Originally Posted by Ianiceman
Or maybe brown shoes were traditionally worn by farmers/country people/hillbillies, so the 'rule' evolved so that nobody would think your were a clueless rube fresh off the turnip truck?
You would be correct. This is what free market hero Adam Smith had to say - though without really questioning - about the "necessities of life", and how some of them are purely the result of social custom, rather than "real necessity"
"By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably
necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for
creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly
speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably
though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a
creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of
which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed,
nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has
rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either
sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland, custom has rendered them
a necessary of life to the lowest order of men; but not to the same order of women, who may,
without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France they are necessaries neither to men nor
to women, the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit,
sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries, therefore, I
comprehend not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of
decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people."
The same applies to "clothes for every occasion", and multiple suits, that were "established" as the standard for the middle class after WWII. I say established, because a lot of this was a purely marketing invention: rapidly scalling up production, with no markets to absorb it. Most men only had 1-2 pair of shoes (1 "nicer" pair for work, one pair - most likely military surplus - for everything else), and were perfectly happy with them. Come along the marketing douchebags: "Hey, I've got an idea: why don't we implant in their heads the notion that they are doomed to social and business failure unless they have bulging wardrobes of shirts, suits, and shoes?".
And, here we are
PS Oh, since this is as good an oportunity to plug it as any: Adam Smith hated big business (esp. the East India company), and insisted that the rich must pay greater proportion of their income in taxes.