The Guide to Matching Shoes With Pants

It might not seem like a necessity at first. Most men don’t grow up learning how to match their shoes with their pants, so they think any old pair of shoes will tend to go with any old pair of pants. As an adult, you know that clothes aren't so simple. You have responsibilities now—not only to look good at the office but to come off as a presentable individual in any new situation. Whether you're dressing for an important meeting or going on a first date, you'll want to look your best. “Big deal,” you might say. “So I’m wearing black shoes and brown pants. Who notices that sort of thing?”

The truth is, being a conscious and well-dressed man means that you should notice that sort of thing. Luckily, understanding how best to match your pants and shoes isn't not rocket science. Here's what you need to know.

Complement Your Belt

You should almost always match your shoes to your belt in some way. And since your belt comes in direct contact with your pants, you should be able to see the importance of selecting a color that complements and doesn't clash.

But what does it mean for a color to complement another color? This color wheel from does a good job of explaining where each color belongs in the whole scheme of things. There are primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. “Complementary” colors tend to refer to colors on the opposite side of the wheel—colors like blue and orange or yellow and violet.

We’ll have to use “complementing” as a general term here, though, because you’ll notice that no color wheel out there includes off-shade colors like grey or brown. There is more art and less science to matching colors than many people would like to admit.

Matching Pants With Brown Shoes

Brown shoes are some of the most common these days, in all of their varying colors: beeswax, sand, khaki, dark brown, light brown, tan, etc. Whatever way you slice and dice it, you likely have a pair of brown shoes waiting around in the wardrobe practically begging for you to match the right color with your trousers. Here are some good ways to pair brown shoes:

  • Blue pants of all types. Consider this Dress Denim Self Sizer Flat Front and how the brown belt looks with it. They don’t clash, but they don’t “match,” either. They’re in that sweet spot where they simply go together.
  • Closer colors to brown, like khaki, tend to work as well. Here’s an example, our Basic Pleated Khakis.
  • Lighter colors like this shade of blue in Seersucker Pants can work well as more of a contrast to a dark brown.

Matching Pants With Black Shoes

In fashion, black tends to indicate dressiness: a suitcoat, a pair of dress shoes, a black belt all tend to feel a little more formal than casual.

  • First, keep black away from brown. For whatever reason, they just don’t seem to get along together. Most dark black suits will require a black belt to match.
  • Avoid big contrasts. Notice how this darker shade of blue tends to work well with the black without looking too formal in our Cotton/Poly Dress Khaki Pleated Black shoes with white socks? Only if you’re a pop star.

As you experiment with different looks, you’ll start to get a feel for what works and what doesn't, allowing you to pair pants with everything from red sneakers to blue boat shoes. The key that brings an outfit together? Knowing which color of trousers to wear. Hopefully now you’re ready for that next big date.