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POLL: Brown shoes and dark suits in ENGLAND - CBD? UCBD? Heresy?

Poll Results: Are dark brown shoes acceptable with dark suits as appropriate professional dress in ENGLAND?

 
  • 24% (15)
    Never
  • 41% (26)
    Yes - but not as CBD
  • 29% (18)
    Yes - but not as UCBD
  • 4% (3)
    Yes - even as UCBD
62 Total Votes  
post #1 of 76
Thread Starter 

I don't know about you, but I greatly prefer brown shoes to black.  From what I've read, I have a sense that I am preaching to the choir!  They are much more aesthetically appealing and natural in their look.  I wear them whenever I have the opportunity.  Unfortunately, as a London-based lawyer, that is not as often as I would wish.

 

(This thread is likely to be of primary interest to UK members, but all contributions are welcome!  I am using CBD (Conservative Business Dress) and UCBD (Ultra Conservative Business Dress) in the Mantonian sense, appreciating that the original threads were tongue-in-cheek.)

 

Anyhow, the pithy adage has always been 'no brown in town'.  Like most pithy phrases, it is misleading.  It dates from a time when no self-respecting professional man would wear anything but a dark suit or formal dress in 'town' (meaning London).(*)  So - while I would never give the adage any heed when wearing an odd jacket - it continues to exert a strong thrall over the English when applied to dark suits.

 

What I am interested in exploring through this poll and narrative contributions to the thread is whether people think a new, more relaxed norm is developing. 

 

Some observations:

 

  • My impression is that English-born lawyers (in firms that are not business casual) overwhelmingly continue to wear black shoes with dark suits.  There is something of the herd here, though, and law obviously a notoriously conservative profession in terms of dress (and much else). 
  • This is also my impression of the City of London - dark suits and black shoes remain the order of the day in firms maintaining a formal dress code.
  • There are increasing examples of men wearing non-black shoes with dark suits.  But they are normally appallingly misjudged (example below) - light tan, pointy toe-ed pieces of rubbish.
  • What I rarely see is a conservative man wearing brown shoes with a dark suit well.

 

I appreciate any contributions people might care to make.

 

I thought the chap on St. James Style had some sensible observations on this issue, and all credit is due to him for the photograph (http://stjames-style.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/101-easy-ways-to-dress-better-no-13.html).

 

 

 

(*) There is an amusing anecdote involving a former Conservative Member of Parliament, who asked on being elected "Does no brown in town apply at the weekend?"  The patrician MP to whom the question had been addressed simply replied "No self-respecting gentlemen is in town on the weekend".


Edited by Balfour - 8/22/12 at 8:57am
post #2 of 76

I was always told that one should never wear brown shoes in the City of London!

post #3 of 76

I went with "Yes, but not CBD". The list at that blog is pretty much in tune with my own feelings on the matter, which maps quite neatly to that category I think.

 

In terms of widespread practice, I see a natural conservatism in this country that still certainly favours black shoes for wearing with a suit, especially if you're a professional (in the traditional sense of the word, not its far more inclusive modern usage). They may well be awful-looking black shoes, but they're still predominantly black when worn with a business suit.

 

I must admit, on a personal level, I tend to prefer black shoes with a suit too. If it's a casual suit, I will go dark brown or burgundy (depending on shade of suit). I don't like wearing light shoes unless the outfit is also light; I don't like the tan shoe/navy suit combo, for example. Too continental for me.

post #4 of 76
I voted yes, but not UCBD. A dark brown or even something like C&J's mahogany are perfectly acceptable, even in town. It may not be the most popular pairing, but they work and are conservative.

The ultra conservative firms in town may not like it.
post #5 of 76
A much better article would be FNB's comparing of the West VS City mentality.
post #6 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyMarr View Post

I was always told that one should never wear brown shoes in the City of London!
I remember a Scots saying 'Never brown in town' (the town meaning Edinburgh) when referring to shoes.
post #7 of 76
CBD - black laced shoes
UCBD - black oxfords
post #8 of 76
Balfour's impressions match mine exactly. It isn't right as UCBD/CBD, but you do see some younger men doing it and badly. And sometimes (Ken Clarke's "Hush Puppies") you will see an older man wearing brown suede.

I have thought about wearing good brown shoes with a dark suit in London, but cannot bring myself to.

Mine (usually walnut toe-caps) come to work only on occasional very warm days in summer with lighter-coloured linen suits.
post #9 of 76
The colour you show in the picture is a caricature but burgundy or oxblood are perfectly fine.
post #10 of 76
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geezer View Post

Balfour's impressions match mine exactly. It isn't right as UCBD/CBD, but you do see some younger men doing it and badly. And sometimes (Ken Clarke's "Hush Puppies") you will see an older man wearing brown suede.
I have thought about wearing good brown shoes with a dark suit in London, but cannot bring myself to.
Mine (usually walnut toe-caps) come to work only on occasional very warm days in summer with lighter-coloured linen suits.


I pretty much agree with all of this.  This is one of the occasions where my understanding of what the classical convention is differs from what I would prefer the classical convention to be.

post #11 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by Balfour View Post


I pretty much agree with all of this.  This is one of the occasions where my understanding of what the classical convention is differs from what I would prefer the classical convention to be.

Yes, black shoes continue to be de rigueur for various professions within the City - law firms particularly.

However given the potential of the seismic changes the profession faces with ABS and the like, it's conceivable that the culture & structure of firms will change together with the the regulatory landscape. An ancillary consequence perhaps but I feel the demise of the ultra conservative dress code will be the first visible social change...
post #12 of 76
Coming back to this thread, I'm not persuaded that this is exceptionally or particularly a London phenomenon. Though it may be that London is at the more conservative end of the international spectrum.

My challenge to the board would be to find evidence that non-London based people such as (a) Heads of State/Government; (b) national-level elected representatives; (c) CEOs/Board members of big companies; (d) high-level judges and lawyers; (e) Ambassadors; (f) similar people in high status conservative dress-code jobs (so not Silicon Valley); (g) royalty and (h) the entourages of (a) - (g) regularly wear brown shoes rather than black with business suits. I'm sure you can find some, but you will have to look hard.

For all that the internet says that brown shoes are either acceptable or preferable (and I would like it to be so), my own personal experience of categories (a) through (h) in about 70 countries over the last two decades is that they are rarely seen IRL.
post #13 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geezer View Post

Coming back to this thread, I'm not persuaded that this is exceptionally or particularly a London phenomenon. Though it may be that London is at the more conservative end of the international spectrum.
My challenge to the board would be to find evidence that non-London based people such as (a) Heads of State/Government; (b) national-level elected representatives; (c) CEOs/Board members of big companies; (d) high-level judges and lawyers; (e) Ambassadors; (f) similar people in high status conservative dress-code jobs (so not Silicon Valley); (g) royalty and (h) the entourages of (a) - (g) regularly wear brown shoes rather than black with business suits. I'm sure you can find some, but you will have to look hard.
For all that the internet says that brown shoes are either acceptable or preferable (and I would like it to be so), my own personal experience of categories (a) through (h) in about 70 countries over the last two decades is that they are rarely seen IRL.

I wonder if the reason that black shoes with suits in business is still popular is because of the 'no brown in town' rule, or because choosing a black pair of shoes to wear with a suit is the easy choice - pairing the correct brown shoes with a suit and other accessories is too complicated.

That, and many men probably own nothing but black shoes (iGentlemen excluded).
post #14 of 76
I occassionally wear a pair of dark mahogany wholecuts with a dark navy suit on a Friday as my one "Casual Friday" concession and sometimes an oxblood Oxford. Never had any form of criticism from anyone.

I suspect as much because most of the chaps I work with in the bank seem to struggle to find a working iron and a shoe brush most days so my "rule-breaking" slips under the radar.

I suspect the majority of men have very few pairs of formal shoes. If you're going to just have a couple of pairs then two pairs of black oxfords would be my first choice as well.
post #15 of 76
Well black shoes can be interesting if you get the hand antique stuff.
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