You’ve probably looked at your gray suit, brown shoes, and vast assortment of accessories and wondered: “how can I make a look that brings out the best in all of these?”. Formalwear is tricky, after all, and the requirements are rather steep. Ties and belts are all business professional essentials. It’s worth knowing when and how to use these accessories to create the perfect look. If you’re keen on learning how to rock a gray suit with a pair of brown shoes, then read on!
Does Gray and Brown Go Together?
Photo by Willy Espinosa on PexelsIf you want the short answer, then yes! Gray and brown do indeed go together, so go wild with your combinations!
However, if you’re keen to learn more about the intricacies behind this combination of colors, then read on. Simply put, both gray and brown are neutral colors. They’re significantly less eye-catching on their own. Once paired together, the contrast makes for a sensible and dressy aesthetic. Doubly so once you pair a gray suit with a brown pair of leather shoes.
Both gray and brown are quite diverse in their shades. Some are bright and vibrant, whereas others are dull and deep. Because of the sheer variety and the flexibility of the colors, pairing them together means it’s significantly easier to find two shades that complement one another.
Still, it’s important to know that while the two colors definitely go well together, certain colors are more appropriate than others. Depending on the occasion, certain outfits will be more applicable due to their varying levels of formality. A look made out of a charcoal gray suit, brown shoes, and the usual tie and pocket square would be perfect for the office. This is because of their darker, more sensible shades. On the other hand, lighter gray suits are a lot more casual and informal by nature. This makes them more suitable for social engagements such as parties and weddings.
Light Gray, Medium Gray, or Charcoal Gray — What’s the Best Shade?
The simple answer is: it depends on the occasion.
While gray is a flexible color for suits given how they serve as the perfect middle ground between formal and casual, there’s no denying that this level of formality varies depending on the shade. Both light and medium gray are colors that work well on just about everybody, however they would both look out of place in more formal environments like the workplace. Conversely, this makes light and medium gray suits more suitable for “lighter” formal events like weddings and parties.
On the other hand, darker shades of gray like charcoal are more suitable for formal occasions. Typically, the darker the color, the more “official” the look. This is why most suits at the workplace are black. This doesn’t necessarily mean that dark gray suits are less formal than black suits, however. It’s just that black suits are generally seen as a safer choice given how common they are. You’re far more likely to find someone who owns a black suit than you are a gray one — of that, there’s no doubt.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which shade of gray is best for you. When picking out gray suits for men, it’s important to consider the occasion and how often you think you’ll wear them.
What Should I Wear Under My Gray Suit?
Coming up with gray suit combinations is tricky, especially when you consider how different it is from working with a black suit. Still, the lighter shade gives you a lot of room to work with, meaning there are certain looks that the color gray can pull off. For instance, wearing a gray suit with brown shoes creates a totally different look from wearing a black suit with brown shoes.
Two of the most popular articles of clothing to wear under a charcoal gray suit are black dress shirts and black turtlenecks. These two, combined with a suit, are a classic combination that makes for a smart-casual look. This look is equal parts prestigious and sophisticated.
For those eager to wear black dress shirts, these combo well with accessories like ties and pocket squares. Match those with dark brown shoes, a dark brown belt, and a watch with a dark brown leather strap and you’ve got a classy outfit ready to go.
However, the most reliable option that works with just about any shade of gray is a white button-up shirt. Because of its neutral colors and contrasting shades, a simple white dress shirt can bring out the best in light gray suits, dark gray suits, and everything in-between.
For those eager to break the mold a little and mix things up, another safe bet would be to choose other shirts of a color or shade lighter than that of your suit. For instance, a look consisting of a gray suit, brown shoes, blue shirt, and a range of complementing accessories like pocket squares and ties would work out perfectly fine.
You also can’t go wrong with red shirts, though the combination of red with gray is quite bold and striking. It’s advisable to wear shirts that are pastel in color, meaning a light red option is best.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Rocking a Gray Suit with Brown Shoes
You might have realized there are a lot of rules when it comes to matching colors like gray and brown together — doubly so when it’s for formalwear. These rules, both spoken and unspoken alike, must be followed if one wishes to create a cohesive look that brings out the best in both the suit of their choice and the shoes that accompany them.
Do Give Extra Attention To The Accessories You Wear
One of the many things people in this day and age undervalue is the sheer impact accessorizing can have on an outfit. Partnering gray suits with brown shoes makes for a novel look, but once it becomes one of your more “regular” looks, you’ll have to find a way to mix it up. Though there are a few ways in which this can be achieved, one of the most reliable methods is to wear new ties and pocket squares. Accessorizing is all about how the little details affect the overall look. Providing your suit with a dash of new colors to contrast with allows you to build onto your gray-brown canvas, creating a standout look in the process.
Do Know What Colors To Use and When
With accessories in mind, it’s also important to know which colors to use and when. For formal events, and for solemn events, a safe bet when it comes to accessories like pocket squares would be the color white. White is a neutral color, and if your pocket square is folded simply enough, you can easily create an inoffensive look that wouldn’t be out of place on any occasion.
The same logic applies to ties, and how certain ties are more workplace-acceptable than others. Patterns aside, the color of the tie you choose plays a huge part in determining the overall cohesion of your outfit as well.
Generally, lighter-colored ties, patterned ties, and lighter-colored patterned ties are reserved for casual occasions. You could get away with a pink tie partnered with a light red shirt, or a deep blue tie partnered with a light blue dress shirt — all layered underneath your light or medium gray suit.
Don’t Forget to Accessorize
On the other hand, there are also certain rules worth keeping in mind if you decide to match men’s gray suits with brown shoes. One of these is failing or forgetting to accessorize. A simple tie goes a long way when it comes to determining your look for the day. Wearing the same combination of colors consistently, even if it’s once a week, will become noticeable eventually. That’s why it’s a good idea to mix it up every now and then — experiment with different-colored ties and pocket squares.
Don’t Overuse Black Button-Ups and Turtlenecks
There’s also the pitfall of overusing certain looks and combinations. As dapper and attractive as wearing a gray suit with a black turtleneck or a black button-up dress shirt is, the two looks are similar enough for people to notice in the event that you do repeat looks. It’s highly recommended for you to switch it up a little as making such a standout combination your regular look could lead to raised brows. It’d also be doing the rest of your wardrobe a disservice, especially since gray suits and brown shoes work perfectly fine with several other options.
Don’t Wear the Wrong Shades
Given the sheer number of shades available for both brown and gray, it’s also easy to mix and match suits and shoes. Though this is indeed a good thing, it’s also possible to choose the wrong shades for each color. Mismatched colors will make for a messy, drab, or uninspired aesthetic. To avoid this, make sure that either your gray suit or your brown shoes are softer and lighter in color than the other. For instance, you’d want to pair a light gray suit with striking tan dress shoes.
Similarly, you also run the risk of choosing the wrong colors for your accessories. Though it might be tempting to match the color and pattern of your tie with your pocket square, it’s best not to. After all, colors in fashion are all about contrasts, and having two matching accessories goes against that philosophy.
Accessorizing with Your Gray Suit and Brown Shoes
Accessories have the potential to completely change the look and feel of an outfit. It does this by simply giving other people more things to look at when they glance your way. Ties add a dash of color to break the monotony of your everyday outfits, as do pocket squares. Belts can help complement the color of your shoes, as can the straps of the watches you wear. Cufflinks and tie bars are smaller and far more subtle, but they all create senses of symmetry and asymmetry alike to spruce up your look.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to pick the color of your suit first before worrying about your tie. Even then, it’s also essential to consider the occasion. Ties have more dimensions to them than mere colors. Pay attention to whether or not your tie possesses patterns. Simple ties and patterned ties have the potential to improve any outfit if used appropriately.
Light gray suits and medium gray suits are generally more casual, meaning you can match them with brighter-colored ties complete with fancy patterns. On the other hand, dark gray suits and charcoal gray suits are more professional. This means it’s best to wear monochromatic and patternless ties.
An outfit that consists of a gray suit, brown shoes, and a green tie possesses a certain earthy, natural look that would make it perfectly suitable for garden parties and outdoor weddings. This combination conveys a certain sense of elegance, partnering better with light gray suits as opposed to dark gray suits.
Conversely, an outfit made up of a gray suit, brown shoes, and a red tie is significantly sharper. This classy look conveys an undeniably casual and easy-going vibe that’s as refined as it is stylish.
Pocket squares are a little more uncommon than accessories such as ties, even though they’re arguably every bit as effective. Bear in mind that there’s a difference between pocket squares and handkerchiefs. The former is a fabric that exists to spruce up the jacket of your suit, whereas the latter is a tool used to wipe up sweat and dirt.
They are a flexible accessory that can be folded in many different ways. This is a fact that’s only accentuated by how they can come in a variety of colors and patterns. When partnered with a gray suit, these pocket-sized accessories are capable of working wonders. Given how gray’s a neutral color, you should follow the same general rules as ties when it comes to picking colors for your pocket squares.
Ultimately, these accessories can be used in formal, semi-formal, and casual engagements alike. Bear in mind that it’s never a good idea to wear a pocket square with the same color or pattern of your tie. If you decide to wear an outfit consisting of a gray suit, brown shoes, and a pink tie, then your pocket square can’t be pink. You’re better off choosing a color that contrasts and plays off your tie instead.
While belts are primarily designed to secure your pants to your waist, they also double as fashion accessories. Belts come in many colors, and are made from a wide range of materials including leather, plastic, or even heavy-duty cloth. Practical uses aside, they can really help complete a look. Because of this, it’s only natural that the perfect companion for a pair of formal brown dress shoes is an equally formal brown leather belt.
Ideally, you’ll want to wear a belt that matches the color of the brown shoes you’re wearing. This is especially true for more formal engagements where leather shoes are mandatory. However, since you plan on wearing these shoes with a companion gray suit then it’s only natural that you’re keen on sprucing up your formal game.
The bottom line is to keep the shades of your shoes and your belt identical to create a sense of consistency with your outfit. It’s something of an unspoken rule. If you wear dark brown shoes, wear a dark brown belt. If you wear light brown shoes, wear a light brown belt.
This allows your shoes to complement the colors of your belt and vice versa, making for a more complete and well-thought-out look.
Another accessory that partners perfectly with formalwear is the watch — specifically one with leather straps that match the color of your shoes and your belt. These devices can do a lot more than simply tell the time. They’re one of the most attractive accessories for a reason. Thus, knowing how to wear watches can create a sense of sophistication and fashionable asymmetry that elevates your look to new levels.
In the case of pocket squares and ties, they must contrast with the color of your suit. On the other hand, watches and belts help you create accents for your outfit. For instance, wearing brown shoes, brown belts, and brown watch straps makes for a brown accent. One of the most prominent-yet-unspoken rules of fashion is making sure the colors you choose for your clothing and your accessories play off one another. Brown and gray are colors that contrast, meaning they work well together.
At the end of the day, leather complements leather, so it’s best to stay consistent and allow your accessories and clothing to bring out the best in each other. Bear in mind that the watch doesn’t necessarily have to be the exact same color as your belt and shoes — only similar, especially with regards to the shade and tone.
Much like belts, cufflinks are forms of male jewelry that double as useful tools to keep your clothing secure. This dapper accessory is used to fasten the cuffs of your dress shirts — specifically ones with cuffs that have buttonholes on both sides, but no buttons to secure them with.
One of the greatest strengths cufflinks have is their ability to transform a mundane, everyday look into something new and fresh. When it comes to fashion, it’s always a good idea to pay extra attention to the little details — more so for those eager to learn how to wear cufflinks like a true gentleman. While choosing the right blend of colors goes a long way, it’s not a good idea to neglect the effect accessories can have on the overall look of an outfit.
Since these accessories belong more on the dress shirt beneath the suit rather than the suit itself, it’s essential to coordinate your outfit. White dress shirts are flexible, meaning they can work with almost any cufflink regardless of color. Among the colors that are easiest to coordinate with are silver and gold. Black and white also partner well with gray suits, however.
Tie bars are a simple yet highly effective accessory you can use to liven up your outfit. In a sense, they serve as companion accessories to companion accessories. They are items that you clip onto ties. These ties are then used to complement suits and dress shirts.
What makes them so effective is how they break the monotony of an outfit. It accomplishes this by clipping onto your tie, creating a small metal stripe that goes from one end of the fabric to the other — though not all the way through. This creates a fashionable asymmetry that also doubles as a tool to keep your tie in place.
There are two different types of tie bars: tie clips, and tie slides. It’s likely you’ve run into the former more than the latter. Tie clips are among the most common types of tie bars because of their practical uses. Possessing a hinge that allows it to open and close, tie clips keep ties secure and in place. On the other hand, tie slides are bars of metal that slide into place, fastening itself to your tie.
Much like pocket squares and ties, however, it’s best to save the fancier and more colorful ones for more casual occasions. In formal settings, a simple metal one that’s easy on the eyes will suffice. Anything beyond that would be improper.
How many accessories are too many?
Showing up to an event overdressed is just as bad, if not worse, than showing up to one underdressed. In fashion as in life, it’s important to maintain a sense of balance. In the case of your wardrobe, this means accessorizing enough to create a distinct look without drawing the attention of everyone in the room. The goal is to find that perfect middle ground.
It goes without saying that you should only wear one pocket square, one watch, and one tie. When it comes to finer accessories like tie bars, cufflinks, and jewelry, however, the lines begin to blur. One tie bar should suffice. It’s ill-advised to mix and match cufflinks. A matching pair is essential.
It’s fair game to wear a pocket square, a watch, and a tie all at once so long as the colors complement one another. The most important part of fashion is creating a cohesive look. Wearing too many accessories means you’ll have to consider more dimensions with your overall outfit. So long as you have the necessary pieces to construct your look, there’s no harm in flaunting them.
As for your jewelry, wear a maximum of two to three pieces on your arms. Even then, it’s best to maintain a subtler, more minimalist look when it comes to accessorizing. This is especially important for formal occasions.
What Socks Should I Match with My Shoes?
Keep in mind that when it comes to matching socks with the rest of your outfit, the color of your shoes matters only half as much as the color of your pants. Matching your socks with your pants is essential. It’s important to keep in mind that socks should act as an extension of your trousers.
Consistent colors must be used so as not to ruin your silhouette, which means you’ll have to wear socks that are either lighter or darker than your trousers. You can potentially make yourself look shorter by mismatching colors. In the event that you find yourself wearing lighter-colored pants — in this case, a lighter shade of gray — it’s acceptable to wear darker socks that match the color of your shoes.
A safe combination would be to wear black socks with brown shoes. This is because the darker color of your socks complements the gray of your suit. The darker the shade, the better. It’s also a safe bet to wear blue socks if you wear dark brown shoes. The same goes for gray socks.
Gray Suit, Brown Shoes: How to Rock It
There are many ways in which to wear a gray suit with brown shoes. There are even more when one considers the additional dimensions accessorizing adds to their looks. Despite the sheer variety, there are still rules to follow. Lighter colors are best reserved for more casual occasions, and maintaining color contrasts is paramount.
Fortunately, there are several different types of formal shoes for you to match with your suits. Here are 35 of the best dress shoes for men to help you get started.