What Shoes to Wear with Dress Pants? 5 Classic Choices

You won’t have a second chance to make a first impression. And if you want your appearance to make the perfect first impression in a formal setting, reach out for your dress pants.

With your flawless shirt, dress pants, necktie, and matching suit jacket, you’re certain to create a lasting impact. Whether it’s an interview or a presentation, dress pants will give you the confidence you need to deliver optimally. But there’s one more thing: your shoe choice. It can make or mar everything!

Shoes to Wear with Dress Pants

Respect, they say, begets respect. To give off a confident, bold, or self-assured vibe, you need the correct fashion statement. You don’t want people looking at you and thinking, “something is just not right,” because you’re wearing a shoe type that doesn’t go well with your outfit.

If you’ve ever wondered what shoes to wear with dress pants, this post will help you solve that puzzle. But first, let’s take a closer look at dress pants and where you can wear them before suggesting a few different shoe types you can use with them.

Do You Still Need Dress Pants?

The upwardly mobile culture of our modern-day has reduced the popularity of dress pants, and many jobs have relaxed their strict dress codes. What’s more, you can now work from home!

Then, fashion revolutionaries are breaking new boundaries by incorporating jeans and chinos, traditionally reserved for casual occasions, into the corporate culture.

Many people also feel uncomfortable wearing dress pants because it confines them into a serious mold. If they had a choice, they’ll completely do away with dress pants.

That said, the truth is, you still need dress pants unless you don’t plan to step foot in any formal business or social event ever again! Plus, if your workplace requires looking sharp, you’re stuck with dress pants.

But these pieces of clothing are great, and you can feel comfortable wearing them if you know how to match them with your overall outfit.

Dress pants are so-called because they are formal or semi-formal occasions. They are mostly made from polyester or wool and are best worn with complementary suits, although this is not compulsory. It is incorrect to think that they are strictly for executives. Anyone who wants to project that statement of class, success, and ambition can wear them.

Depending on the kind of occasion, you can wear dress pants with or without a tie. If you have an interview at a multinational corporation, your dress pants will come in handy. You will need a suit and a tie that complements the pants. The choice of shoes at such a time is very important, and we’ll get into that in a bit.

Formal pant with shoes
Source: Unsplash

Pant Breaks

Your dress pants are for formal or semi-formal events. So it should help you project confidence every time. However, one of the reasons why people avoid dress pants is that their fabric often breaks at the edge, sweeping around the shoes.

This common problem with dress pants is not as common with casual wear, such as jeans and chinos. But it has a simple solution.

Dress pants should be tailor-made to fit. That way, the end of the pants should be just around your ankles when you stand erect. As you would soon see, your shoe choice would matter, as the ends of the pants shouldn’t cover your shoelaces. Your pants could have full breaks, folding at the edges and covering your shoelaces if they do not fit you.

To avoid pant breaks, some people prefer dress pants to be shorter than normal. This way, the ends of the pants rest just above the ankles when they stand, which produces a negative effect, and is, in fact, worse than the full breaks. As already mentioned, the best solution is to ensure that dress pants are tailor-made to fit your exact length.

Are Dress Pants Strictly Formal?

Without a doubt, dress pants are not for casual events, and you’ll look out of place showing up at a picnic in Nordstrom Cotton Trouser or Paid & Plain dress pants. Although you could use these pants for semi-formal outings, wearing them to casual events would produce the same effects as wearing jeans to a corporate meeting.

What you wear on your dress pants and what you wear below depends on how formal the event is. Strictly formal events would require a suit jacket, tie, a solid belt, and preferably Oxford shoes, complete with socks.

For a less formal event, you may not need a tie and your shoe choice may also change. But t-shirts are not compatible with dress pants, so you may need to rethink before wearing one to the playground.

Dress Pant Color Choices

Naturally, formal outfits do not have flashy or eye-catchy colors. That’s why many young people dread working in corporate environments. The office dress codes are nothing but boring. Black, grey, navy, brown, and you’ve gone through nearly all the color choices for dress pants.

Dress Pants Shoe Choices

It is important to pick colors that are not contrasting when deciding what shoes to wear with dress pants. The color of your pants and your shoes should be as close as possible. While you shouldn’t be completely monotonous, conservative clothing or official wear should not have competing or shouty colors.

A black shoe will typically go with any color of dress pants, but if you’re choosing navy pants, then your shoes should either be black or deep blue.

Since the color of your shoes and pants should be as close as possible, you may want to contrast it a little bit with your socks. You can look for a lighter shade of the same color for your socks to make them more interesting. But try to avoid bright-colored socks as well.

Now, let’s get into the specific types of shoes to wear on your dress pants.

1. Oxfords

No one ever regrets having a pair of Oxford shoes. Although you can wear them for smart-casual outings, the Oxford is a dress shoe for formal wear and is a perfect match for dress pants.

Oxford is king in the men’s shoe business. It has been around for centuries and used to make bold fashion statements for those who love to be taken seriously. Elegant, classy, and versatile, it is an excellent shoe for dress pants.

This shoe comes in different colors, but brown Oxfords are, by far, the most popular. Brown Oxford shoes work well with grey, navy, and dark brown dress pants.

Incidentally, the black Oxford is not as popular, even though it is not bad either. If you’re unsure about matching colors during business outings, consider black Oxford shoes just to be safe. The color matches virtually any dress pants, and those visiting a place officially for the first time prefer them. When well polished, the black Oxford makes an excellent impression.

The tan Oxford is another less popular but absolutely lovely variety. This color is very mild and fashionable. It also blends nicely with many other pant colors.

One rule you must never forget is that your belt should rhyme with your Oxford color, especially if you’re not wearing a suit.

When wearing suit pants, Oxfords should be your first choice. They project formality and would likely make clients take you seriously. But keep in mind that Oxford shoes are used only for formal and smart-casual events. They are a poor choice for casual outings.

2. Loafers

If Oxford shoes are too serious-looking for your liking, why not switch to loafers and let your leg breathe? Wearing loafers is a fantastic choice if you prefer a simple shirt and blazer or a full suit and dress pants.

Typically made of suede or leather, loafers are slip-on shoes that have similarities with the Moccasins as they do not have any laces or fastenings. It should not come as a surprise that this shoe type is more popular with younger people.

Originally, loafers were meant to be worn to casual events. But these days, you won’t miss the mark if you combine the simple-looking shoes with dress pants on formal or smart-casual outings.

As the world evolves, loafers are gaining more ground and making inroads even in official settings. The greatest advantage of the loafers is their style. While the Oxford is straightforward and classy, loafers offer that ultimate dapper look. And, you don’t need to bother about tying laces properly, because there are none!

The loafers come in many varieties with only a few variations. Most of them are suited for formal or casual occasions. For example, the Penny and Tassel loafer tilt slightly towards the official and corporate dressing, while Gucci loafers would fit into the casual settings or smart-casual, at best.

Since loafers come in multiple styles, it is important to pick a style that suits your pants. Dress pants would go well with Tassel loafers because they are trendy, classy, and cool. Depending on the occasion, you may want to consider the differences between the suede and leather loafers. Suede loafers offer more versatility, but if you’re wearing dress pants, leather loafers make a better statement.

Wearing socks or not should also be a question to think about. If you’re on suede loafers, it tends more towards casual, and you may not need to wear socks. However, you should consider wearing socks if you are going for a strictly official outing and wearing leather loafers.

Loafers come in various colors, but brown is by far the most common. Dusty brown would work with many dress pants colors. It is also a cool color.

Other common loafer colors are navy and burgundy. However, stick to black leather loafers if you have an official meeting. In choosing a color, always ensure your dress pants complement the loafers, preferably choosing a darker shade of the pants for your shoes.

Shoe with tie
Source: Unsplash

3. Boots

Boots on jeans are a match made in heaven. But boots on dress pants? Yes and No.

Not all boots are compatible with dress pants. Ideally, you can’t go beyond Chukkas, Chelseas, and dress boots if you insist on wearing dress pants on boots.

Because dress pants can become thicker, especially during winter, boots can always come in handy. Meanwhile, Chelsea Boots can work well during the summer with lighter pant fabric.

Ankle boots are a favorite choice when the weather is cold, but because they are fundamentally casual, you don’t have too many options when you wear them. But the most important thing to note is that the boots should not be above the ankles. Because they are typically big shoes, you should go with this choice only when wearing a complete suit. Boots are for casual outings. When worn with dress pants, you may want to wear a complete suit.

Also, choose brown or tan boots before black to reduce the impact of the heavy nature of the shoes on your pants. However, you can wear a black boot if your pants are also black.

4. Monkstrap

If you feel tying laces is time-wasting, say hello to the Monkstrap. The close-toed shoe with straps and buckles is known for its versatility. It goes well on casual and blends with formal dressing as well. But if you’re on dress pants, a Monkstrap shoe would be a great asset.

Its unique design also helps to draw positive attention to your dressing. Many businessmen who love to be on the go without stress choose the Monkstrap. 

The Monkstrap comes in suede and leather, and both are ideal for dress pants, whether you are wearing a full suit or just a simple shirt.

The best color to choose is brown. This color easily projects the beauty of the shoes. Always wear a pair of socks with your Monkstrap.

5. Derbys

Oxford shoes and Derby shoes have lots of similarities, so they are naturally standard dress shoes. Derbys are an excellent choice for formal outings but can also fit nicely into casual clothing.

Derby shoes are great for formal occasions with or without a suit, although they are not as formal in style like a pair of Oxfords. Depending on what you’re wearing on your dress pants, you can wear Derbys for smart casual or casual occasions.

Go for brown or black leather Derbys when choosing colors; these project seriousness and sophistication. Derbys also come in boots that you can wear for more relaxed outings. You’re likely to come across suede Derbys as well, although these are not too common.

There are different types of Derby shoes. Examples include:

  • Dress Derbys – you can wear these to formal occasions
  • Casual Derbys – designed for informal occasions
  • Derby brogues – features perforations
  • Boot Derbys – longer versions of the ideal Derby and are great formal shoes to complement your dress pants during winter
Man sitting with formal pant and shoes
Source: Unsplash

Combining Colors

For All Shades of Blue/Navy Pants

Go for any shade of brown shoes as your first choice. A black-colored shoe would also work, but only if you can’t lay your hands on brown ones.

For Grey Pants

The ideal choice of shoes for grey dress pants is black, for obvious reasons. Black complements grey perfectly and should be an ideal first choice. If you don’t have black shoes (you should!), you can go for a tan.

For Brown Pants

For all shades of brown dress pants, go for a darker shade of brown shoes as a first choice or a similar shade as a second choice. If it is a strictly official setting, you may also choose black shoes.

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