Matching Clothes for Men: A Simple Guide

When it comes to putting an outfit together, there’s one essential choice every man has to make: how to match pants and shoes. Specifically, the colors you pair together will have an enormous impact on how you look. Here are five tips for matching clothes for men to help ensure you make the right choice every time.

“Matching” Pants & Shoes Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Colors

A common mistake when matching clothes for men is assuming that the word “matching” or “pairing” always refers to making both colors the same. If that were the case, you would simply pick a pair of pants, pick the closest pair of shoes in your wardrobe by color, and call it a day. Men’s fashion, unfortunately, is not always so simple.

You’ll do a lot better if you understand that “matching” in this context often means complementing. Navy and brown are colors that complement each other; white and black tend to be a little too extreme to truly complement.

When in Doubt, Match Shoes to Your Belt

Although some might not want to hear this, some people consider the shoes to be a visual accessory. They’re not at the core of your outfit—they’re not your pants and not your shirt—so they often look better when linked with your belt instead.

Match this pair of Charleston Brick Khakis with brown shoes and a brown belt, and you can’t really go wrong. Mix the black belt with brown shoes, however, and you’ll look like a novice at this whole fashion thing.

Matching Clothes for Men: Pick a Palette and Stick to It

Use a site like to get some quick ideas for what an outfit palette might look like. You shouldn’t use this as a strict rule of thumb when putting together an outfit, but it will give you an idea of what colors look good together. The better you get, the more you can experiment with “adjacent” and “triad” colors.

Stuck for ideas? Here are a few basic palettes for matching men’s clothes:

  • White, navy, and brown. A white shirt, brown accessories and shoes, and navy pants or even denim. Not adventurous, but not “visually wrong,” either.
  • Grey, pale blue, and brown. Are you starting to notice a trend with these blues and browns?
  • Salmon, light blue, and white. You might have noticed Charleston Brick, our particular version of “salmon,” earlier.

Keep it Simple at First

If you’re unsure about how to match your pants and shoes, then you’ll want to buy brown shoes and let the versatility of the brown do most of the matching for you. But as you get more comfortable with what looks right on your body, you might venture a little bit outside the conventional outfit as well.

Don’t be afraid to try light-colored pants like these Charleston Khakis in Stone. Yes, it will give more attention to your shoes, but as your confidence builds, that’s a good thing.

Avoid Pairing Black with Brown

The art of pairing men’s pants and shoes often boils down to this: pairing colors with brown and pairing colors with black. But never the two colors together.

Since many shoes and dress shoes in particular are either black or brown, consider making a particular choice when it comes to your suit: wear one pair of shoes or the other. Pairing black dress pants with brown shoes, however? A big no-no.

Once you get the hang of it, pairing your men’s pants and shoes doesn’t have to be a major chore. Simply invest in versatile colors, experiment, and learn what works best for you.