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

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Balfour, Aug 22, 2012.

Tags:

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

  1. Never

    17 vote(s)
    24.3%
  2. Yes - but not as CBD

    27 vote(s)
    38.6%
  3. Yes - but not as UCBD

    21 vote(s)
    30.0%
  4. Yes - even as UCBD

    5 vote(s)
    7.1%
  1. Balfour

    Balfour Senior member

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    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).

    [​IMG]


    (*) 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".
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  2. JohnnyMarr

    JohnnyMarr Well-Known Member

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    I was always told that one should never wear brown shoes in the City of London!
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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    10,562
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    Mar 10, 2006
    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.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  4. Quadcammer

    Quadcammer Senior member

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    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.
     
  5. Ich_Dien

    Ich_Dien Senior member

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    A much better article would be FNB's comparing of the West VS City mentality.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  6. Champagnelifestylenomoney

    Champagnelifestylenomoney Senior member

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    I remember a Scots saying 'Never brown in town' (the town meaning Edinburgh) when referring to shoes.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. Macallan

    Macallan Senior member

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    Jan 9, 2010
    Location:
    London
    CBD - black laced shoes
    UCBD - black oxfords
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Geezer

    Geezer Senior member

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    414
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    Sep 13, 2009
    Location:
    London
    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.
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. Tropicalist

    Tropicalist Senior member

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    May 1, 2012
    The colour you show in the picture is a caricature but burgundy or oxblood are perfectly fine.
     
  10. Balfour

    Balfour Senior member

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    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.
     
    1 person likes this.
  11. Northampton Novice

    Northampton Novice Senior member

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    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...
     
  12. Geezer

    Geezer Senior member

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    London
    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.
     
    1 person likes this.
  13. Christopher Essex

    Christopher Essex Senior member

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    Vancouver BC
    

    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).
     
  14. Slippybee

    Slippybee Senior member

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    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.
     
  15. add911_11

    add911_11 Senior member

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    Well black shoes can be interesting if you get the hand antique stuff.
     
  16. Svenn

    Svenn Senior member

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    I agree. In my opinion, shoes, like dark suiting, can be close to black but should never be actual black. If you're going with a navy suit in town, very very dark brown is preferable to black, something between these two:

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Balfour

    Balfour Senior member

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    Quote: I agree - that is why I think the convention is unfortunate: it precludes the aesthetically more appealing option, at least for CBD (I voted "yes, but not for CBD" FWIW).

    Thanks for posting the picture.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
  18. Balfour

    Balfour Senior member

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    I hope this does not come to pass: I am not suggesting it would be desirable to abandon a conservative dress code (although this does not seem to depend on the Alternative Business Structures reforms, see, e.g. Allen & Overy(*) - business casual all year, all week apart from client meetings).

    Indeed, I shudder when I read some of the posts here that say people need to contend with work dress codes that specifically prohibit ties, for example.

    Instead I am suggesting that it would be desirable if the convention in the UK did not frown upon pairing the right sort of brown shoes with dark suits.

    (*) For non-lawyers, A&O is a large commercial 'white shoe' law firm in London.
     
  19. Bounder

    Bounder Senior member

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    Link?

    I think the OP covered it pretty well. The farther you get from the square mile, the less eccentric brown shoes will appear. But, like everything, there are caveats. The City is all about business and I can't really imagine not wearing a suit there, which definitely means black shoes. I would not wear brown shoes with a dark suit in a private club. But I would wear brown shoes with an odd jacket. Odd jackets can be perfectly OK in a private club but I wouldn't wear one for business.

    You do see people in the square mile wearing brown or cordovan/ox blood shoes but they are inevitably foreigners. Cordovan/ox blood is, in fact, usually an American affectation. So you can wear non-black shoes with a dark suit if you want. But bear in mind you are making not only a fashion statement but a social one.
     
    1 person likes this.
  20. fritzl

    fritzl Senior member

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    this is strange...
     

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