As you learn more about men’s style, you’ll start to come across certain ‘rules’. There are no fashion police enforcing these rules but, rightly or wrongly, they do kind of exist. And one of the big ones is that you should keep black, brown and navy blue totally separate. They should never be worn together.
This is a hangover from 1950s men’s fashion, when everything had to be very coordinated, and wearing a black suit with brown shoes, or brown shoes with black pants, was considered super tacky. The good news is, we live in more enlightened times, and this old-fashioned rule doesn’t really hold up anymore. You can totally mix black, brown and navy blue. You just have to be smart about it.
Brown vs Black
When it comes to colour, brown and black are usually considered oil and water – they never mix. But contemporary stylists have totally changed the game on this one. The trick is to commit and coordinate carefully. If you wear a black suit, black belt and light tan shoes, yeah, it might look a little strange. But black slacks with dark brown Derbies, a brown leather belt and a tucked, chocolate polo is a slick twist on mod style. Try mixing up texture, too. Black and brown play better when you’re mixing linens, corduroy, leather, cotton and twill (but not all at once, obviously).
Black vs Blue
The thing about navy and black is that is can look like an accident. Especially if it’s a washed-out black or a very deep navy, or the shades are too close together. You want a bit of tonal contrast with this one, so people know you’re making a deliberate fashion statement. For a killer date night look, match royal blue or ocean blue sneakers with some black denim and a tonal blue shirt. Or switch things up with black sneakers, indigo jeans and a navy crew-neck tee. Navy and black together is high risk, but with subtle attention to detail, the two shades can complement eachother quite nicely. Try and start with one hero item – perhaps a navy blazer, or some blue sneakers – and build your outfit around it.
Blue vs Brown
Blue and brown are probably the least controversial colour match on the list. It’s why brown leather boots and blue jeans are natural best friends. There’s good science behind this, too. Blue and orange are opposites on the colour wheel, which means they complement and contrast eachother, creating more visual interest. Brown is also a very neutral shade, with tonnes of variation, so it’s easy to find some brown shoes or accessories to match that navy suit. The easy staples to try here include: a navy two-piece suit with dark chocolate Oxfords, a navy knit blazer with brown penny loafers, or cuffed navy chinos with light brown Chukka boots. All simple, all super stylish.
Less is more
When you’re playing fast and loose with the colour wheel, you don’t want too many clashing shades. That means, if you’re matching dark brown Brogues with a black suit, for example, you should stick to monochrome for the rest of the outfit. You’ve already got some visual interest – you don’t want to overdo things. The best advice we can give is: think tonal. Take a look at all the pieces of your outfit. Could they fit onto the same paint swatch sample? Do they all live in the same broad spectrum? The closer and more seamlessly everything fits, the less likely you are to make a mistake. Navy and black, navy and brown, brown and black – they’re like any fashion rule, really. Meant to be broken.