If there were an agony aunt for men’s style, the poor lady would no doubt be inundated with questions about matching belts with shoes. This simple task seems to vex men
nationwide worldwide, let alone the task of co-ordinating these items with the rest of their leatherwear; there are many such items, including watches, gloves, bags, wallets, jackets, and trousers. Maybe not trousers.
However gentlemen, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. To get your leathers right is to build a solid base for your look; everything else can be as wildly contrasting or as perfectly matched as you – within the fashionable sensibilities you have no doubt developed with the help of this fine website – want it to be.
I must preface this whole article by categorically stating that they are simply guidelines. You can choose to adhere to as many or as little as you want – after all, sometimes breaking ‘the rules’ can make a superb statement in its own right. For the beginners, or those that are not comfortable pairing multiple leather items together, hopefully this will nudge you on your way and give you some much needed inspiration.
This is the big one. It’s also the simplest, and it’s also the least acceptable to get wrong. This is what our poor imaginary men’s style agony aunt slaves away clarifying for clueless men. So what’s the golden rule?
Your belt and shoes should be of a similar colour and formality.
The colour bit alone seems to give guys trouble; how matchy-matchy is too matchy-matchy? Can I pair brown with tan? What about these bright blue shoes – am I meant to find a matching belt for these? Rest assured, it’s simpler than you think.
So far, so easy. The next bit is the one you’ll hear less of; formality. Just as a tan belt can look out of place with black shoes, an ultra-casual pair of brown suede loafers is going to be ill-matched with an equally brown but much dressier slim leather belt. Similarly, your finely polished oxfords could do without that great big belt buckle.
It’s not as easy to offer specific guidelines here, so use your own discretion and check the look books below as they do a great job matching key pieces.
There’s an awful lot to cover here when you think about it; your watch strap, your bag, your wallet, your gloves and any other leather affectations of yours. Those are main four though, so let’s go over them one by one:
I’ve arranged these in groups of three so you can get a feel for the kind of co-ordination we’re talking about.
Note: It doesn’t mean you would have to use ALL 3 at the same time though.
Of course, there’s another consideration: the leather jacket. A timeless piece that most men will at some point or another want to work into their wardrobes. Where does it fit in here though? It can be a little bit difficult.
The key is to avoid overkill; if you’re already rocking brown shoes and a brown belt, then a matching brown leather jacket in the same tone is going to be a bad move. A tan jacket, though, could set it off perfectly.
Black is the exception to this rule; for whatever reason, a black jacket, belt and shoes is simply easier to pull off – and the backbone of any successful minimalistic approach. Otherwise, aim to wear a jacket in a similar colour to your shoes but play down the match with differences in texture (I.E. Suede and shearling) and tone.
Here are some looks I’ve put together to illustrate the ways you can build an outfit around well co-ordinated leatherwear.
Here we have a slightly preppy look. The important thing to note here is how the various leather textures complement each other; tasselled leather loafers, a woven belt and a suede bag. As outlined above, the bag doesn’t match the shoes and belt, and the shoes and belt don’t match precisely but are just about there.
A red chambray shirt and slim blue jeans is a cool way to pull off double denim, and the look is finished off by a basic navy bomber jacket; nothing flashy here given the statement accessorising.
A no nonsense smart look. This is an example of co-ordinating your leathers because you need to, not as a statement. If any of the three leather pieces – and I mean ANY – were in brown, tan, or anything other than black – the entire look would be undermined.
Note also the slim, understated design of the watch; the best option if you want to look smart.
Here’s a look based on something that I’ve been wearing myself of late; matched up oxblood/burgundy shoes and accessories are a nice move, and less predictable than the standard blacks, browns and tans – without being overstated.
The tan leather jacket both contrasts and compliments these accessories – hopefully this demonstrates the point made earlier about not matching leather jackets to shoes. The look is based around a core of slim jeans and a chunky roll neck knit, the latter being a big trend this season.
Note: If wearing 4 pieces of leather is just too much for you personally, then drop the belt or the gloves – this outfit still works beautifully without either.
Now to throw the cat amongst the pigeons. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes you can ‘break’ the rules and still pull off a well put together look. Below you will find an example look book where the stylists have disregarded the ‘safe’ plays and pretty much all the guidelines we introduced above.
However, mixing and matching leatherwear like this is much harder to pull off, and should be confined to those who have mastered the basics and want to take their looks to the next level. If you get it right, then you look like an icon – get it wrong however, and you look like a guy who literally doesn’t know what he is doing. It is a fine line that you need to tread carefully.
Hopefully by now you’re a little more clued in as to what goes with what, leather wise, and maybe even considering digging out an old piece you didn’t know how to wear. But I would here take the opportunity to advise you that no matter how well you co-ordinate them, leather trousers are still not okay. Okay?
So what do you think?
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