How To Wear Charcoal Pants and Brown Shoes – A Style Guide

How To Pair Charcoal Pants With Brown Shoes – A Deep Dive

Have you heard the saying “No brown in town”? Even though folks in the City of London may consider this a gospel, this rule is unlikely to be followed in other cultures. If you are working in a government institution, you might have to reserve your brown shoes for happy hour after work. There are, however, many other perfect situations and scenarios to hone in on the brown shoe, especially when combining it with a pair of charcoal pants. 

Charcoal pants are shaded in grey and black. However, there is a debate over how close to black this color resides on the ‘grayscale’. Traditional charcoal is made from heating organic material, such as wood in the absence of oxygen, and as such is almost black. The word ‘charcoal’ was first used to describe this color in 1606. It usually appears in fashion as a dark, slated grey shade with lighter flecks of ash. However, in the material world, charcoal has also been used to describe clothing with an ashy, silvery finish. This discrepancy can make it difficult to decide which pieces would complement a pair of ‘charcoal’ pants and might make you second guess your choices. 

When mixing charcoal and brown within a single outfit, you’re likely to be able to find a winning combination. After all, both colors originate in nature from the same source; in wood from trees. More generally though, brown shoes can add varying ‘vibes’ to your look, whether you want to go formal, smart-casual, or dress down completely. 

For example, lighter brown shoes, such as a tan shade in a Chelsea boot style might be perfect for a casual outing in the colder months. Alternatively, you’d probably prefer a classical Oxford or Brogue in a richer cocoa shade for every-day office wear, or with a charcoal suit to a formal occasion.

Either way, in this article we’ll be sharing exactly how to pair your charcoal pants with the perfect brown shoes. So, read on if you’re:

  • Looking for outfit inspiration
  • Wanting to learn about shoe styles and the occasions to wear them
  • Ready to wear a pair of charcoal pants with brown shoes

Brown shoes with charcoal pants, as seen on celebrities

Famous faces who have worn this pairing include: 

  1. David Beckham 
  2. Harry Styles
  3. Ryan Reynolds

David Beckham

David Beckham is a world-famous English footballer, husband to fashion designer and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and father to four children. We’ve previously featured him in our look books as he always wears both formal and casual outfits with reliable class and style. 

In this look (above), David wears a charcoal suit which he has paired with a smart pair of chestnut brown dress shoes, possibly Derby or Oxford style. Overall, this look could be described as chic, luxurious and very modern, not least since traditionally stylists might potentially avoid the rougher suede shoe material clashing with a sleek, formal suit. 

The suit itself would be perfect for any formal event that David attends because of the clean shape and sharp edges. The fitted nature of his charcoal trousers can attest to this and aids in flattering the clean-cut nature of his appearance. His brown brogues bring a certain approachability to his look as ‘the everyman’ since they look like normal, average shoes, any of us can buy. 

Harry Styles

Next, we have Harry Styles, originally known for his role in the boy band One Direction. Some might say Harry grew up in the public eye, becoming famous when he entered the X Factor competition in 2010, and his approach to clothing has also matured over the years (or perhaps just his stylists’ preferences). 

In the image above, Harry’s outfit is comprised of an all-charcoal appearance (including a black coat, shirt and a pair of tight charcoal jeans) along with some dark brown leather Chelsea boots. As usual, it aids to Harry’s put together, yet casual appearance within the public space and paints him as an approachable celebrity. 

The Chelsea boots that Harry wears are tinted with rich chestnut tones which are perfect for his casual outing. Lighter shoe colors are often used in casual settings because they are easier to get dirty, so you could substitute in a pair of lighter Chelsea boots here. 

However, lighter boots are not so reliable in smarter, formal occasions. Harry pairs his rich brown shoes with skinny jeans of a dark grey/black shade of charcoal. A much more modern variety of pants, skinny jeans are easily recognizable as a trend of the current ‘millennial’ era and thus date the outfit. Nevertheless, they are a popular choice for men to wear in informal settings. 

One extra aspect which could be added to this look is a dark belt around the waist, as this would match the high-rise nature of the Chelsea Boots and complement the darker color of the pants. Accessorizing with belts is also useful for men looking to smarten up their look. 

Ryan Reynolds 

Another celebrity who enjoys, and seems to habitually wear the ‘grey pants, brown shoe’ combination is Ryan Reynolds. In fact, we have several outfits to take inspiration from in Ryan’s wardrobe. Find each below in the table with a quick run-down to see why it works, and take inspiration from the king of charcoal pants with brown shoes. 


Why It Works

Ryan pairs this two-piece charcoal suit with a smart chestnut brown pair of dress shoes. Although it isn’t the most formal suit (for example, it’s not a three-piece), it does work for the occasion. The chestnut shoes draw particular focus since their warm brown tones look striking against the dark grey slate tones of his suit. One extra touch is that this matches his wife, Blake Lively’s dress.Take inspiration from this look if your workplace requires you to wear a suit, or if you’re attending a special event. 


Why It Works

Ryan wears this look in a smart-casual setting and sticks to a family of colors (a palette of brown, grey, black and navy). By opting for lighter charcoal pants, Ryan brings attention to his lower half where the brain is trained to see darker clothing in this area. 
This also draws focus to his textured shoes, which look to be made of suede. Their rougher texture and lighter color alludes to the casual nature of the outfit, since both of these factors exhibit a more rugged appearance than in the other examples in this table. They contrast to the buttoned up shirt found on his torso. 
You could take inspiration from this outfit if your party invitation states a ‘smart-casual dresscode’, or if you’re attending post-work drinks, for example.  


Why It Works

If you are looking for effortless chic, this Ryan Reynolds outfit is for you. You could wear something similar on the weekend, or when you’re running errands but might bump into someone you know. 
In comparison with the previous looks in the table, these pants have a light blue-grey hue, which enables the look to stay neutral even with the addition of warm brown casual shoes. Ryan blends the ashy pants and brown shoe look with a navy t-shirt and cool brown jacket, enabling the entire outfit to neutralize the warm tones of the shoes. The look is once again tied together by a similar color palette throughout. 

The fact that we could find so many records of Ryan Reynolds sporting this look from the archives speaks not only to the versatility of wearing brown shoes with charcoal pants, but also the suitability of this combination in various settings. Ryan wears several shades of brown shoes with charcoal pants, and highlights that certain shades better complement one another. To find out which shades accompany each other the best, take a look at our color matching table below. 

Color matching: brown shoes + charcoal pants

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, something looks a little ‘off’ when you look at your outfit in the mirror. More often than not, it’s because the colors you’ve chosen just don’t go! 

The brown shoe shades we’ll be looking at include: 

  1. Tan
  2. Umber
  3. Chocolate
  4. Beige
  5. Chestnut

These are a range of warm, cool and neutral-toned browns which span across the spectrum of light to dark browns. It’s important to recognize that not all shades of brown were created equal, with some much more universally flattering than others. 

The same could be said for shades of grey. On occasion, charcoal may not be the most well-suited shade of grey to pair with your shoes, therefore the grey shades we’re considering include: 

  1. Charcoal
  2. Stone
  3. Blue-Grey
  4. Platinum
  5. Taupe
Brown ShadeShoesGrey ShadePants
Umber Stone
Chocolate Black- Grey
Beige Platinum

By no means is the table above a stern rulebook to follow, simply more a guideline for you to color coordinate your outfits. Every man has different characteristics within their body shape,  skin tone and more, that should also come into play when pairing brown shoes with charcoal pants.

How to accessorize charcoal pants with brown shoes?

It’s all in the details. Accessories are always an important addition to your outfit, especially with such a neutral color palette as the charcoal pants, brown shoe pairing. For example, you could add a jacket, belt or headwear to boost your look. 

With these items, a navy or black jacket might be preferential, especially in the wintertime. Darker colors tend to ‘fit the mood’ in winter, and a thicker jacket might be necessary if the weather permits. Leather jackets may also be a good choice, although caution should be taken: mixing black and brown leather within the same look is risky. 

Furthermore, a black belt with brown shoes could also work well.  As a rule of thumb, matching your belt to your shoe color is a great trend to follow, but rules are meant to be broken. This means that if you’ve chosen to wear tanned shoes, then a lighter brown would match well. Also, the addition of a leather belt could sit well, specifically if your brown shoes are made from the same material. 

The importance of great socks

Finally, have you considered what color socks to wear with brown shoes?

Although they cover just a small area of your body, socks form the finer details of your style. Plus, whilst your chosen pair of dress socks might not make or break your outfit, they can add a little something extra when you need it.  

For formal settings, we think you should consider wearing one of these three sock styles:  

  • Black and White Striped Dress Socks
  • Grey Square Socks
  • Orange-Trimmed Athletic Socks

The classic stripey dress socks are perfect for formal occasions such as office wear, or events with a more strict dress code. Reaching mid-calf, these socks are the perfect choice if you’re looking for a seamless blend between your charcoal pants and brown shoes. Fast-moving feet will make these socks appear grey, and will match perfectly with your charcoal trousers. The neutral color palette, as well as traditional shape of these fun socks, means that they would be ideal in a formal setting, to be worn when attending a wedding, for example. 

These blue-grey chequered socks are perfect for adding a little flair to your working wardrobe. Especially suitable when you’re wearing a blue-grey shade of suit or pants, these men’s socks add just a pop of color to your wardrobe, which might otherwise be somewhat lost between the neutral colors of charcoal and brown. Navy blue, in particular, is the core color on these socks and is known as a formal shade, ideal for smart dressing, such as to the office. If you choose to wear this color or style of cool socks, another great touch could be adding a navy belt to your charcoal pants. These little details can be spotted from a mile away by any fashion connoisseur and will ensure your look exudes confidence. 

Sometimes, socks just ruin the mood. You wouldn’t wear socks with sandals, so why wear dress socks with boat shoes, or another ankle-length style shoe? Unfortunately, wearing shoes without socks is uncomfortable and sweaty, to say the least. But you shouldn’t compromise on style, so what is the answer? 

Low-rise socks, such as these athletic socks, which not only hide below the line of the shoes but are also hyper-absorbent to soak up sweat and keep you cool in hotter weather. Not only are they perfect in warmer weather, but also for when you want a chic, modern look to avoid a fashion faux-pas. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking to have some fun with your socks, why not try one of these more funky, colorful styles:

  1. Holiday-themed socks
  2. Money socks
  3. Crazy socks

On the countdown to Christmas, adding in one (or more) of these holiday-themed socks could add some festive cheer to your office environment: 

In the mood to make some money? These money novelty socks should help you walk the walk:

Even though socks cover a smaller area of your body, they are still an important feature when composing your outfit. The smaller details give a good insight into not only your style but also your personality, so items such as socks, belts, and other accessories should not be neglected when forming an outfit. 

The perfect pairings for charcoal pants with brown shoes

Fortunately, as previously mentioned, charcoal pants and brown shoes often work well together, irrelevant to the scenario. It might be therefore worthwhile to have a few different styles of charcoal pants and multiple pairs of brown shoes for various occasions. 

  • Charcoal chinos with brown boots in the winter months
  • A charcoal suit with brown leather dress shoes for work
  • Charcoal jeans with brown loafers in summer
  • Even a charcoal tracksuit with brown sneakers for the gym

One way to include multiple pieces in your wardrobe, whilst still being both cost and environmentally friendly might be to think about creating a capsule wardrobe. A fairly modern creation, the capsule wardrobe is a limited collection of items that are interchangeable with one another, meaning that the color palette and style work seamlessly, and each piece could coordinate with nearly every other item in the wardrobe. 

The benefits of owning a capsule wardrobe aren’t limited to saving money, you should also be able to conserve on space. Plus, since you’ll be buying clothing less often and therefore are likely to buy higher quality items, you’ll save on the guilty conscience by not contributing to the fast fashion industry. Not only does this reduce your environmental impact, but it also ensures your hard-earned cash does not fuel production systems with underpaid workers. 

As well as including charcoal pants and brown shoes in your capsule wardrobe, you could also consider involving: 

Trench coats with charcoal pants and brown shoes

Trench coats represent a classic piece, popular among older and younger men alike. Instead of a lighter, brighter, more usual tan color, stone color emits feelings of calm and maturity, and is often worn at formal events. Trench coats pair well with brown shoes and charcoal pants in most contexts, and will bring a dash of classic Sherlock Holmes vibes to your outfit, when looking to score style ratings among your friends. 

Charcoal jeans with brown shoes

Sometimes, especially if you’re in a less formal, more casual mood, you’ll be wanting to swap out the charcoal suit trousers to a pair of jeans in the same color. These can bring an edgy effect to your style, transforming a tired wardrobe into the modern-day world. 

Charcoal jeans work just as well with brown shoes as dressier pants, since grey and brown are both timeless colors that appear naturally together in everyday life. Since jeans are usually worn in less formal contexts, cool Chelsea boots, such as those in the example above, would be ideal. Alternatively, if you’re looking to wear charcoal jeans to an event with a smart-casual dress code, then the shoes would have to be the more formal piece of the look, and the jeans should not be distressed. A light pair of brown loafers could be suitable, or on the opposite end, richer-toned chestnut dress shoes could work for men with a more mature sense of style. 

What now?

So, if you’re looking to pair charcoal pants with brown shoes, we hope you’ll be walking away with several different ideas to take inspiration from. Whether you think this combination is perfect for your place of work, the gym, your vacation or somewhere else, the styles and shapes we’ve chosen should transcend across multiple dress codes and events. How do you combine charcoal pants and brown shoes? Tag us on Instagram and share your style!

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