Hemingway Tailors’ guide to footwear
It’s unlikely to have escaped your notice by now, but certain men find it easier to pull off a made-to-measure suit than others. There is, of course, a reason for that. While your suit may be the most beautiful, well-fitting garment of any of your peers, the ability to wear it well is not innate for some people. Mistakes can very often be made, and those mistakes will undermine the fine tailoring of your suit. One of the most common suit faux pas is footwear, and you’d be surprised at how many men have no idea what shoes are acceptable to wear with their tailored suits. Fortunately, we’re on hand to set the country right. Take a look at our guide to suit appropriate footwear and start making the correct decisions in future...
The colour of your footwear should always take into consideration the colour of your suit. Simply put, if the colours clash, you may as well have ruined hours of expensive tailoring. The most common colours of dress shoe are black, brown and burgundy, and these go with more common suit colours than any others. While white, tan and grey dress shoes are also popular, these can be more difficult to pull off successfully. As a general rule, your tailored suit should be matched with footwear colours as follows:
- Light grey suits – These suits are the most versatile in a tailor’s arsenal, and can be matched with black, brown and burgundy shoes alike. With a grey suit, it’s possible to experiment with other coloured footwear too.
- Charcoal grey suits – Charcoal grey suits are more inflexible than their lighter counterparts, and as such should not be paired with brown shoes. For a smart, stylish look, black or rich burgundy is very much the order of the day.
- Black suits – It is more difficult to match a black suit with the correct shoe colour than it is a grey suit. As a general rule of thumb, you ought to stick to black shoes so as not to appear too casual, although more informal occasions will occasionally give you the opportunity to express yourself.
- Navy suits – Navy suits can go with more or less any colour of dress shoe, although caution is still advisable. Don’t wear a burgundy shoe that appears too close to red, or you’ll be in danger of clashing. By contrast, a blue shoe will appear too close in tone to navy to really work properly.
Now that you have the colour sorted, it’s time to select the style of shoe you wish to wear with your tailored suit. There are a number of common styles it is acceptable to wear alongside formal dress, and this list is by no means exhaustive. It will, however, give you an indication of the kind of shoe you ought to be looking for.
- Oxfords – Oxfords are among the most versatile shoe that any man can own. Suitable for all kinds of formal occasion, these shoes will go with pretty much anything. The peacocks amongst you, however, might want something more showy from their formal footwear.
- Loafers – Loafers are a more casual smart shoe than oxfords, with the slip-on design eschewing buckles and laces. The trick to wearing loafers with a suit is to ensure that you select an appropriate pair of socks, as more often than not, these will be on show to all and sundry...
- Cap toes – Cap toes are actually a variation on a theme, most commonly a modified version of an oxford or a derby. The ‘cap’ refers to an extra piece of leather over the toe, used to add both style and substance to the shoe. Cap toes are available both as ornate designs and more subtle products.
- Brogues – Like cap toes, brogues are often restyled versions of other shoes, including oxfords and loafers. Brogueing is an embossing technique used to make a shoe appear more ornate and stylish – perfect for someone who wants to stand out whilst still appearing smart and sophisticated.
- Monkstrap shoes – Monkstrap shoes can appear dressier and more formal than their alternatives, but that doesn’t mean that you should shy away from them. The buckle adds an attractive style cue to the shoe, while heavy brogueing can result in footwear that really stands out. Be careful how you match them with your tailored suit, however...
There is a school of thought which dictates that suits should only ever be worn with leather soled shoes, but in the real world today that just isn’t practical. In reality, your dress shoes aren’t only going to be used to waltz around a ballroom or descend a marble staircase, so if you only ever wore leather soles you’d be looking to replace them every other week. Rubber is perfectly acceptable in the 21st century, so keep your leather-soled shoes for those special occasions.