When it comes to clothing, brown’s name is mud. Brown shoes, fine. A belt, sure. But pretty much anything else in the colour has traditionally been shunned as unwelcome and unflattering. Brown is ugly, they say. It conjures up images of everything regrettable about 1970s style.
That hasn’t stopped the world’s best designers from splashing it all over anything they could get their hands on it recent seasons. Now brown is inescapable. It’s everywhere. And having witnessed its rebirth firsthand, it actually has a lot going for it.
Brown is warm and surprisingly flattering. It also pairs well with a wide array of colours and lends itself nicely to other trends currently sweeping through menswear, particularly textured fabrics and mid-century style.
The issue lies in how to wear brown. For all its plus points, it’s notoriously tricky to get right without looking like you’ve just stepped through a time portal straight from the set of Starsky and Hutch. But it can be done. Here’s how.
How To Style Brown
Pulling off this divisive colour in a way that doesn’t make it look like you’ve started taking style cues from your high-school geography teacher relies on a number of factors. Notably, picking the right shades, knowing what garments they work on, and having a knowledge of how to pair them with a variety of colours.
“Despite being shunned from the fashion scene for decades, brown doesn’t have to be difficult to wear,” says celebrity stylist Harriet Byczok. “There are so many different shades of brown that you can easily find something in your wardrobe to match.”
All those shades, from chocolate to cereal hues, mean that tonal outfits work well. “Tonal outfits are a great way to look fashionable without trying too hard,” says Byczok. “Try wearing a darker, chocolate-coloured suit with lighter shirt and tan shoes. Or, if tailoring isn’t your thing, try a darker brown shade pair of slim fit chinos with a camel coat and knitwear of a lighter shade.”
Byczok also stresses the importance of using a variety of textures. “Even something as simple as adding a suede shoe into the mix can work wonders. I actually think there are a few fabrics that actually work better in brown. Suede, leather and corduroy, for example.”
The Right Brown For Your Skin Tone
Are you guilty of listening with one ear to your paler-skinned pals moan about being washed out by white and beige? Well, it’s finally your turn to be cautious about colour. If you’re tanned or darker-skinned and pick the wrong shade of brown, from a distance you’ll look semi-naked at best, full birthday suit at worst.
Luckily, it’s simple to avoid faux flasher status. Just check the shade of the item against your skin tone: bring the garment up to your forearm to see if it’s significantly lighter or darker than your skin. If it’s not, stick it back on the hanger and start again, using these nine failsafe brown garments as your starting point.
9 Ways To Wear Brown
House Of Fraser
Too many men have an outerwear collection which consists solely of navy, black and grey. Don’t get us wrong, they’re great, but ignoring the wealth of other colours on offer is an unforgivable style offence in our book. We love camel coats as much as the next outerwear fanatic, but if you want to take your top layer to the next level, don’t overlook brown.
“Brown is a very classic masculine colour,” says Delphine Ninous, a creative director with the likes of Belstaff on her CV. “It can look evaluated and edgy at the same time.” When it gets colder, a brown oversized coat is your sartorial safety blanket. Avoid anything too tailored and look for dropped rounded shoulders. Get tactile with your textile, too. Shearling, fleece and rich wool all look great in brown.
A brown winter coat is also extremely versatile. Worn over a cream crew neck knit and jeans, you’re ready for the weekend; sat on top of a grey suit for work, it gives off strong Richard Gere in American Gigolo vibes, which is a life goal as far as we’re concerned.
It’s no coincidence that brown is enjoying a revival at the same time 1970s style is getting a second crack at the whip. And that means that when it comes to brown suit, the internet’s your oyster. Brown tailoring may not be many people’s type on paper, but trust us (or Ryan Gosling – a confirmed fan), you might just swipe right for this season’s handsome suits in chocolate, caramel and tan shades.
As always with tailoring, you’ll need to consider the cut (take it to a tailor), but the shade is just as important. If you want to go for a full suit, dark brown will get the most wear – and it’s not a flash-in-the-pan fad buy, either.
“Brown has always been a classic choice in menswear tailoring,” says Danny Ching, a menswear designer who has worked at the likes of Aquascutum, Hardy Amies and Dunhill. “With new ways of styling tailoring, it has re-emerged amongst the countless grey and navy suits men continually wear to work, social events and weddings.” Timeless yet not overdone? That’s menswear gold.
Particularly since brown tailoring is hard to mess up. “Brown is a rich, versatile colour that helps to enhance and enrich contrasting colours that it’s paired with,” says Ching. “Given its neutral underpinnings, it can be styled with virtually any hue, though it tends to work particularly well with shades of blue and green.” Also try tonal tans and dark neutrals including black. And because brown is slightly more casual, it works nicely with knitwear when you want to dress your suit down.
In Britain, you’ll often hear something particularly frightening referred to as “a brown trouser moment”. However, you don’t have to be attempting your first skydive or watching The Exorcist in order to don a pair. In fact, brown bottoms are a solid everyday alternative to jeans or more traditional navy or beige chinos. The secret to getting it right is in how you style them.
“From nutmeg to tobacco, brown trousers are the new black trousers,” says Richard Biedul, a male model and influencer who has worked for the likes of Drake’s, Ted Baker and Edward Sexton. “Transitioning into your wardrobe requires an astute eye though: I think brown looks best colour matched. Partner your trousers with a top half item similar in tone, texture or pattern to create a rich, sumptuous look.”
You need to add a few hits of contrast though, to avoid looking like a cosplay Jedi knight. “Adding an element of off-white, such as a shirt worn under a knit or a pair of white trainers, will help break up the colour block,” adds Biedul. If it’s totally tonal, it’s totally easy.
Brown knitwear is pretty unloved. We get it. When done badly, it can look like you’ve raided the lost property box or remind you of the oatmeal cardigan you suspect your grandfather never washed. Done well, however, it’s suave and very much on-trend this season.
“Brown is the perfect colour for autumn and winter as it nods to what’s going on outside,” says stylist Phill Tarling, who has dressed the likes of Tom Hardy. Try pairing a rust-coloured sweater with mid-wash denim and desert boots. Or camel with black jeans and layered with a white T-shirt would work nicely too. The main thing is to make sure that if you’re going to match with black, the shade of brown shouldn’t be too dark.
Brown knitwear won’t just pair handsomely with your wardrobe staples – it can get a little more lively with the right treatment. “If you’re looking for a more trend-led way to wear brown knitwear, take a leaf from Mother Nature and team with moss green trousers to nail two of this season’s most important colours in one outfit,” adds Tarling. Stick on a pair of white lace-up sneakers and job done.
We’ve already established that brown is the perfect colour for playing with different textures. And this is something jackets are equally suited to. By putting the two together, you can guarantee you’re onto a winner, whether you favour a bomber, biker or field jacket.
A brown jacket is a bona fide autumn essential. Keep it classic with suede, an Oxford shirt and chinos. Or go for a sportier vibe by opting for a brown varsity or coach jacket, a plain tee and leather sneakers.
Brown also provides a less ‘biker-y’ alternative to black if you want to try a leather jacket but don’t want to look like an extra from Grease. To steer it in the other direction, try pairing one with a rollneck (you’ll never catch a Hell’s Angel in one of those) smart trousers and a pair of black derby boots.
A solid selection of shirts is the foundation upon which to build the rest of your wardrobe. With that in mind, they should be not just well-fitted and good quality, but also varied.
A brown shirt is a great addition as it can work in several different ways. First off, it can be worn on its own, buttoned up and paired with either smart trousers and shoes or jeans and trainers. Secondly, it can be worn as a light top layer, open over a plain T-shirt for a casual look. Thirdly it can be worn as an additional layer under your winter coat and on top of a roll neck. And last but not least, as part of a tonal outfit.
In order to get the tonal look right, try pairing a chocolate-coloured shirt with a camel overshirt, you can contrast this with a pair of off-white trousers, while tying it all together with some black Chelsea boots.
When picking a new blazer, your go-to colours most likely look a little something like this: black, navy, grey or, if you’re really feeling crazy, a bit of beige. However, by ruling out brown you deny yourself the opportunity to begin functioning on a whole new level of nonchalance. Brown tailoring radiates an aura of casual cool that the usual suspects will never be able to replicate.
For a fresh, autumnal spin on smart casual, try teaming a brown blazer with a tonal roll neck and contrasting the two with a pair of white or off-white trousers. You can then tie it all together with a pair of premium white sneakers.
As we’ve said, brown will always look good as part of a tonal outfit. However, brown blazers (and tailoring in general) also work very nicely with denim and chambray. A brown blazer, chambray shirt, tonal blue tie and navy trousers are a surefire showstopper.
After NSFW content, we’re quietly confident “how to wear brown shoes” is up there in Google’s most searched terms. While things will change slightly season on season, there are some hard and fast rules, which you’d do well to commit to memory.
“The humble brown shoe can be a tricky piece of footwear to have in your collection, always being the second choice behind the staple black Derby or brogue,” says Reiss brand stylist Paul Higgins. “Fear not though, dressing your brown shoes is as simple as pairing them with a navy or pinstripe suit, which is a sleek, timeless combination.”
If you want to get all #menswear on us though, it’s time for some brown sky thinking. Higgins recommends going double with your brown to give things a more trend-led feel.
“Rev up some classic tan shoes by combining them with light brown tailoring. Seen from the likes of high-end designers such as Gucci and Camoshita to high-street giants Zara and Massimo Dutti, tonal brown looks are surprisingly easy to wear – just make sure your brown shoe is a lighter or darker shade than your suit.”
Brown may not be the most common colour when it comes to neckties, but once you see how good it can look, it’s difficult to see why. Rocking a brown tie is a neat way to make a style statement without sticking out with a sore thumb. It lets people know you’re not afraid of experimenting with your wardrobe, but also that you know where to draw the line in order to keep things tasteful.
At first thought, it’s tricky to imagine what might work with a brown tie, but in reality, the options are plentiful. Brown lends itself well to blue, so pairing with a navy or pale blue shirt or tailoring (or both) is always going to be a good option. For a more winter-friendly option, pick a knitted tie and team it with a crisp white shirt. You can then build on the theme of texture by wearing it with a thick wool suit. Incorporate a pattern for bonus points.
Remember, ties aren’t just for the office. You can dress the look down by switching the blazer out for a more casual jacket to make things a bit more relaxed. Try something like a smart bomber jacket for best results.
The Best Winter Boots For Men 2021
Cold feet are a fact of winter, as reliable as dark mornings and drunken Decembers. The shoes you wear the rest of the year round – perforated trainers that let the chill in and low-rise shoes that let the rain in – don’t cut it in the worst of the weather. You need some winter boots and not just one pair, preferably two or three.
This is footwear originally designed for timber yards, hiking trails and the trenches of war; so you can be confident it will get you through a slightly frosty commute. In style, too, because the best winter boots are as good looking as they are practical.
Fashion has a thing for technical clothing of all kinds right now (hiking style and workwear are trends that won’t quit), but it’s always been happy to appropriate boots – from soldiers, mountaineers, riders and blue-collar workers. Those boots have the attributes all boots should have: durability, practicality, comfort and weatherproofing.
And despite those chunky soles and unforgiving leathers, winter boots are some of the most versatile shoes you can buy. Invest in the right pair and they’ll last decades if you look after them as much as they do you. So, best foot forward. Find the style that suits you best below, along with the go-to ways of wearing them.
What To Look For In Winter Boots
Good winter boots shouldn’t be dirt cheap if you want them to last, and you should. “The quickest way to spot quality in a boot is by the quality of the upper material,” says Tim Little, creative director and CEO of Grenson.
“A well-made boot will always be made of quality leather because no one would go to the effort of making a great boot in cheap leather. Quality leather always has soft creases and usually is hand polished so you can see the patina and dark and light patches. It isn’t always uniform.”
Alternatively, look for tanned leather, which tends to be thicker than painted leather and shouldn’t need as much weatherproofing.
A solid footing in the winter means a pair of boots that feature the famous Goodyear welting technique to stitch the sole firmly to the upper via a rib-like strip of leather or canvas.
“The stitching of the welt can be seen above the welt and the sole stitch (through the welt) underneath the sole,” says James Fox, brand director for Crockett & Jones. “Be careful though. If you cannot see the continuation of this stitch through the sole you could be looking at a pair of cheaper, cemented boots using an imitation welt.”
“A well-made boots brand has detailed information about how they make boots, where they are made and what materials they use,” says Rik Van Dijk from Red Wing. “A good boot maker is proud of this information.”
“And if you are looking for a winter boot with the perfect fit and quality? Go to the store of the boot maker or a speciality store. There you get all the information and fit you need to get the perfect boots for your feet.”
Recognising that most of us only wear our boots to either the office or the pub, shoemakers have, in recent years, fitted their designs with comfortable and practical soles. Combat-style treads will make you even more sure-footed while contrast white rubber soles offer some smart-casual hybrid styling.
Likewise, shoemakers (even the likes of Dr Martens) have made efforts to offer lighter versions of their chunkiest and most iconic styles with new materials offering the same wear and practicality.
The Best Winter Boots Styles
Have you been spending your weekends training for a forthcoming trip up Kilimanjaro? If the answer’s no, then you can be forgiven for overlooking the humble hiking boot as a viable footwear option. But only just.
Regardless of your outdoorsy aspirations (or lack thereof), hardy hiking boots have established themselves as foul-weather footwear essentials over the past few years – especially among sharp men who prize a shoe’s ability to face down all manner of meteorological nasties in style.
We’re not experts in adventure sports, so we’ll leave recommending boots for seriously tough terrain to the professionals. What we can do, though, is suggest designs that are ideal for navigating city streets, heavy dog walking sessions and the occasional trip to a countryside pub.
You need a pair that offers untold levels of comfort, ankle support and other orthopaedic box-ticking features such as full-leather linings and cushioned footbeds. (Although you could sack that off and get a beautiful but hardly practical suede pair from a high-fashion designer that hasn’t seen a mountain in their lives.)
Team them with other tough-as-old-boots menswear staples like raw denim, corduroy, twill or flannel shirts and cable knit jumpers. You could also pair them with rainstoppers and fleece to lean fully into the outdoors trend. Or be bold and use them as a striking counterpoint to tailoring – just not for your next job interview.
If you’re not ready to go full Bear Grylls with a pair of hiking boots, there are other, subtler ways to infuse your winter look with some outdoorsy influences. A sartorial hybrid, the brogue boot comes with the same reassuring weight and solid construction of hiking boots, but with all the wing-tipped, country-manor smartness of brogues.
As a general rule of thumb, you can wear your brogue boots with any outfit you might normally wear with traditional brogues, so lace up a dark brown or black leather pair with heavier wool suiting, and smart trouser and shirt/cardigan combinations.
However, owing to their winter-readiness, brogue boots also play well with pieces that straddle the rugged-refined divide, such as heavy-gauge knitwear, gilets, waxed and quilted jackets, as well as heritage fabrics such as corduroy and tweed.
While sock-flashing isn’t necessarily frowned upon when wearing a pair of these, it’s not an entirely natural fit with the brogue boot’s finesse either. Stick instead with trousers with a neat break (i.e. that finish around the top set of lace eyelets), or roll more casual trousers and jeans up to the same point for a smart finish.
Look out for rubberised soles for some extra winter practicality.
Some of the best boots ever made were first designed decades ago for people to wear in factories and shipping yards. The steel toe caps may not have survived the fashion crossover, but many other features have: waterproof materials, padded ankles, high-grip soles and cosy linings. Why wouldn’t you want those things for your feet when it’s freezing outside?
The most iconic work boots – the Timberland Yellow Boot, Red Wing’s classic moc toe – have remained almost unchanged for decades, which makes it surprising that they’ve been adopted by such diverse style tribes. Hip-hop artists, lumbersexuals and workwear enthusiasts all love a work boot.
That means you can pair them with a range of casual (always casual) outfits, from joggers to jeans, trucker jackets to parkas. Look for dyed leather or waterproof nubuck and sealed seams to keep the puddles at bay.
Like most items in a man’s wardrobe, boots have a proud history of military service. From high lace-ups designed to keep out trench foot to modern tactical designs, combat boots have recorded a number of victories on the fashion front.
Right now, they’ve not just won the battles, they’ve won the warcore. The directional trend for combat trousers, holsters and all things military means there’s rarely been a better time to buy this style. Not that you have to leave the house looking like a character from Call of Duty.
Look at Ryan Gosling’s character in Blade Runner 2049. He paired tactical boots you can buy on Amazon with a statement overcoat. Or designer Charlie Caseley-Hayford who wears his trademark high boots with classic tailoring. Streetwear fans might pair them with jeans and a bomber. Or an easy middle-ground is heritage wear: wool, twill cotton, generous fits and plenty of herringbone.
The Swiss Army Knife of your shoe rack, the Chelsea is by far the most versatile boot you can buy; the right pair looks just as good worn with a suit or tailored trousers Monday to Friday as it does a leather jacket and shredded skinny jeans for a gig at the weekend.
While suede Chelsea boots have something undeniably louche about them, it’s a delicate material that is hard to keep pristine in or just after a downpour. If you can’t be bothered with regular cleaning, brushing and applications of protector spray all winter, opt for easy-wipe leather instead. As it happens, a pair in smooth black leather is much closer to the iconic original anyway.
Details to look out for include autumn-ready rubber soles and the classic heel pull, a practical feature that many modern iterations don’t have (but should). Also, mind your toes. Pointed-toe Chelsea boots, when worn with a suit at least, look a little off, so keep your sights firmly set on round-toed styles instead.
As far as we’re concerned, there are few instances in which wearing a pair of desert or chukka boots isn’t a good idea. While their mid-weight construction marks them out as a clear choice for spring and summer, they’re actually a killer option for the winter months, too, along with other ankle tickling styles like jodhpur boots and low-rise hikers.
This in-between profile makes most ankle boots smart enough to style with a roll neck, blazer and smart wool trousers, but also not so fussy that they can’t be coupled with chinos and a crew neck sweatshirt. Perfect for navigating the winter months’ dress codes quandaries.
Leather pairs are a no-brainer for the cold and wet, offering resilience and an enduring elegance, while suede pairs can also work if you take the time to regularly treat them with a protector spray and always check the forecast before you leave the house.
Treat this style – chukka or desert boots especially – as a smarter, more hard-wearing alternative to trainers. Team them with chinos, button-down shirts and crew neck jumpers to create sharp, warm getups that will pass the pub-safe test no problem.