If Red Sneakers Are Ivy Does It Matter What I Wear With A Suit?

You may remember my friend Kevin Danyi, who was profiled on the site a few years ago.  Over on the Facebook Group, he posed a question.


Click on the image to see the original post. And more of Mr. Danyi’s impeccable wardrobe.
Shoe Color, Suits, and Ties
Although in this day and age, showing up in something other than flip-flops sets one above the crowd, I thought I’d pose this question and topic for the group: Does it matter what color shoes you wear with a suit? With a particular color tie?
I’ve worn Alden cordovan shoes—lace ups, tassel loafers, and penny loafers—all my adult life and I’ve never given much thought to it. I wear cordovan with everything, from gray flannels to the usual navy and gray solid and pinstripe suits. From time to time, I’ll wear black shoes with a suit, usually with navy pinstripes and red tie. This was a fairly standard look in law and banking in the 1980s, when black wingtips and cap toes were popular and were worn with every color of suit.
I read somewhere, though, that burgundy/cordovan shoes clash with a red necktie. I don’t think it does and, quite frankly, I do it all the time. Any thoughts on that?
Photo: Alden Straight Tip Bal (shell cordovan), Allen Edmonds Fifth Avenue, and I’m wearing Church’s Consul 173 (burgundy).
I’ve struggled with this too.  Starting at the fundamental question – is it okay to wear brown shoes with a gray or black or blue suit?  I do it all the time because I like it, but then I saw Matt Lauer do it and am now asking myself if I have it wrong.
There were some rules posted in the comments.  Match your shoes to your belt or vice versa.  Something about brown in town.   Most of the comments were of the do-what-you-like variety, which is where I tend to land.
Except here’s Matt Lauer:

Tom Brokaw (same network so he is adjacent) has always been a good reference for me.  Not necessarily Ivy but well dressed enough that you can learn some of the fundamentals from him.
Not 100% sure what is going on with the shoes there but they do not look black, right?  Or are they?


Same network reference again.  Until Brian Williams got all bracelet-y and what not, he had a great collection of repp ties.  He wore black shoes with dark suits.



The Saville Row Company is very clear on their opinion.  Black shoes only with a dark suit.

Mr. Porter?  Same thing.

Still, the red sneaker theory prevails.  That one eccentricity.  It is fun to see people express themselves.  As for Mr. Brokaw, whom we wish very well, it is really fun to see his eccentricities now that he dresses himself.


38 Comments on "If Red Sneakers Are Ivy Does It Matter What I Wear With A Suit?"

  1. Any color shoes work with a grey suit, especially a lighter grey suit. Charcoal and black get black shoes only. Shell cordovan clashes with a red tie? Maybe that particular tie needs to be discarded.

    The navy blue suit with black shoes looks dickies and combat boots, and the trendy neon blue suit and tan shoes with white rubber soles is absurd. If one must wear an ugly blue suit, wear medium brown or burgundy longwings.

    Loafers with a suit? Why? I’ve seen highly polished tassel loafers worn with a suit. That was ok, an 80s/90s look, and a Southern Baptist/Scottish Presbyterian thing, but those shoes, while technically loafers, were really not “loafers” in the practical sense. I’ve seen loafers with an interview suit once in the last 5 years or so. Slovenly. Untrustworthy. Disrespectful. Boorish.

    • Like the headline photo…I’m not sure calling those “loafers” is really the best description. Those blur the line between business and b/c.

    • Emphatic agreement here about the tan shoes and blue (often painted-on-slim) suits. But as a loafer devotee, I think of myself as practical, if perhaps a little dressed down. It’s not that I don’t like the look of lace-ups, It’s that I don’t like the time it takes to get them on and off. Call me lazy. I’ll take irreverent or peculiar or even unkempt, but boorish is a bit of a stretch.

      • OK, I’ll admit, I like to lay it on kind of thick sometimes, while I wear my gym shorts and Budweiser tee-shirt. 🙂

        • Haha — …which are quite practical in the right settings, I suppose. No hard feelings here — I spent most of today barefoot in my home office on Zoom meetings. Still in an OCBD and khakis though.

  2. Second ‘Hardbopper’; both black and brown work with greys (and indeed brown looks better), as long as the shoe is not lighter than the trouser fabric.
    Navy suits can work with ‘cordovan’ but evidently black is that little but more formal, if that is the aim.

  3. Everything in my shoe rack is either black or cordovan. I have to say, though, that pic of Matt Lauer makes me think that a nice, dark brown shoe can look very nice with a charcoal suit.

    One of the few shoe-related items that truly makes me wince is the current trend of the very light-tan dress shoe, usually with a medium blue suit. Often seen on younger groomsmen. It’s just awful. And on anyone over 30, it’s whatever is worse than “awful”.

    • Charlottesville | September 21, 2022 at 2:25 pm |

      Hi, Paul. I agree regarding the light tan shoes and blue suit. The longer comment I left this morning seems to have gotten caught up in Moderation limbo, but hopefully will see the light of day at some point.

  4. Here in the UK we have a very certain rule about what to wear with what etc.. Of course trough the decades the rules have changed a bit and I can only talk for the fields I worked in the last 2 decades (Law, high finance, University). So here they are : navy , blue suits – dark brown, burgundy and in insurance …black oxfords
    charcoal , grey – black, burgundy (oxblood)
    The Chelsea and chukka boots are also worn in the colder months, always black or dark brown.
    I sometimes wear loafers with a suit, but that is something I brought from my working in Rome and is usually not done in the City, unless you are a board member or a senior partner. I saw them wear tassel loafer, black of course.

    But never tan shoes..those are an abomination 🙂

  5. Agreed on the light tan shoes with anything other than light, summer attire (chinos, linen). I wear my own two pairs only on sunny, very warm days with light tans, beiges, or khakis on the lower half. With darker navy, gray, and charcoal suits, light tan dress shoes are visually jarring.

    Kind Regards,


  6. Charlottesville | September 21, 2022 at 11:24 am |

    I always wear black shoes with navy, but color 8 shell cordovan would work quite well, even if not the classic traditional choice. I may try that sometime. Today I’m wearing black calf tassel loafers with a dark blue, muted glen plaid suit, but black long wings or cap toes would up the formality a notch.

    Tan shoes with a navy suit are indeed an abomination, as are white rubber soles on a “dress” shoe, unless one is in the Navy and wearing summer whites. (The same, in my opinion, goes for red converse high-tops with a suit, but that is not today’s topic.)

    I think brown shoes can work with a gray suit, although I more often pair gray with black or color 8 cordovan. I have a pair of brown Church’s semi-brogues from the late 80s that have aged into the “Boston cracked shoe” category, but they still hold a shine and I trot them out from time to time with tan, brown or gray suits. Gray flannel (solid or chalk stripe) with brown suede also looks great while reducing the formality a bit.

    • I think we may have found the nexus, tassel-loafers with Glen-plaid. It all makes perfect sense now. Not only do you get an A, but your contribution may well be cited as canon.

  7. The Amazing Tom | September 21, 2022 at 1:00 pm |

    I have been told multiple times by men in the industry and various professions that blue suits require black shoes with no exceptions.
    Glad clothing rules were never codified.

  8. And my friend from long ago, who wore tasseled loafers with a suit? If I recall correctly, that suit was a light grey glen plaid or a PoW with a subtle red overcheck. The “loafers”? Reddish brown alligators. Very nice. Beyond Ivy, but very nice.

  9. Matt Lauer honestly doesn’t know any better.

    Brokaw’s shoes appear to be black, but they need a little maintenance, and they are one size too narrow. Peg legs and no cuffs. Black blazer? Maybe it’s just the light, or maybe someone told him it gave him “gravitas”.

    Brian Williams. Cheap cloth, won’t hold a press. Shiny, probably over-priced Super 150s. Cuffs-check, peg legs that break at least twice. Shoes need an edge dressing.

    Brokaw-last pic. At this age he’s entitled to some eccentricity. However, someone could take him to a tailor and get his coats altered to fit, or donate it to charity and get him one that does fit. There was a time when I greatly admired him. I remember him reporting on the Iran-Iraq war, AIDS, Iran-Contra, Oil-steady at $11/barrel, etc.

    If there is a question about brown or black, I will go with black in the evenings, in the winter and/or Penitential Seasons. Probably not loafers, though.

    • Charlottesville | September 21, 2022 at 5:06 pm |

      You are a hard grader as well as a bopper, but I have to admit that there is much in what you say. You and our old friend Billax (I miss his “Wearing the Ivy League Look since 1958” blog) are the only ones I can recall commenting on edge dressing, and I think I am the only one in my part of the world who still uses it, or even bothers to polish the uppers in most cases. Afraid that I am wearing black tassel loafers with a suit today, so even the edge dressing may not save me from receiving a gentleman’s C, although perhaps the pressed but slightly fraying 30-year-old BB OCBD may earn a C+.

    • The “ability” to tell proper shoe width from a picture is the pinnacle of i-gent.

  10. My favorite quote from a cartoon by Weber – “You know, Marion, one of the things that have stood the test of time is these tassel oxfords.”

  11. The Saville Row Company explicitly recommends a dark brown shoe as the best pairing for a navy suit. I happen to agree.

  12. @Charlottesville Earning a gentleman’s C is Ivy.

    • Charlottesville | September 21, 2022 at 8:37 pm |

      Quite true, Reynolds. Overachievers need not apply. Or at least that is what we tell ourselves. Churchill had some teachers who failed to appreciate genius, only to have been proved wrong. My problem is that the genius part has not kicked in yet and I fear that it is getting rather late in the game for me.

  13. I think cordovan and brown shoes are fine for daytime office wear with navy, medium to light gray, olive, and tan suits. I think a charcoal suit’s best looking with black shoes but cordovan might look nice with charcoal odd trousers. I’m not a fan of black clothes outside formal evenings, funerals, ninja activities, and punk rock revivals. I wear black, brown, and burgundy dress tassels interchangeably during warm months with lightweight wool suits and have been known to roll out in Weejuns with a poplin suit and OCBD or chambray shirt when feeling sporty or slovenly. If tan shoes match an outfit, why not dirty bucks?

  14. I was always told that brown and black don’t go, but then when I was at college, I saw it all the time, and my hate turned into a begrudging respect. After all, my black hair and brown skin is a phenomenal match, so maybe I was wrong about brown shoes with black suits?

  15. “The Saville Row Company is very clear on their opinion. Black shoes only with a dark suit. Mr. Porter? Same thing.”

    That’s not what they say at all.

  16. I just noticed that Alden calls their, in my opinion, “suitable” pairs Tassel Moccasins, and Slip-Ons. The pairs they refer to as “Loafers” are in their Flex Welt and Dress Casual lines.

    Would I pair a set of Shell Cordovan Tassel- Moccs with a Glen check suit? In a heartbeat.

    Concerning shell cordovan, shoemakers used to produce pairs in Colors 2, 4, and 6, as well as Color 8 and Black. They can age into various stunningly beautiful shades of purple, red, and brown, and with depth. Something that special I would wear only with a suit!


  18. Black calfskin shoes with suits? No. Hard pass. Never.

    Brown, burgundy (oxblood) or cordovan.

    My shoe of choice for suits these days: Crockett & Jones* Cavendish Second place: C & J Boston.

    * Royal Warrant (HRH Prince of Wales) holder. Great shoes to boot.

  19. Trad in Jersey | September 22, 2022 at 12:16 pm |

    Last night on a Dick Cavett show rerun (on the Decades channel), the guest was Fred Astaire. Cavett asked him about always wearing brown shoes; Astaire was wearing chocolate-colored suede shoes with a navy suit, paired with a silly 1970s bandana. Astaire said he liked breaking the rules. Personally, I prefer black shoes with navy and charcoal suits, brown with all others. I realize I’ll step on people’s feet (or shoes) with this statement, but I have never cared for tassel loafers.

  20. “…but then I saw Matt Lauer do it and am now asking myself if I have it wrong.”

    Wise of you.

  21. If Ivy is, as the great Charlie Davidson reminded us, in large part about undefinable yet identifiable dégagé, then it’s probably time to call into question some old orthodoxies of the snoozeville variety– the I.B.M.-circa-1963 variety, that is. Black lace-ups are, without a doubt, super boring. Monochrome ensembles (dark navy or dark charcoal suit / white shirt / dark tie / black shoes) are exceedingly boring.* Add some color and start with shoes.

    * The exception is James Bond, whose darker worsteds and darker Macclesfield print ties are spot on

    • S.E.,
      I concur, with one or two exceptions, i.e., dark charcoal for funerals and certain liturgical services.

  22. Yes! Oxblood was mentioned. Love that descriptive name! I believe Alden used that adjective.

  23. Yes, Craig. Alden did.

  24. SiennaCornell | September 23, 2022 at 7:28 am |

    So what, four or five posts in the last four weeks? And pretty thin stuff at that. And still no women’s Ivy? Feels like this site is just fading away, hardly worth checking anymore.

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