Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
Move black aside, there’s a new neutral taking over the fashion week runways for menswear, and brown is it. The color is synonymous with shoes and leather accessories, but brown is actually quite classic and smart. We guide you through how to wear brown and the most complementary color combinations to brown.
Brown has had a bit of a rough-go in fashion history. Used as a color denoting poverty in social class systems all the way through the Middle Ages, it wasn’t highly looked upon. Then again in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was heavily disliked due to negative military connotations that came with World War II. It would seem that the stigmas of the past would never wear off. Brown struggled to compete against its more vibrant counterparts, but with time the color transitioned into modern and contemporary fashion and eventually into high-end luxury houses as being a coveted hue.
Given the chance to shine, today’s designers are breathing life into brown once again. It may remind you of the 70s-inspired suedes and leather, but brown men’s suits, shoes, and accessories look quite dashing. For a color that had to battle such a sordid past, we love seeing brown being viewed as a beautiful classic now.
What Colours Go with Brown
So what goes with brown? Don’t think of brown as limiting, you’ll find that a lot of colours are actually complementary to the shade. The easiest way to look at color combinations is to divide them by warm and cool colors, and that will help you wear brown with no issues.
Cool Colours with Brown
When we speak of cool coloring, we are pairing brown with blue, green, or white. They give off a colder feeling, and you already associate them with natural elements like water, snow, and even air. You find that some people avoid pairing brown with certain parts of the cooler spectrum, like green, but it’s not impossible. You just have to work with and consider different tints to get a stylish appearance when you want to wear brown combinations.
Dark Greens and Army Greens
- Together they give off a close to nature type of feeling.
- They work best when combined into a single garment. Go for urban appeal with camouflage.
- Try a green sweater under a brown jacket. Aim for darker greens, closer to olive versus blue-green. Teal is pretty difficult to match.
- Look for a green shirt or jacket with a bit of brown detailing.
- Sports coats with brown elbow patches are a perfect way to work in a hint of the color without overloading your look.
- Using green accessories, such as a necktie, with a brown jacket will look sharp.
- Put a light blue shirt under a brown jacket. The lighter color will allow your brown to stand out or it can draw attention to your jacket.
- Try men’s brown T-shirts with blue denim jeans.
- You can go for a dark brown shirt with a lighter denim wash. Pale beige shirts are great with light to dark blue washes.
- Brown leather jackets and coats over blue shirts can look very sophisticated.
- A chambray or navy gingham shirt with brown or tan chinos come off being casually cool.
White and Ivory
- If you’re looking for what to wear with brown chinos, then white and ivory are easy colors to work with in general, and are probably the easiest in terms of cool coloring.
- White plimsolls and t-shirts with a nice pair of brown denim jeans turned up at the ankle keep things casual.
- Throw a brown blazer over your white t-shirt or button-down shirt to dress it up a little.
- For fall and winter, a brown tan jacket looks very clean and office-ready.
Warm Colours with Brown
Warmer colors have a reputation of being easier to combine with brown, and this is because brown is a mix of warm tones together. Symbolizing heat, we are looking at red, orange, and yellow. These three hues tend to make us think more of autumn, and they do work wonders as main colors in outerwear pieces. Black is also considered warm, but we will look more closely at that combination and how to wear brown with it further down.
Reds and Oranges
- Go for a fine brown knitted sweater over a red or orange collared shirt for fall. The pop of red on the collar will be subtle if you prefer to try a more radiant color. You don’t have to wear a solid shirt, you can try stripes or plaid.
- Deep reds and wine colors will pair well under tan coats and blazers.
- Orange has the same effect, just avoid neon. Deep orange knits and shirts combined with brown outerwear will stand out in a good way.
- Pairing a brick red, burgundy or orange tie with darker woodsy shades and lighter taupe jackets and sweaters will have you looking handsome.
- Ultimately, you are looking for matching undertones to get the most compatible styles. You’ll find that some pieces combine all these great fall tones into a single piece, so if you work off that given palette you’ll be set.
- Yellow can be a bit difficult to combine with browns compared to red and orange, but you can take a more daring stance and stand out by making yellow pop against beige.
- Try a bright or chocolate brown jumper or T-shirt against some brown trousers as a statement style.
- Take some inspiration from our street style finds and keep it on the down-low with a pair of socks that just happen to peek out when you sit and walk.
- Mustard and darker golden yellows will blend well with most browns and not look over the top.
- It’s always a sure bet to pair warmer colored clothing with brown shoes. You will always look well-matched.
Wearing Brown and Black
The main concern about dressing for any man is whether or not pieces clash with each other. Some would think brown and black clash in the way red and pink often can, but actually they do go together quite well. Not wearing brown with black has been a long rule of thumb in fashion, but it’s time for it to be overturned.
Looking at the various Pantone browns, there are many shades that work well with the dark side of your wardrobe. Black is considered a warm color that goes with almost everything, so if you want to wear brown here are a few tips to guide you.
- Go monochromatic and let your shoes stand out a bit. Whether you decide to dress mostly in black or brown, picking the opposite shade for your footwear can look urban cool.
- Black denim with a pair of tan Derby or brogue shoes can be really attractive. Beige tones are easy to match with black, maybe more so than chocolatey browns. You’ll find that shoes in those pale tones look excellent with black trousers and denim jeans.
- Camel double-breasted peacoats and mac jackets are worn over a black outfit for fall look very stylish and modern.
- Break up the warmer tones by injecting a cooler color like blue into your look. Just having a sky blue shirt layered under your browns and black will help make the outfit contemporary.
- Look for shoes and accessories that combine both colors together. You’ll see first hand how well they can match and what undertones work the best with each other.
Brown Shoes with a Black Suit
We know the idea of brown shoes with a black suit may seem off-putting to some, but trust us when we show you that your suit doesn’t have to always be finished off with black footwear. There are old school rules to suiting that say your shoes and suit should match, but fashion likes to push the envelope. Break out your brown Oxfords and you’ll find that they look just as sharp and refined.
Sophistication isn’t lost, if you are worried just try everything on together to see if the warm undertone of your brown looks complementary to the black. Pull the entire outfit together with a brown bag or a colored pocket square. You can also wear a brown belt with your suit trousers that will help tie into the shoes.
You don’t have to keep to a stricter Oxford shoe. Wearing a brogue Derby will help you aim for a more business casual approach. Watches are a great way to help make your shoes more cohesive. A classic style with a leather band will look polished and you don’t need to have the most expensive watch either. Sometimes a more minimal style actually creates a better degree of elegance.
What Colours to Wear With a Brown Suit
Men’s brown suits are best in semi-formal or business casual situations. They work great for dinner parties and summer weddings, so let’s examine what colors and style options work best to keep you looking top.
For a paler brown to beige or a brown tweed suit:
- Keep your shirt in a crisp white to a lighter blue. White is more formal looking if you need to attend a dressier occasion. Light blues look balanced and streamlined with the more pale browns.
- You can wear brown shoes, almost any shade will work since it’s all in the same color family, and you’re dealing with the fainter end. Black is also an option. If you are aiming for a more casual vibe, give pale sneakers ago. Some fashion rules can be stretched, and you’ll find that men make sneakers work with suits. Especially if you wear brown leather ones because they’re quite stylish.
- Go for a black-tie against a white shirt with your suit. Shop for the slimmer, more modern style ties.
- Try a printed shirt underneath, taking into account all the color tips we gave earlier, you can really find some great striped or gingham styles that will elevate your brown suit.
For a medium to dark brown suit:
- As with the lighter styles, a white shirt is a safe option, but you can play around with colors and try a bolder blue. Go brown on brown and put on a pale brown shirt. Ivory is also a great color to wear for contrast.
- If you keep your shirt closer to white, play around with tie styles. Go for the livelier colors or even patterned ties when you wear brown. It’ll help break up all the monotony.
- Medium brown suits look sleekest with shoes that fit the same undertone. We’ve seen black work nicely with many various browns too.
- You might be surprised how nicely jewel-toned accessories look. Deeper emeralds, ruby, and even darker purple can be pulled off with a bit of confidence.
Brown Suit Jacket
We covered all the various ways to wear brown suits and how to pair your accessories and shoes with complementary hues. However, if you’re working with just a brown jacket, you’ll find some great opportunities to up your fashion game.
Without having to worry so much about what is considered proper, you can work with these tips and tweak them to fit your own individual preferences.
- Pull out your favorite denim jeans to go with your brown suit jacket.
- Dark washes look amazing with tweed sports jackets. The texture of the tweed fabric has a mixture of different brown shades, making it easier to pair against other colors. You’ll even find black and grey mixed in quite often, so it will be easy to match to your bottoms.
- Light denim washes can create a nice distinction from a tan or darker brown in your outfit.
- You can work on some colored trousers. Navy, dark red, white, or even going for an ultra-bright pair like coral or salmon can make an impressive statement.
- You don’t have to put a formal button-down under your suit jacket, try a black or white T-shirt. Even warmer grey t-shirts can be done in business casual settings. Also, patterned and plaid collared brown shirts for men look pleasant under a brown suit jacket.
- Another tip is to layer. With fall and winter approaching, layer a super fine crew neck or v neck knit over your collared shirt. You can get adventurous with colors. You already have a bit more reach because you can wear your suit jacket with jeans or trousers.
- For winter months, try layering a tan or dark brown wool coat over your suit jacket. We suggest a single-breasted trench coat or minimal overcoat. You may hear or read that brown on brown is a faux pas, but honestly pairing different tones together creates a cool, street style worthy appeal.
- If all brown isn’t your thing, go for navy suits with brown shoes for an easier to wear color combination.
How to Wear Brown
- Green and brown combinations can work if the green has an undertone that matches your brown such as dark or olive greens. Camouflage urban styles also match green and brown together really well.
- White button-down shirts and t-shirts look great with brown jackets or brown chinos and shorts. They’re always complimentary to brown suits. Try brown accessories against a lighter outfit.
- Warm colors are easier to match because they have the same undertones as brown. Deeper reds and oranges look amazing under camel-colored wool coats. They also work great as ties for brown suits.
- Black does go well with brown. Black shoes with a brown suit or vice versa. Try a black tie with a brown suit. Wear black denim with a pair of brown brogues or sneakers. There are plenty of street style worthy sneakers that combine wearing black and brown together.
On That Note
We covered quite a bit on how to style and wear brown clothing, from proper color combinations to brown suits and the age-old question do black and brown match, and do you wear it. While we definitely went into detail about brown suits and suit jackets, you’ll find some great contemporary styles. There’s plenty of urban bomber jackets in brown, and even some with color-blocked options with brown bodies and black sleeves or in the reverse.
Make sure you remember to elevate your favorite brown outfits with the right accessories. Watches, tie clips, and bags will help accentuate all the colors. Even going for brown items can add the perfect end piece needed to complete your entire look. Definitely give brown a place in your closet. If you find you are looking for more pieces in this earthy tone, check out our shop and see all the possibilities available including classic brown accessories like wallets and belts that every man should have in their wardrobes.