How to Mix and Match (but mostly match) Colors

How to Mix and Match (but mostly match) Colors

Coordinate shoe leather and belt leather for a cohesive look. Photo from

Don’t you love it when you ask several experts for advice and they all say the same thing? It makes life so much easier. That’s what happened when Epic Mens sought out the opinions of fashion gurus from Esquire, GQ, and Real Men Real Style. We posed a simple question – and lo and behold, all the stars aligned, and we received a simple answer. If like us, you’ve spent many sleepless nights fretting over how best to coordinate your leather accessories, fret no more. There are only two rules you must remember. One, all leather accessories (shoes, belts, watchbands, jackets) should complement each other. And two, never mix black and brown. The latter rule bears repeating. Never, ever leave home wearing brown shoes with a black belt or black shoes with a brown belt. In a rush? On a budget? Color-blind? It doesn’t matter. No excuse is sufficient to justify what has been dubbed a major faux pas by fashion Gods everywhere.

Okay, now that that immutable law has been forever stamped on our psyches, where to begin? Before you start assembling your signature look, there are some basic guidelines to consider. First, in general, the color of your shoes should be darker than your pants. Socks should match suit pants, with one exception. If the pants are a light color, say beige, then you should match your socks to your shoes. Second, coordinating colors does not mean matching shades exactly. A truly killer look is one where the elements come from the same color spectrum, but still offer a contrast in shades. And finally, the more casual the look, the more flexible the rules are.

When mixing and matching colors, the natural decision-making order seems to be suit, shoes, and lastly belt. According to those in the know at Real Men Real Style, the five most common suit colors are black, charcoal, medium or light grey, navy and brown. While the consensus seems to be that black suits should be reserved for funerals and formal wear, if you do find yourself clad in black, your leather shoes should be black as well. A black suit requires black shoes – no exceptions. A charcoal grey suit should be worn with black or burgundy shoes, the logic being that dark brown and dark grey are too close on the color wheel and would make it appear as though you were going for an exact match, but missed. However, a medium or light grey suit is less formal and offers the wearer more flexibility. If you are pairing your medium or light grey suit with a white shirt, then choose black shoes. If, on the other hand, you’ve chosen a patterned or color shirt, go with brown shoes. A navy suit can be dressed up with black shoes or dressed down with brown or burgundy. And finally, a brown suit calls for brown or burgundy shoes – but never (yes, this is a test), never black.

Still with me? Okay, pants – check, shoes – check, and now, for a belt. Matching your belt and shoe leather will help create a cohesive, streamlined look. The dressier the outfit, the more important it is to match the color and texture of your shoe and belt leathers. Glossy belts should be paired with polished shoes and matte belts with matte shoes. Cloth and exotic animal skin belts typically should be saved for casual wear.


Every man should own at least one black and one brown dress belt. Pictured above are Torino Black and Brown Aniline Leather Dress Belts, featuring a smooth finish and a single-prong satin nickel buckle. Photo from

There you have it. If you want an “all together, I’ve got the world by the tail” look, take the time to coordinate the colors and textures of your leather accessories. It’s not that hard – just avoid mixing blacks and browns, and you’re halfway there!
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