which will be the next-largest expanse of leather you wear unless you're carrying a bag or briefcase.
For smaller items like a watch strap, you might get away with a faint mismatch, but it's a better idea to look at wearing a metallic band rather than something that clashes horribly. If you want to wear bracers, choose a complimentary brown or look at our tie advice below.
While it doesn't help with a briefcase, bag, or belt, remember those warm wooden accessories in the same brown color spectrum as your shoes work well. So wear that mahogany watch strap, tortoiseshell sunglasses, and those tiger's eye cufflinks if you want.
Yes, this is a look that can carry a vest well. You shouldn't need to decide on a color for your vest, as most three-piece suits will give you a high-quality vest in the exact material as your suit. However, if you need to match up a separate suit vest, opt for as close a weight and color to your suit as you can. If you'd rather have a contrasting vest for a flashier look, have a look at the colors we suggest in the tie section, but it probably won't transition to an office setting.
Another fun accessory that won't work in the office, but will otherwise add whimsy, is a flatter man's cap like a baker boy. Match it to your suit, and add a cheeky touch to your look.
The good news here is that you have two soft neutrals working with you in your grey suit brown shoe combo. So if you've ever wanted the perfect chance to embrace pastels, you just got it.
Of course, a classic white will also remain vibrant and attractive. Light patterns, especially a blue-on-white pinstripe, can also work well, but balance it carefully with the rest of your look. Finally, opt for a shirt that wears a tie well, as this whole look can look unfinished without one.
We'd steer away from a dark shirt almost all of the time. It might be workable in a darker charcoal suit and will be very dependent on the undertone of your browns. The one exception is a dark burgundy, which works perfectly with mid-grey.
Talking about ties, this is your next biggest area of visual impact, so what next? It's much harder to mess this one up than with other looks because the grey provides such a soothing background. You can even get away with some quite bold colors, especially if you're wearing this look around town or casually during the day rather than for the office or a wedding. Even a carefully chosen neon without a bad temperature clash!
Want some classic choices? You can't go wrong with blue. Just match the color temperature to your suit and overall look. Navy is always a winner. Burgundy is hard to beat, too. Orange tones and deeper yellows like mustard work well if you carefully pair them to the undertones of your shoes.
Pale, mint, moss, and forest greens also offer some interest and variety and build on the natural feel of this color combination. Self-greys look remarkably sleek, too, especially with a little white to lift them. And, if you're not wearing a pastel shirt, a pastel tie looks great.
Can you wear a grey suit, brown shoes, and a black-tie? Sure, but why? Unless you're trying to turn some heads in an arty setting, this can come over as a redundant combo. Still, it can be made to work if your heart loves it. Just keep the leather you wear brown, so it's clear it's a statement, not a mismatch. Adding some lighthearted white polka dots or a pattern can lift it nicely.
You would be surprised how many men this question bothers. What color socks with a grey suit and brown shoes? You've probably been wearing black socks with black shoes all your life. What do you do now? The older advice is always to match your socks to your pants, so if you can find a good matching grey, or one slightly (but not noticeably) darker, rock it. What if you can't, however?
The modern sock trend- yes, that's a thing- is to have loud, fun socks. So if that floats your boat, give it a try. Neon green or purple polka dots it is! If you don't fancy it, then we'd suggest looking for a pattern in the same spectrum of colors you are wearing in your tie or bowtie. If there's one grey stripe, so much the better.
So, now you know how to style a grey suit with brown shoes like a pro. But, are there any don'ts to be aware of? There are some things to keep in the back of your mind, so let's take a look.
- Some people see powder blue and pink as cliche in this look- but they work well. They make a good pair if you aren't too invested in fashionability. Opt for a pastel purple instead if you want some zing.
- Don't go overboard on the colors. Grey and brown compliment well, but they're already two separate colors. You don't need a patterned suit, bright shirt, and colorful tie on top of it. Create a statement with sleek choices instead
- Save the quirky shoes unless you like to be out of the box. If you don't know what to choose, go for Oxfords- they're practical, formal, and versatile.
- Pattern clashes show up on a neutral background like this. So no pinstripe shirt with polka dot tie and windowpane suit. Pick one, and let the others stay solid.
- Don't overuse the black dress shirt. It (or a turtleneck) can look great in some grey suit brown shoe looks, but like the black-tie, it can be too out there for daily use.
The pairing of brown shoes with a grey suit is an impactful yet versatile one to add interest and variety to your wardrobe. It can go nearly everywhere (not if you need a tux, obviously) and serve almost any purpose when dressed up or down correctly. Plus, it gives you a whole new way to wear a very practical suit color stylishly. In short, it's a winner! So why not give this look a try today? Oliver Wicks is proud to offer a wide range of gorgeous grey suits, so you're sure to find the right match.