What Color Shoes to Wear With a Gray Suit: A Style Guide

Having a great suit is your first step toward true style mastery—but it doesn’t stop there! Building a suave and sophisticated look for your wardrobe requires you to consider the whole package, from your personal grooming right through to the shoes you pair up with your suit. 

Color-matching can seem like a big headache, especially if you aren’t used to doing it. Black, after all, goes with almost anything! Today, the expert team at Oliver Wicks will dive a little deeper into how to power up your gray suit game with the perfect shoes.

What to Consider Before Picking Shoes for a Gray Suit

a light gray suit by Oliver Wicks

Before we get to color-matching our shoes to our suit, let’s look at some key factors we need to consider first.


Before we worry about shoes and accessories, we have to make sure we’re using the best suit possible for the occasion.

The expert tailors on the Oliver Wicks team have already put together a great guide on matching the right gray suit to any occasion, but let’s recap some basics. As a rule of thumb, the darker the suit, the more appropriate it is for formal settings. This is why charcoal is the default gray suit for occasions like business meetings, evening wear, and formal weddings. The paler the suit, the more casual it appears. This makes pale gray suits suitable for outdoor weddings, hot weather functions, certain forms of business casual, and daytime wear.

Your choice of shoes and accessories will also be influenced by the formality (or not) of an occasion, the time of day, and the reason you’re heading there. You need plainer, more formal styles of shoes for more formal events, and you can get more personalized and less formal shoes for more casual events.

“No Browns After 6pm”

This is a very old, but still relevant saying in menswear. Brown shoes are for daytime events/occasions, so if you’re invited to something that’s in the evening, or set to go into the evening, black shoes are the traditional option. 

The Shade of Gray

Now, let's take a quick diversion into color theory. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a visual artist to nail this one! The basics are pretty easy.

Gray is a spectrum. Fortunately, there are not 50 shades to deal with - Typically, in top-end men’s wear, we make three divisions:


However, don’t stop there! There’s a concept we’ve looked at before to consider too—and that’s the “undertone” of a shade. This is often discussed around skin tone in fashion circles, and knowing your own skin’s undertones can help you elevate your sense of style. 

However, it’s not just for skins! All color shades have one of three undertones—warm, cool, or neutral. If something has a warm undertone, it leans into golden, coral, or yellow “base notes.” Cool undertones appear icy at their base layers—cold pinks, icy blues, and so on. Neutral undertones do not contribute much to the overall color.

Ideally, all items in an outfit have the same basic undertones. We pair warm shades with warm tones and vice-versa. Otherwise, you’ll have an outfit that should look good but just looks “wrong” visually because of this tone clash. This is a fact that becomes very important when pairing gray suits and brown shoes. A warm brown and a cool gray will subtly conflict and drag down an outfit, where two warm shades, or two cool, will look great together.

Belt Color

In most men’s outfits, your belt will be the other large expanse of leather. It is essential that these two match exactly, or your style dreams will be a bust. If you’re particularly struggling, there are pants designed for no belt—technically speaking, this is the more formal option—but if your suit pants have belt loops, you will need to wear a belt, so plan accordingly. If you only have one belt, then wear shoes to match it. 

The Best Gray Suit and Shoes Combinations

A picture of a couple's shoes

Now let’s get to the fun stuff! How do you successfully pick the right shoes to go with your gray suit? Of course, if you lean toward avant-garde tastes, the rules of fashion can always be broken—sometimes even successfully—but for men aspiring to true sartorial elegance, there’s an art to balancing the colors through your outfit. 

With decades of experience powering up the Oliver Wicks experience, we are always here to help our customers. So, if you are looking for specific advice or help, feel free to reach out to us at custom@oliverwicks.com. However, these basic guidelines should help you hit the ground running when it comes to accessorizing your gray suit, no matter the occasion.

And remember—accessories finish a look, but they will never compensate for an ill-fitting suit. And no man deserves to suffer through the discomfort of wearing one! At Oliver Wicks, we strongly believe that the fit that suits you is the single most powerful style item you will ever own. No matter what shortcomings or quirks of your physique you have or what your personal preferences are a custom-measured, well-fitting suit will enhance your style and give you the powerful aura you’re looking for. Investing in a few custom suits that fit you impeccably will be worth much more to your wardrobe than having a variety that all sorts of fit. 

Not only will you benefit from the comfort of a well-fitting suit made from the best possible materials, but that same confidence will be visible to everyone around you. Not sure what counts as a great fit? Remember, we have a helpful video series on fit and a ton of hints, tips, tricks, and other useful information on our website. You can create an account in seconds, and no purchase is necessary either. So feel free to join the Oliver Wicks gentlemen today and watch your style evolve accordingly.

The Type of Shoe

Remember, when it comes to the right shoes for a look, it’s not just about color. It’s also about the shoe design itself. Formal events, be they at a strict office, ballroom, or top-end luxury restaurant, will always call for an appropriate dress shoes.

The Oxford is a timelessly elegant choice that will take you almost anywhere. They can also offer you a lot of wardrobe versatility, as they have some solid potential to be “dressed down,” too. From banquets to the daily commute, you can’t go wrong with an Oxford. Derbys are very similar, but strictly for smart-casual.

Flashier dress shoes, like the Monk Strap and Double Monk Strap, still count as “dress shoes” and work with many sartorial looks, but because they are a little more ostentatious, they do need a bit more consideration. They work excellently for formal situations where a little ornamentation or personalization is appropriate—perhaps for an intimate evening dinner with a special someone, a style piece for the groom at a formal wedding, or as a personal touch once you conquer the corner office. However, they can be too over-the-top for some stricter formal situations. The same goes for elaborate ornamentation on any dress shoe and for Brogues.

When we come to true smart-casual, you can lean into loafers, Chelsea boots, and other dress boots, but no matter your color choice, these will never be appropriate in formal settings. And sneakers, no matter how pricey, will always be a casual only look, and an unusual one at that. If you don’t like attracting attention, it may be best to stick with the tried and tested true staples.

Light Brown Shoes

Cognac Penny Loafers by Oliver Wicks

Before we explore this class of shoes, let’s note that true “light brown” shoes are typically tan, cognac, and similar shades. While some may have a faintly golden undertone, most will either have cool undertones or a true neutral undertone. If you have pale to medium brown shoes but with a notable red undertone, you may actually own Oxblood shoes, and they do style a little differently. We’ve discussed them below with some additional tips.

Tan and light brown shoes are not appropriate for formal looks. Their best use is paired with a light gray suit for elegance and a powerful first impression. Think daytime socializing and outdoor events, including weddings. This can also make a great smart-casual business alternative to give you some options but is not right for interviews and strictly formal work occasions.

Dark Brown Shoes

an image of a dark brown shoe

Dark brown shoes are your most versatile combination with gray suits, suiting both light and dark grays equally. They will always be appropriate in smart-casual settings and can also work well in most formal settings. The darkest browns look best with charcoal and a slightly lighter shade with mid-grays. Typically, you’ll want to swap to a truly light brown shoe with a light gray suit, but dark brown can be your backup option if needed.

Cool-toned mid-gray suits—think pewter and steel— look exceptional with this pairing and can elevate the suit color magnificently. If you’re looking for something that could put in a solid day at the office and look equally appropriate for an evening dinner later, this is a fantastic choice. It’s also a power pair for weddings with ambiguous formality, conferences, and any kind of evening social event.

Black Shoes

Black Wingtip Oxfords by Oliver Wicks

If you’re feeling uncertain about your outfit, black shoes make a great default. Because they are on the same monochromatic spectrum as gray, it is very hard to go wrong with this combination. While they may not be your most adventurous option, they will nearly always be appropriate for any occasion - In the same way that a white shirt will nearly always be a wonderful choice - These are the menswear classics. You also run much less risk of an undertone mismatch with black.

However, where black shoes and gray suits really shine are formal occasions. A crisp charcoal suit and black shoes will always radiate power and elegance. So, make this your go-to for business professional attire and highly formal events.

Light gray suits also work with black shoes, although the results can be a little drab. Typically, lighter grays work better with the brown spectrum. But if you don’t have a good brown match, black makes a safe retreat and will not look ugly or wrong.

Typically, you will round out the look of a charcoal suit and black shoes with a crisp white shirt, and allow a splash of color (occasion depending) at the tie to liven up the overall monochromatic look.

White Shoes

For more fashion-forward men, a pair of crisp and ultra-clean white sneakers can be used in a range of casual settings for a relaxed and modern feel. However, they will never be appropriate for formal looks. And they absolutely must be in the best condition possible to pull off this look at all.

Your gray suit will need to be as casual as possible to match this tone. So, these are only really appropriate with light gray. Consider using white shoes to play up the advantages of a casual linen gray suit. Additionally, consider saving this combination for gray suits (or stand-alone pants) with cuffed hems, both to show off the sneakers and play up the informality of the look.

This look could work well at a beach wedding (if the guests are still expected to wear suits at all) and would make the perfect “smart man about town” vibe, but keep it for these sorts of casual events.

Oxblood Shoes

Burgundy Wingtip Oxfords by Oliver Wicks

Oxblood is the term used for a mid-to-light-toned brown shoe with heavy red undertones. So, this advice will also work well for burgundy shoes. Think of these as a very “snappy” dressing option. So, suitable for casual events and times when you want to strut your stuff a little. If you consider yourself fashion-forward, they’re a great choice for appropriate events. But they will attract some attention.

Oxblood has the potential to lighten up a charcoal suit and make it seem less formal, and it works perfectly with both mid-gray and lighter grays.

With this handy guide to pairing shoes with a gray suit in your back pocket, you’ll never feel out of place again. Color pairing is surprisingly simple once you get the hang of it, and the Oliver Wicks team is always happy to help, so don’t be afraid to find your personal style today.