How to match your shoes to the rest of your outfit

When you're picking out your shoes, should they match your outfit or contrast it?

In the Thomas Bird office we often discuss (and sometimes argue about) which shoes or boots go with which outfits. And some of the factors discussed are colour and contrast.

Should your shoes or boots be a different colour to the rest of your outfit or should you use a colour that is close or similar?  Are there any rules on this?

Let's take a look at a few examples and compare different colour combinations to see if there is an answer.

A big contrast or actually quite similar?

Some colours go well together, like strawberries and cream.

We are big fans of oxblood and navy/blue as seen here - oxblood wholecut oxfords and a navy pinstripe suit.

Oxblood shoes with navy blue suit


If we got out our colour wheels from art or design class (below), we would see that these two colours, although visually different, are broadly in the same area of the wheel. So they complement each other. Many people think of oxblood as a reddish colour, but it also contains blue, which tones it more closely to the navy blue suit.

Colour chart

A bigger contrast

In this next example from @thesuitedtraveller, he pairs his Thomas Bird plum wholecuts with a light pale blue suit. Again looking at our colour wheel, he is stretching things further than in the first example, but they still complement each other.

The result is that it has more contrast. It is a much bolder look with real impact.  This man knows ALL about colour. Even the tie and the rose match.

Plum shoes with light blue suit

Blue and blue?

We all love the blues right? We really like the blue and blue combination when done right.  For example here we like how these Thomas Bird medium blue chelsea boots pair with light blue denin jeans.  It just works and it is so classy.

Blue chelsea boots with light blue jeans

Black and blue?

While on one of our favourite subjects (chelsea boots) we have to say that we also love black chelsea boots with blue jeans as seen below. 

OK it is a strong contrast.  But black is not a really a true colour. Well we couldn't find it on our colour wheel. So in theory it goes with anything.

Black chelsea boots with light blue jeans

Blue shoes with a blue suit? Steady on..

Well we know that blue and oxblood harmonise really well together, but how about going all out blue with a dressy or formal outfit?

These two examples from @dailytouchofclass show how it works as a real statement. We love this look too.  You think it's blending in but it's actually standing out. He's wearing a blue suit with waistcoat and Thomas Bird Bourne monk straps.

Blue monk shoes with navy blue suit

Here he is again wearing Thomas Bird Bourne blue double buckle monks, sockless, this time with a navy pinstripe suit,

Blue monk shoes with navy blue suit close up

Here is another of our favourite monochrome blue and blue combinations, this time from our friend @thesuitedtraveller, wearing a pair of Thomas Bird custom blue patina wholecuts.

Blue wholecut oxford shoes with blue suit

Grey and grey - really?

Some folks think that grey is boring, but it's actually a very complex colour and we love it.

In this example, Thomas Bird grey wholecuts are paired with grey jeans. We think it works because both greys have a hint of blue in them, so tonally they are quite close. And because grey is more unusual colour to see around it is visually more interesting too.

Grey wholecut oxford shoes with grey outfit
Grey wholecut oxford shoes with grey outfit detail

Natural earth tone contrasts

OK grey and grey, yes. How about brown shoes with a brown suit?

Brown shoes do go with a green tone suit. Actually, like grey, brown is a very complex colour, so some go better than others.  (We mixed about 20 shades of brown before we found the new dark brown we were looking for.)

Look at the classic look here from @the_classy_lad, wearing Thomas Bird tan brown wholecuts. It has an almost country gentleman feel.  If you live in the countryside (at least like us in the UK) you will see a lot of brown and green in nature. Quite often with a grey sky so no blue to spoil that earthy colour harmony.

Tan brown wholecut oxford shoes with green suit
We asked Hamza, (@the_classy_lad) how he matches his colours.
"For me, it really depends on the occasion, and whether I want to blend in or be bold. I start off simple with things that we do know match like the earth tones match earthy colour and dark tones match dark colour and then mix thing up to be bold and see if you like the look. As long as you confident, you can pull off any colour combo."

Neutral with a bold colour

We've looked at black and blue, and think it works because black is a non colour. Well white, and a neutral light grey are too.

So a good combination we really like is a strong, bold colour like oxblood with a neutral colour suit. That's what @edruizmenswear is doing here and we love it!  He also then cleverly tones a reddish/pink tone shirt to bookend with the Thomas Bird oxblood penny loafers he is wearing. Another man that knows all about colour.

Oxblood penny loafer shoes with neutral grey outfit

The classic look - black shoes with...

Black shoes are such a popular ensuring choice, because they go with almost anything. Again, not really a true colour (on our wheel) so they complement many outfits.

Here @iammatthewalexander pairs his Thomas Bird black wholecut oxfords with a navy blue suit, then a more charcoal grey jacket and trousers look. Both super classy.

Black shoes with navy blue and grey suits

So in conclusion?

As you can see, selecting shoe colour comes down to:

  • your own sense of personal style
  • the colours you like most or suit you the best
  • the occasion - formal, more dressy or casual
  • are you trying to blend in or stand out?
  • are you standing out by blending in? (think blue and blue)

So does anything go? Yes! 

We're seeing more and more new and innovative combinations. Sometimes we say 'wow' straight away. Sometimes it takes a little while to grow on us before we get it and it becomes a new favourite.

Style is not really about following rules set in stone. It's not about being practical. It's really about expression and what you love and what you want to say.

We hope we have given you a few ideas and inspired you to incorporate some of them into your own sense of personal style.

If you have your own combinations featuring Thomas Bird we would love to see them. Tag us on social media with #thomasbirdshoes and we will try to include the best ones in future posts.

And if you have a subject you would like us to cover, let us know at or via our contact page.

Till next time. 

Thomas Bird