How to Match Shoes and Pants

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Fashion trends come and go, but there are some sartorial rules that separate the classy from the fashion-challenged. Central to these tenets are tried-and-true color combos that work, along with many that don't. For most, the rules come into play when it's time to slip on a pair of shoes with your chosen pant of the day.

Gone are the times of the valet who made pant and shoe decisions. Instead, it's now a man's job to decide if dress shoes really match a pair of jeans, or if a navy pinstripe pant goes better with black or brown shoes. Before creating a fashion faux pas, apply these standard rules when coordinating shoes and pants.

Step 1

Evaluate the occasion first, selecting the shoe to complement the pant. Suit pants go with dress shoes and boots, with no exceptions. Khakis and cords can sometimes be worn with a dress shoe; to make it work, top off the outfit with a button-down dress shirt and tie to cut some of the casualness. Jeans can go with practically any shoe, but save the dress shoes for darker wash, slimmer cut styles. Patent-leather shoes are for tuxedos, and can look tacky and ostentatious otherwise.

Step 2

Consider the style of shoe in combination with the cut of the suit. Tie-up oxfords are usually the most formal type of men's shoe, and should be reserved for more conservative suit cuts. For more fashion-forward men, an artsy, pointy-toed oxford shoe can look attractive with a slim-cut suit. Loafers are good all-purpose shoes, so purchase some well-made loafers for everyday wear.

Step 3

Match colors to create a visually pleasing look. Black and gray pants complement black, oxblood, or camel shoes. Brown pants work with black shoes, but brown shoes don't complement a black suit. Navy is best with brown or oxblood. Tan shoes can work with black and brown pants, but avoid pairing with beige or khaki pants. For pinstripes, match the base color for a more subdued appearance, or the stripe for pattern emphasis.

Step 4

Wear pants and shoes that are in a comparable state. Rumpled, messy khakis look odd with shiny, pristine shoes. Match nice shoes with nice clothing, keeping the "relaxed look" pieces for more casual garments.

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Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid matching sock color with shoe color. GQ's Glenn O'Brien writes, "Your socks should probably not match your shoes because of the dreaded bootee effect. You also may certainly match your socks to your trousers if you like, but matching your socks to your tie, your shirt, your pocket square, your eyes, your fountain pen, or your 1949 Lagonda Drophead Coupe may be more original."

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