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.
Guide To Co-ordinating Leatherwear
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.
Belt & Shoes
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.
- Match leathers from the same colour family: Black with black, browns with browns, tan with tan, etc. This is the easiest part; if you get nothing else right, get this right. Equally, you don’t need to be too exact, which leads us to our next point…
- Get in the right ballpark: It’s pointless to waste hours and hours hunting for the tone of brown that matches your shoes with utter precision. Not only is this going to be barely noticeable to some, but to others it is bound to look too meticulous; a slight discrepancy is going to give you a bit of cool nonchalance, not scruffiness. Conversely, if you’re too far out you’ll just look lazy; deep brown shoes and a light brown belt, for example, might just end up looking mismatched.
- Don’t attempt to match wild colours: A fluorescent yellow belt could be the perfect statement for you, and you could probably build a good look around it. But to find and wear a matching pair of shoes would be not only difficult but ridiculous. When you have a statement colour, let it breathe; you’re flying in the face of subtleties like this anyway!
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:
- Watch strap: Assuming that this is leather, you should match it to your belt and shoes. You can afford to be even less exact with the colour matching here; as long as you hit the right colour family, the tones can be different. A brown watch strap could even work with a tan belt and shoe combination should you need it to, for example.
- Bags: Do you really want to empty out its contents every time you feel like changing your shoes? We may be fashion conscious but a man is still a man. Don’t fuss too much over this, as long as you co-ordinate the smaller details you’ll be good to go.
- Wallet: People should only see this when it comes out of your pocket. While a stylish man should have a stylish wallet, it shouldn’t change with your outfit. If you have a ‘go-to’ leather bag, consider matching your wallet to that to tie both pieces together and prevent either from looking out of place.
- Gloves: These might not be leather but if they are, you can be adventurous. Matching them to your belt and shoes can look fantastic, but it’s not essential here. You can afford to mismatch a statement piece like leather gloves; as long as it works within your outfit, you should be alright.
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.
Brown & Tan Leather
How To Wear
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.
Breaking The Rules
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?
- How closely do you match your shoes and belt?
- Should leather watch straps and gloves be equally well matched?
- Should your bag and wallet change with your outfit?
- Are brightly coloured leathers wearable?
- Should leather trousers be deemed a criminal offence?
Let us know in the comments below…