Should I Buy Brown or Black Boots? What I’d choose …


Sometimes it is difficult to know what color or style of footwear one should accessorize with a particular look and this conundrum can prove even more challenging when the wearer is confronted with nuances associated with fashion, etiquette, and contemporary popular influencers.  

Added to this is the statement the individual wants to make to the world, which is a consideration each time a wardrobe choice is made, and no less so when confronted with the question: 

Black footwear is traditionally aligned with formal dress, whilst brown is considered casual or neutral. Any significant disparity in depth of color between trouser and footwear will compromise length, shorten the overall appearance whereas maintaining color continuity elongates the leg. 

Think Bond, think James Bond, and now picture Mr. 007 rocking that tuxedo.  Tell me what color footwear is he wearing?  That’s right, they are black, and they are black for a reason, because a tuxedo and black footwear is considered acceptable formal attire, and any deviation from that rule, will only be made by an insanely well know personality or eccentric, the kind of person who wishes to stand out and make a statement with what they wear. 

Now that we have established that black footwear is more suitable for formal occasions, and brown footwear for casual or semi-formal, let’s consider which color is more versatile in a modern contemporary wardrobe.   

black boots in shop window

Refining Color Choice! 

The decision between brown or black footwear depends on who you are, where you are, and what you want to say to the world.  Consequently, the choice of which color to select very much depends on the outfit and of course the occasion.  If the occasion is a formal affair, then the choice predictably falls to black, which is the traditional go-to color for formal occasions.  If the wearer chooses to wear a brown suit, then naturally the choice of brown will follow accordingly.   

Depth of garment color will influence the choice of footwear, which should ideally be a shade deeper than that of the suit or pants.  Suede, which has very forgiving qualities, much like velvet, is very adaptable, as any inconsistencies are lost in the intensity of color and texture which is a characteristic of the skin.   

Black Boots

Black boots with a high shine should be worn for a more formal look, such as those associated with equestrian apparel.  Combat boots are an exception to this rule as they look best in a highly polished finish.  Remember to keep in mind that if height is an issue for the wearer, any footwear that attracts attention such as having an overly shiny finish, will detract from the overall appearance of stature.  

When wearing black trousers, chinos, jeans, or a shade from a grey palette, black boots are the obvious choice.   However, greys on the lighter end of the color spectrum are more flexible and can be worn with brown or black boots as they are considered a more casual choice.    

Brown Boots

Brown, on the other hand, is a very versatile color, and lends itself to most if not all casual and neutral looks, especially if the outfit consists of blue jeans, lighter color jeans, or chinos.  Remember too that brown comes in a very wide selection of variations, ranging from caramel toffee to chocolate colors, which can be softened aesthetically to a further degree through texture.    

A highly polished leather boot can be a striking foil to an outfit, whether in brown or black.  The added advantage about brown leather boots is that, in contrast to the black, they actually get more attractive as they age.  The other important point worth mentioning is the fact that if your budget is limited, then dark brown is a very good allrounder and can be incorporated and adapted easily to semi-formal or casual looks.   

Step into Style 

Brown boots can be very elegant looking when finished in supple fine grain leather and in fact, brown is the most versatile color choice there is in footwear.  Take the Italian footwear design house Santoni, which offers a refined boot of unparalleled longevity, and quality in consideration of the cost.   Typically finished in highly polished leather, which although refined-looking is tough as this seemingly indestructible hand-stitched leather will outlast the wearer. 

Suede Boots

Suede combined with tweed, cord, wool, or velvet trousers, provides a soft elegant contrast.  When mixing textures, the key thing to remember is the size of the individual.  Dark trousers or jeans and a pair of light brown boots will visually shorten the leg, and it is consequently best to wear a matt chocolate brown, or black leather or suede to detract from any issue with stature. 

Work Boots

Work boots, with their strong eye-catching design, will definitely shorten the leg, even when there is no disparity between colors, they are very distinctive and simply shout look at me.  By contrast, the plain-toe boot is a refined look, especially when finished with a thin sole, it is an adaptable design, which depending on the quality of leather and craftsmanship, can prove an indispensable addition to any wardrobe.  

Cap Toe Boots

The cap toe boot is slightly less formal than the plain boot but the former retains its shape better because of the additional support gained from the crescent top-stitching around the cap.  It is important to bear in mind that any boot with a lot of topstitching around or on top of the toe attracts attention, and can shorten the leg, as well as give the impression of being a lot more casual.  The unwritten rule to remember when dressing for formal occasions is that very often less is more.  In other words, the less busy or fussy, the more chic or elegant the overall look.   

Chelsea Boots

An absolute timeless classic is the Chelsea boot which has no laces and is completely plain, with the exception of elasticated panels situated on either side of the ankle. This boot is one of the most flattering, versatile styles.  When I was a kid in the 70s, the Chelsea was very popular and I remember thinking how the elasticated side panels mirrored the long sideburns that were so fashionable for men back then.   

The Chelsea is the perfect plain foil for any look.  The only variation may well be the skin, sole depth, heel height, and obviously color.  The best way to wear these boots is to make a feature of the side panels as they are such a flattering characteristic.  I like to see them worn with trousers which sit at the top of the boot, just covering the top of the pull and ankle.  

These are the only style of boot that does not shorten the leg even when worn in a distinctly lighter color against darker pants.  The style is just so flattering and versatile that it accommodates and makes allowances for individuals of any height.  The Chelsea commands admiration, the eye does not wander rapidly up the leg in examination of the rest of the ensemble, but rather rests momentarily gazing on the boot itself, providing a gentle, elegant distraction from any imperfection.   

In Conclusion

Arguably boots are not synonymous with refinement and formality.  If a suit is of very fine cloth, embellished with silk satin lapels, or satin side leg stripes, then boots may well be an awkward choice, unless the individual is deliberately opting to reflect something completely different, and wants to make a unique fashion statement.  The young romantics of the 80s did just that, Adam Ant and Johnny Depp unapologetically combined boots with formal wide-legged pants, either cropped or gathered into the ankle, and in fact looked amazing.   

The point is if a person is individual enough and believes in what they want to say and reflect on the world, they can carry anything off.   

You may find the following posts helpful:

Are briefcases still used?

Should I buy expensive sunglasses?

Does aftershave expire?

Should I buy expensive shoes?

Should I buy a luxury watch online?

Is a new office chair expensive?

Can you wear a hat with a suit?

John Cunningham

John is a writer, classic car and whiskey lover, men's shopping enthusiast and self appointed DIY expert. His greatest passion is repairing in the workshop, making old classics look and run like new again!

Recent Posts