Not so much rules as a guide to the best ways to complete your suiting look.
Let’s start with a simple rule: if your suit is black, so is your footwear. Anything other than the most formal shoe colour looks too casual with a suit you only dust off every so often for the most special occasions. Choose patent leather for that extra shine at black tie events, otherwise a smart pair of Oxfords does the trick.
Navy blue suit
Dark blue is the most versatile suit colour, pairing nicely with any formal shoe. Navy co-ordinates especially nicely with tan loafers or brogues, while burgundy or oxblood is a relaxed choice of leather, and black completes an outfit suitable for a business environment.
Light grey suit
Less formal than a navy suit but just as versatile, light grey also pairs with everything. Black shoes and plain white shirt rounds out a business suit in offices with a less strict dress code, whereas brown leather is laid-back and summery, great for a cocktail dress code with a more colourful shirt and tie.
A darker shade of grey demands more formal footwear, meaning brown simply doesn’t work. The safest bet for your everyday office wear charcoal suit is plain black Oxfords, while a rich burgundy monk strap puts a contemporary spin on this conservative suit colour.
Brown leather doesn’t work with a black suit — and the shoe’s on the other foot when it comes to a brown suit. Although black leather clashes way too much, you don’t want the footwear’s shade of brown to be too similar to the colour of the suit fabric — you generally want the leather to be darker than the suit to provide a bit of contrast.
The lighter palette of a cream/bone/off-white/ivory/beige suit means black shoes are too severe, and sticks out awkwardly because of the extreme contrast. Tan or light brown shoes are perfect for those summery semi-formal events.