There are very few suits with which I would not naturally wear brown shoes – a deep, burnished chocolate looks better with everything from navy herringbone to grey check.

But charcoal is an exception. The only other is probably black, which is restricted to evening wear (though the French have a curious fondness for the black suit).

Charcoal brings out little in brown shoes: something about the darkness and simplicity of the colour demands black calf. There is little subtlety or movement to a dark grey suit. Even a mid-grey worsted with little surface detail has variation in tone as it moves which complements a brown shoe, such is its usual patina.

And of course charcoal is just very dark, likely the darkest and most devoid of colour in a man’s wardrobe. If one’s shoes look best when they are darker than the trousers above them, black is the only option.

This suitability of charcoal and black is particularly true for a flannel suit, as in the illustration above (Ralph Lauren, A/W 2010). The only exception here might be a dark brown suede shoe, perhaps a slip-on, the matching of textures enough to distract from the disparity in colour.

Few men, particularly in London, wear brown shoes well. One recommendation I would have for them is to always wear black shoes with charcoal.
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K. A. Adams

As I understand it, the ‘rule’ in London is ‘No brown in town’ – Especially not in The City.

I suppose it’s acceptable if one is in a more creative industry


The other option that one might consider with charcoal is the anthracite grey Berluti Andy loafers that appear next to your post in the form of an ad.

Whilst it breaks your rule of shoes being darker than the trouser, it might just work…


I think that you are absolutely wrong, SC. There are whole enclaves of men (with whom you evidently do not mix) amongst whom black shoes in town (and I mean for work and serious play) are essential. Thet regard brown shoes in town as the mark of a bounder and an absolute shower. The fourth estate might, I suppose, always wear what it chooses…


After months of wearing brown shoes with my dark grey suit, I switched to my black Oxfords and noticed immediately how much better the combination looked.


Simon, i get the brown thing, but what about brown nubuck shoes with dark grey flannel pants? Thanks



What would you choose for shoes to wear with charcoal sport coat?

I have one that I will wear mostly with light and mid grey trousers or with tan chinos.

I have brown loafers that will work with chinos but I wonder if black shoes might work better with the grey trousers considering the sport coat is quite dark.


I agree on the chinos. I have a pair of mid-brown which are lovely but somewhat limited in their versatility.

I would like a pair of very dark brown shoes. They would be more versatile, which will be welcome. I’ll have to keep hunting for a quality pair within my budget. Until then I’ll use the black captoe oxfords with the charcoal sport coat, as you suggest..


I meant mid-brown shoes.


Hi Simon!
I have a charcoal grey chino but i am not able to find a brown shoe particularly darker than it.
Should i wear a black shoe in that case or can i wear abrown shoe which is probably of the same shade as my chinos?
Can i wear black shoe with dark brown chinos and why do the fashion industry consider brown and black to be a fashion disaster?
Would be really helpful if you could advice.


Thanks for the advice Simon!
If black would be too smart for dark brown chinos then what would be your shoe recommendation?
Would brown suede of the same shade as trouser work well?


Simon, i was just reading certain articles written by you and in one of it i found that you are not a fan of dark grey chinos.
I love wearing dark grey chinos as i feel i can wear it with anything in my closet and so i wanted to know, why do you not like dark grey chinos?


Do your suggestion only apply to a suit or is it also for just charcoal trousers on general?