Wearing black shoes with jeans – Permanent Style

This is something I’ve had questions about recently – I assume because fashion generally has taken a turn towards black and, combined with the general casualisation going, black shoes and jeans have become a more common styling choice.

So the answer is yes, obviously you can wear the two together. But not as easily as something like brown suede, and not in as many ways. 

On Permanent Style we tend to assume two things about readers:

1. They want to appear ‘simply well-dressed’ most of the time, in those words we’ve used so often. They want to look good but not stand out. On the spectrum of subtle to showy, they lean heavily towards the subtle. 

2. They want clothes that are versatile. This won’t always be the case, but a lot of readers are in the process of figuring out what they like to wear, or upgrading their wardrobe, and in both cases virtually starting from scratch. Versatility is often highly prized. 

For these two reasons we tend to suggest something like a dark-brown suede loafer or boot as the smart option with jeans (examples above). 

A brown-suede chukka works with every shade of blue jean, from dark to light, off-white and black (with a little bit of fading). And also with a range of smart trousers – greens and tans, grey and navy; cold and warm, muted and strong. 

Plus there’s versatility with the rest of the outfit. The knitwear or jacket could be anything from a raspberry shetland to a taupe cashmere, the jacket a cold urban navy or a warm rusty brown.

The result is a classic, traditional look. Brown suede creates less contrast – in terms of colour or texture – with the trouser than almost any other type of shoe. 

You get subtlety and versatility. 

Black is different. It’s not great with warm colours, like that rusty brown, and it can make bright colours look cheap. 

The colour of jeans has to be more particular: rich blues usually aren’t great and white can look stark. The easiest colour is a dark indigo (perhaps in a colder, greener wash) or a much more faded blue, like my jeans above.

And it makes demands on your other clothes. Wearing a similarly dark navy top, as I am in these images, can work, as can black itself. Very pale colours are often good, as are some browns or greens. But fewer things work than with brown shoes. 

Black shoes are not as versatile.  

Nor are they as subtle. Black shoes contrast more with these pale blue jeans – they’re not the normal or expected choice. Of course, that’s why some people find them refreshing, but it will suits fewer conservative readers. (It’s no coincidence that classic tailoring is more about harmony and has less of this dissonance.)

Black shoes with black jeans creates less contrast, but it’s still more of a look. I like it and I wear it, but the same things apply as above: I wear it less, only with specific things, and when I want a specific style. 

How much of a look it is depends a bit on the type of shoe. The suede Sagans (first image below) are more of a look than the Galway boots (second image). 

But still, my default is something subtler like Color-8 cordovan. 

When it comes to the type of shoe, more casual styles like boots and loafers are generally easiest, as are derbys. But the material doesn’t necessarily have to be that casual. 

While I normally go for my black Utah loafer from Edward Green (a waxed and tumbled leather, a bit like a grain), black calf isn’t necessarily bad. It just creates more contrast and probably requires something a little smarter on top. 

The only thing to be careful with is black suede, as the way it sucks the light can make it quite unusual. That’s best in particularly casual styles, like a derby. 

The loafers I’m wearing are vintage Ralph Lauren crocodile loafers. Blake-stitched, probably from the late 1980s, I picked them up on eBay having seen a pair on a friend. They’re not something I’d wear all the time, but the super-low vamp is quite appealing. It might have been good to lengthen the jeans by a fold though, given how low they are. 

Lucas (on the left) is wearing vintage Gucci horsebits. The fade of his black jeans is a good example of how good that shade is with navy, as well as how much easier faded black is to wear in general (being basically grey at that point).

Clothes shown with my blue jeans:

  • B&Tailor bespoke overcoat in Fox cloth
  • PS watch cap in navy
  • Rubato navy lambswool crewneck
  • Vintage Levi’s 501s
  • Rubato black alligator belt
  • Vintage Ralph Lauren crocodile loafers

Clothes shown with my black jeans:

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