What to Wear With Brown Women's Shoes

Style tan, whiskey, and dark brown footwear to smashing effect

woman's feet in brown strappy high heels
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Black shoes, especially high-heeled black pumps, are a staple in most women's wardrobes. But sometimes you want a change from all black, all the time, and brown shoes are a go-to color. It's natural and warm, and it gives an outfit a whole different vibe and character than black. 

Colors of Brown Shoes

First, you need to figure out what colors and shades of brown go best with your wardrobe. There's dark chocolate brown, natural tan, whiskey or brandy, and cocoa or latte. You might find that having a pair of dark brown and a more natural shade really expands your outfit variety.

Earth-Toned Outfits

Dark burgundy or orangey red, forest green, burnt orange—think of all of the colors of fall, and you've conjured up an image of earth tones. Just like the bark of tree trunks, brown goes wonderfully with all of those hues, but to really be certain you're getting it right, also look to make a tonal match. For example, a dark green skirt works better with dark brown shoes than it will with light brown shoes. In cases where that's not possible, err on the side of caution, and make sure your boots or shoes are darker than your pants or skirt. Natural tan or whiskey-colored shoes complement all these colors of nature especially well and exude a true fall vibe.

Brown Shoes and Neutrals

Whites, grays, blacks, creams, ivories, tans, and taupes are all neutrals, and that means they go well with most colors of footwear, including various colors of brown. But some combinations are easier to pull off than others.

Take, for example, trying to wear brown pumps with a gray skirt. This is totally doable, but it requires a lot of attention to detail, like tonal values and color balance. So if your skirt is a dark gray, you'll want dark brown shoes, and you'll need to mix other brownish neutrals into the rest of your outfit and accessories as well. But a pair of tan- or whiskey-colored shoes would complement any color of gray nicely, especially in the darker range. It makes a rich and earthy contrast.

Some neutrals are super-easy to wear with brown shoes. Shades of cream, ivory, tan, and some taupes are begging to be paired with brown boots and shoes, and often, different shades of brown footwear work better with these shades than black does. Whatever the season, brown shoes or boots add richness and warmth to these light neutrals. Cocoa- or latte-colored shoes are gorgeous with shades of cream and ivory and lend the outfit a softness that darker shoes can't provide.

Black and Brown

Black is also a neutral, but it's in a class of its own because it is a wardrobe mainstay. Pairing black and brown elicits some controversy among fashionistas. 

It seems as though some people are a bit leery of combining these two colors, and that fear might come from the world of men's fashion, where guys are told from an early age to choose either black or brown shoe, then told which colors to wear with each. And, generally speaking, this is reliable advice— for men

When a guy puts on a black suit, it's easy and proper to reach for a pair of black shoes, along with a black belt. But for women, there are so many other things to consider. When done well, black and brown make for a dynamic and interesting combination.

There are a couple of ways to incorporate brown shoes into an outfit that's heavy in black. The first is by adding in pieces that feature both hues, as a lot of animal prints do.

Another way to get a smashing look when you're pairing black clothing with brown footwear is to make sure that both colors are distributed throughout the outfit, and that your browns are very closely matched. For example, try pairing dark brown shoes or boots with black tights, a black skirt and blouse or sweater, and a brown belt and bag that match the brown shoes as closely as possible. To really pull the look together, opt for jewelry that incorporates or works well with both colors, like copper-toned pieces or gemstone beads. An animal print scarf, either a small one tied at the neck or a large one that makes a statement, really ties this outfit together.

Whiskey-colored shoes or boots make a sharp contrast to a mostly black outfit. This color works especially well with a camel blazer or accessories for a classy look.

Brown With Blues and Pinks

You might not immediately think of wearing any shade of brown with blues and pinks. But most shades of blue work wonderfully with brown shoes, and turquoises are especially nice when paired with chocolate brown. This has been a notably popular pairing of everything from stationery to home decor, and of course, in women's fashion. The turquoise-and-brown combo looks especially great with Native American jewelry and suede footwear and handbags.

One of the most commonly worn pieces of blue clothing is jeans, and all shades of denim, whether light wash, vintage, or dark, look terrific with shoes or boots in dark brown, natural tan, or rich whiskey. Wearing any of these colors of brown shoes or boots with jeans makes for an interesting change from black footwear. Dark brown or whiskey-colored sandals look smart with denim capris, crops, and shorts.

Another winning and unusual combination is chocolate brown worn with shades of pink. Both these colors have a lot in common with red, and the contrast of pastel and dark brown is yummy, sort of like a chocolate with cherry cream filling.

Brown accessories in the same shade as your shoes are key to making these contrasting outfits look pulled together.

Metallics and Brown

Conventional fashion wisdom—and your eye—tell you that shades of brown don't go well with metallics. It's generally best to just not go there. Black, jewel tones, or a hue of metallic that is the same but a bit lighter or darker than your outfit is usually a much better bet for shoes with outfits that are silver-, gold, or bronze-toned.

But if you ever do find yourself in a situation where the best style of shoes you have to go with a certain metallic outfit is brown, you might be able to make it work. Dark brown shoes go best with yellow and pink-based metallics, like gold, copper, bronze, and brass, and not so well with silvers, chromes, and pewters. Take a hard look in the mirror and you just might be surprised.