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All about shoes and how to color-coordinate them

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Q My work and lifestyle are not particularly formal, so I can wear shoes that verge on sneakers with white rubber soles. My question is how I match a pair of brownish suede, or leather, or black shoes with the rest of my clothing when that nearly 1 inch of sole shines white? Can I just ignore that part of matching?

A The white soles are a trend. Right now, they happen to be very much in style (but not for black shoes). Mostly they come in shades of brown, gray and even some blues. The white color is neutral. Do not think of it as if it were the main color. Especially when color coordinating casual clothes, you don’t need to be so concerned; but with more formal attire, it is correct to be more careful. I am glad you realize that accessories should be one of the elements you pay attention to when planning which colors to put together. And shoes, especially, should factor into your clothing color decisions. People notice a man’s shoes far more than you might imagine.

The shoes you are describing are known as chukkas or desert boots. (The two terms are similar and are often used interchangeably.) They feature a lace-up, ankle-length design with two or three eyelets for laces. A desert boot is a chukka boot with crepe rubber soles and, typically, with suede uppers. Desert boots were popularized in the 1950s by the British shoe company C. & J. Clark, which is why they are often referred to as “Clarks.” The crepe rubber soles are shock absorbent, lightweight, and more comfortable for walking than standard boot soles. These timeless boots team well with all manner of casual clothes, whether classic and conservative or more current and trendy. They are essential elements in a man’s smart-casual or business-casual wardrobe.

Most guys wear brown shoes or boots with their casual outfits, and reserve their black leather shoes for their more professional clothes. Lighter colors are usually associated with more relaxed styles; darker shades (especially black) are dressier and considered too formal for pairing with khakis, jeans, and other casual wear.

Since you are concerned about whether to match — or ignore — the contrasting white soles that come on some of these shoes, I will offer a few color coordinating tips that might be helpful when wearing clothes in the brown family.

• Layer yellow accessories, such as a yellow sweater vest, over any of many shirts.

• Choose small accessories, such as a tie or pocket square, in orange or in a small pattern that is a mix of yellow-and-red which, from a distance, appears to be orange.

• Select sport coats in brown tweeds, rather than in gray tweeds.

• When wearing a navy blazer, choose trousers in any light shade of brown, from ivory through tan to taupe … all of which tie in well with brown shoes.

• Be consistent by wearing a belt in some shade of brown to tie in with your brown shoes.

• Other colors that team well with browns are: blues, greens and olives.

When color coordinating, as long as there is not a lot of the white element, the white can often be ignored; Thus, a red-and-white striped shirt appears to be pink, a red-white-and-blue tie appears to be light violet, and you can disregard the “white” as a color in your outfit.

For those readers shopping for their first pair of chukkas, I highly recommend suede boots, not smooth leather, for maximum style and versatility. Your first pair should be the basic, and classic, brown color, not gray or any shade of blue. If you find that you enjoy wearing them so much that you want other similar ones, you might add a pair in either gray or the new lighter blue. Men who like to dress “up” in clothes that verge on the formal, elegant look, should certainly still have a variety of quality black shoes in their wardrobes. But, on the other hand, those who tend toward the more casual brown family, who wear a lot of chinos, brown tweeds, as well as blue jeans, can skip the whole black-shoe category and choose a range of brown shoes. The classic brown Clarks chukka boot fits this category, as do the newer brown boots with white rubber soles. You’ll be casual and in style without feeling like you should be on a runway or will be called a hipster!

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions and comments to MALE CALL:

Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net