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A Visual Guide to Styling Suits and Shoes

Posted by Jones Bootmaker on

A Visual Guide to Styling Suits and Shoes

With workwear rules becoming more relaxed in recent years, there seem to be fewer and fewer excuses to put on a full tailored suit. Since there’s no need to don a suit every day, it’s easy to feel out of practice. One button or two? Cross or Windsor knot? What colour shoes should I wear with a blue suit? 

Now that the season of celebrations is upon us, these types of questions become more pressing. Nailing the right suit, shoe, and belt combination can be the difference between looking the part and looking out of place. 

If you’re not clued in to suit etiquette, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s bewildering. Suit etiquette doesn’t have to be an exclusive club. Instead, it’s a simple set of guidelines designed to help gent’s co-ordinate their occasion outfits. 

The key to it all? Getting the accessories right. Matching your shoes and belt to compliment or contrast the colour of your suit will instantly pull the whole look together. 

In this guide to suit etiquette, we’re taking it back to the basics. Giving you the foundation knowledge to styling your suits, so that the next time you dust off your old dinner jacket, you’ll have all the right tools to sharpen it up. 

Man balancing on rock wearing Brown Leather Tassel Loafers, a Blue Suit and White Shirt


Should you wear a belt with a suit? 

No doubt, a common question when it comes to styling a suit. While you don’t have to wear a belt, sometimes it’s a necessity. Other times, a belt is exactly the thing you need to take your suit from smart to razor sharp. 

One simple co-ordination trick that will rarely steer you wrong: when it comes to choosing your belt, match like for like. Wearing grained leather shoes? A grained leather belt is the way to go. Brown suede shoes? Brown suede belt. Easy.

What shoes to Wear with a Suit

When it comes to a black suit the choice of footwear colour is simple. Black suit, black shoes, black belt. The question now: what style of shoe?  Let’s establish the merits of each style of shoes paired with a suit. 


Oxford or Derby Shoes?

The obvious and most traditional choice is a classic Oxford or Derby silhouette. The difference between an Oxford and a Derby shoe is simple. In an Oxford shoe, the quarters (that is, the flaps where the shoe-lace eyelets are situated) is stitched closed with the tongue lying underneath. This gives the Oxford silhouette a more streamlined appearance. 

In a Derby silhouette, the quarters are situated on top of the vamp, appearing as ‘open’ flaps, separate from the tongue which runs underneath. Giving off a more relaxed appearance, Derby shoes allow for versatile and flexible wear.

Tan Leather Oxford Shoes
Brown Leather Derby Shoes



The decision to wear either is dependent on preference. As a guide: Oxfords make a considered choice for black-tie events, while Derby shoes display a little more personality. Off to the races? Derby shoes are well-suited to formal events with a little more scope to show off your personal style. 

Whichever style you choose, a statement sock will never go amiss. 

Man in Black Suit and Red Tie wearing Black Leather Oxford Shoes
Man in Black Suit and Tan Shirt wearing Black KIP Leather Derby Shoes
Black Caspian Whole-Cut Oxford Shoes
Uxbridge Black Belt
Black Kip Leather Derby Shoes
Upminster Black Grain Belt

Caspian - Black

Uxbridge - Black

kip - Black

upminster - Black

Loafers or Boots? 

Traditional Oxfords and Derby shoes aren’t the only contenders when it comes to styling your suit. A clean-cut pair of leather loafers or suede desert or Chelsea boots look just as good, especially when the dress code of the event is a bit more ambiguous. 

 The chameleon of the footwear world, loafers are smart enough to style you through formal occasions and events that are simply smart-casual. An excellent choice for weddings or other celebrations in far-flung destinations, loafers can keep up with warmer climates – where Oxfords and Derby shoes just can’t compete. 

Man in Black Suit wearing Black Leather Penny Loafers
Man in Black Suit and Cream Turtleneck wearing Black Suede Desert Boots
Black Chorleywood Leather Penny Loafers
Black Uxbridge Belt
Black Campbell Suede Desert Boots
Upney Black Suede Belt

chorleywood - Black

Uxbridge - Black

Campbell - Black

Upney - Black Suede

When choosing loafers to accompany your suit, choose a pair in leather with a sense of structure (such as penny loafers with apron piping across the vamp). This sense of structure will complement the clean lines of your tailored suit. Opt for a matching belt to maintain this structure throughout your look. 

Chelsea or suede desert boots are ideal for spring. Again: a matching belt is a sure winner. 

What colour shoes to Wear with a Navy Suit

After a black suit, a navy-blue suit is the colour you’re most likely to have hidden in your wardrobe. It’s no surprise. Navy blue is well-suited to an array of different settings, from business board meetings to walking down the aisle, a navy blue suit is a timeless staple.

Man in Navy Suit wearing Dark Brown Mens Loafers
Man in Navy Suit and Cream T-Shirt Wearing Brown Suede Derby Brogues
Cannon Street Handmade Loafers
Uxbridge Brown Leather Belt
Longwood Brown Suede Derby Brogues
Upney Brown Leather Belt

Cannon Street - Brown

Uxbridge - Brown

Longwood - Brown Suede

Upney - Brown Suede

The richness of earth-toned shoes, such as browns and burgundy, will complement the saturation of a navy blue suit. For a sense of continuity throughout, choose a belt that matches this rich tone. For burgundy, go one step further with a matching tie for a stand-out look. 

If you’re looking to keep it low-key, there’s nothing wrong with opting for black shoes and black belt. To prevent your outfit from appearing dull, uplift your look with a white shirt and lighter colour tie.

Man wearing Navy Suit and White Shirt with Burgundy Oxford Leather Shoes
Man wearing Navy Suit with White Shirt and Black Leather Derby Shoes
Caspian Whole-Cut Brown Oxford Shoes
Brown Uxbridge Belt
Monument Black Leather Derby Shoes
Uxbridge Black Leather Belt

Caspian - Burgundy

Uxbridge - Burgundy

Monument - Black

Uxbridge - Black

What colour shoes to Wear with a Grey Suit

The same rules apply for a grey suit. Brown, burgundy, chestnut, or tan shoes make stable foundations for your look, don’t forget to pair with a matching belt. 

Man wearing Grey Suit with Burgundy Oxford Leather Shoes
Man wearing Grey Suit, Cream Turtleneck Jumper and Brown Suede Leather Derby Shoes
Man wearing Grey Suit, Teal Shirt and Brown Oxford Men's Brogues

Once you have those foundations in place, a grey check suit presents the perfect opportunity to play with pattern and colour. Why not try a pair of patterned socks to add a touch of rebellion to a formal outfit? Or opt for a strong block colour sock and match to your polo shirt for a fully cohesive appearance. 

Brown Uxbridge Belt
Upney Brown Suede Leather Belt
Uxbridge Brown Leather Belt

Uxbridge - Burgundy

Upney - Brown Suede

Uxbridge - Brown 

Caspian Whole-Cut Brown Oxford Shoes
Brussels Leather Brown Suede Derby Shoes
Bertie Brown Oxford Brogues

Caspian - Burgundy

Brussels - Brown Suede

Bertie - Brown

Black is a staple choice with a grey suit and shouldn’t be overlooked as an option. If you’re looking for a black formal shoe with an edge – a monk shoe is sure to make a statement. More elusive than its formal cousins, the monk shoe is characterised by either one or two buckled straps in the place of laces. Ideal for the distinguished gentleman.

Man wearing Grey Suit, Black Shirt and Black Leather Monk Shoes
Knoxx Leather Monk Shoes
Uxbridge Leather Belt
Nathaniel Leather Monk Shoes

Knoxx - Black

Uxbridge - Black

Nathaniel - Black

What colour shoes to Wear with a Blue Suit

If you’re looking for a sure-fire smart look, a blue suit with tan or brown shoes rarely misses the mark.

Man wearing Blue Suit Oxford Brogues, Tan Shirt and Brown Leather Brogues
Man wearing Blue Suit, Light Blue Tie and Tan Grain Leather Brogues
Man wearing Blue Suit, Cream Shirt and Brown Penny Loafers Loafers

When looking for a pair of brown shoes to match your blue suit, consider the tone of your suit. Darker, deeper blue suits are well-suited to tan or burnished leathers, while a paler or lighter blue suit pairs well with a shoe in a darker hue of brown. The darker the suit, the lighter the shoe.

Uxbridge Leather Belt
Upminster Leather Belt
Vancouver Leather Belt

Uxbridge - Chestnut

Upminster - Tan

Vancouver - Brown Suede

Barons Leather Brogues
Caledonian Leather Brogues
Russell Leather Penny Loafers

Barons - Tan

Caledonian - Tan

Russell - Brown Suede

Traditionalists will tell you that a blue suit and tan shoes are a match meant to be – but some rules are made to be broken. If your suit has grey-blue undertones, black shoes will look just as smart as, if not smarter than, brown. Team with a black shirt and belt to pull the whole look together.

Man wearing Blue Suit, Black Shirt and Black Oxford Leather Shoes
Matthew Leather Oxford
Uxbridge Leather Belt
Maynard Leather Oxford Brogues

matthew - Black

Uxbridge  - Black

Maynard - Black

How to Wear a Suit in Summer

When the sun is shining and the air is still, we all want to reach for a pair of toe-post sandals, but some occasions require gents to wear a suit regardless of the heat. 

Man wearing Cream Suit, Dark Green Jumper and Chestnut Brown Leather Double Monk Shoe
Man wearing Cream Suit, Orange Shirt and Tan Leather Wing Tipped Brogues
Nathaniel Leather Monk Shoes
Vancouver Braided Leather Belt
Clemente Leather Wing Tipped Brogues
Uxbridge Leather Belt

Nathaniel - Chestnut

Vancouver - Brown

Clemente - Tan

Uxbridge - Chestnut

Attending a destination wedding at a glamourous country home, vineyard, or beachside villa? Or perhaps the weather closer to home is set to be sunny? In these instances, a suit in a lighter colour, such as light blue (see above) or beige is the optimum choice. 

For a beige suit, keep it simple with brown, burnished, and tanned leathers. Smooth leather will appear particularly smart. A pair of Derby brogues bring a sense of old Hollywood to the occasion, while brown leather loafers will hark back to their days ambling across college campuses.  

Man wearing Cream Suit, Black Shirt and Brown Suede Leather Penny Loafers
Man wearing Cream Suit, Blue Shirt and Brown Campbell Suede Desert Boots
Cristo Leather Penny Loafers
Vancouver Leather Belt
Campbell Suede Desert Boots

Cristo - Brown Suede

Vancouver - Brown Suede

Campbell - Tan Suede

Suede offers a more muted approach, toning down your suit for a more relaxed appeal, ideal for smart-casual affairs when the aim is to look smart and stay comfortable in the summer heat. 

Looking for ready-matched belts and shoes for the summer occasion season?


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