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How Now, Brown Calfskin…

Often I am asked about my opinion of which color shoes are most correct. While nothing beats black for formal wear, it is often the fall back color for business or even casual footwear. While often perfectly correct, black offers so few possibilities of expression. There are not, for example, different shades of black, as there are for brown.

Finishes are limited to matte finish or polished, or perhaps suede or exotics like crocodile. Yet even these different finishes come off so much richer in various shades of brown. With shades such as snuff or mahogany, British tan or cognac, brown is most often the go to color of sophisticated dressers.

Yet how does one go about the pairing of these different browns with classic business dress? The key is to provide an interesting yet not jarring juxtaposition of color and texture. Suede, with it’s brushed texture, works perfectly with flannels and woolens, as well as casual cloths such as corduroy. Finer naps like nubuck work well year round, with lighter whites and tans being the perfect foil for poplin and seersucker. Some feel that white “bucks” are too hard to keep clean. I feel that is similar to the same complaint that linen wrinkles. The answer is to not try. White nubuck shoes should show a little age and wear. As for pairings with the corporate uniform of charcoal and navy, although Italians might pair a very light tan, Americans might prefer a darker shade, such as a chocolate brown or a dark burgundy. Cordovan is often known as a color, although it refers to the actual leather, a very tough yet elegant skin fashioned from a rather inelegant horse’s rump. Usually finished in a rich reddish brown that mates flawlessly with darker colors, cordovan can actually be finished in many shades from natural to (gasp!) black.

As far as the accessories are concerned, that is another advantage of brown, for ones’ belt (or watchband) need only be in the general neighborhood of color, therefore making a much more interesting combo, such as a cognac alligator belt worn with snuff suede shoes. As for other colors, navy is a great shade to be worn with khaki and denim, and the Italian tradition of bright colors in driving shoes, such as red, gold or orange, favorite colors to match one’s Ferrari or Lamborghini, are not for the squeamish but add a great pop to casual wear, giving a smile and a nod of approval to all you meet. So please, experiment with color in your accessories. You will be surprised by the compliments.

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