Brown is one of the best colors in menswear — here’s how to style it.
Color matching is always a hot topic in the world of men’s style. After all, you want to make sure that the various pieces of your outfit work together, so understanding basic color theory is vital.
But even today, there are some outdated notions about color that still get passed around as fact.
For example, at some point in your life, you’ve probably been instructed to not wear brown shoes with black clothing. You might have even been told to avoid brown in general when dressing up. But you probably weren’t told why you should stay away from brown.
The stigma against brown goes back to traditional English dress, which dictated that men should wear exclusively black, grey, or blue when in town. (Brown was reserved for the countryside.) This gave rise to the adage “no brown in town,” and like most sayings, it got repeated over the centuries without question.
Not wearing brown may have been appropriate in London in 1905, but it no longer applies today. “No brown in town” isn’t an unbreakable rule of men’s fashion but rather a classist maxim that refers to outdated notions of formality.
But there’s still one lingering question — what can you wear with brown clothes? As it turns out, quite a lot. Once you get a little familiar with the color and what it’s great for, you can easily incorporate it into your outfits.
The Psychology of Brown
In color psychology, brown can evoke feelings of strength, security, reliability, warmth, and comfort. As an earth tone, brown inherently reminds us of trees, soil, plants, and rocks, and it’s especially reminiscent of autumn.
However, large amounts of brown can communicate isolation and loneliness. This shouldn’t be a major concern when putting together an outfit. However, if you’re planning on wearing all brown, you’ll want to put extra consideration into the exact shades you choose.
Generally, brown works best when paired with garments that reinforce its positive connotations. Since brown is associated with nature, warmth, and comfort, it’s a fantastic color choice for flannel shirts, boots, chore jackets, carpenter pants, and other workwear pieces.
Brown tends to be easiest to wear in the colder seasons, specifically spring and fall, but you can wear it year-round if you know how to style it.
What Colors Go With Brown Clothes?
The way you match a brown garment will depend on the exact shade of brown. Almost all brown tones will pair well with white, but past that, you have to think critically about your color combinations.
First, let’s look at how to match a medium brown.
The medium brown color family includes shades like golden brown, russet, copper, and caramel. This tone of brown works well with other shades of brown, medium to dark greens, medium blues, reds, and sometimes yellows.
Medium Brown Outfit Ideas for Men
Here are some ways to style medium brown shades:
Brown & White
An easy way to sport a medium brown is to simply pair it with a white (or off-white) piece.
Because this color scheme pretty much always works, you can play around with texture and layering.
Doubling Down on Brown
Medium brown that’s on the lighter side can be paired with a darker brown for a high-contrast monochromatic look.
This is a perfect look for fall, but it also works really well in springtime.
Pull out this look when the leaves are hitting the ground.
The grey and blue base emphasizes the medium brown jacket and boots for a timeless, contrasting outfit.
What Colors Go With Dark Brown Clothes?
Darker brown colors — including coffee, sepia, and dark chocolate — look fantastic when used together or with lighter, contrasting colors. Of course, white and other brown tones go well with dark brown, but other colors like oranges, dark greens, deep blues, and greys also work well.
Dark Brown Outfit Ideas for Men
Now let’s check out some ways to wear dark brown:
Brown in Town
Forget the old saying — this slick brown outfit is ideal for hitting the city. The leather jacket layered over the sweater and shirt is a timeless and classy look.
Pair that with dark wash jeans and lighter brown boots, and you’ve got a casual yet refined outfit.
Brown is perhaps the single most autumnal color, so why not take inspiration straight from the fall season? This outfit mimics the changing leaves with tones of brown and pops of orange and dark green.
The fabrics also play an integral role here — fuzzy wool and hardy cotton work together to create a cozy textural palette.
If you’ve got an especially dark brown element in your outfit, try balancing it with at least one contrasting color.
Whites, beiges, and greys are all fantastic choices for this.
What Colors Go With Light Brown Clothes?
Light brown is a bit of a different beast. Some light browns like cinnamon and camel are fairly recognizable as browns, but others like tan and bone are so pale that they don’t function in the same way as other light browns.
Light browns that are more brown than light go nicely with darker browns, whites, blues, reds, and some greens. Browns that are closer to a cream color can work with many darker colors (including black).
Light Brown Outfit Ideas for Men
Last up, here’s how to incorporate light brown into your wardrobe:
Different shades of light brown can be paired to make a tonal outfit with an earthy vibe.
Here, a light brown jacket is layered over an olive flannel to contrast with the tan chinos.
Light brown items that are more reddish or yellowy in tone go nicely with darker colors like navy and maroon.
This autumnal palette is especially dapper but also surprisingly casual, so you can dress it up or down as you want.
There’s a reason tan is such a ubiquitous color for chinos and other cotton pants (you can even find tan denim these days).
Structured tan pants look great when paired with wardrobe staples like a denim jacket and a white tee.
Brown Clothing for Men FAQ
If you need a TL;DR about brown menswear, look no further:
What colors go well with a brown outfit?
It depends on the exact tone of brown, but generally speaking, other shades of brown and white are solid choices.
What color shirt goes with brown pants?
It depends on the specific shade of brown. White and olive shirts are usually safe bets.
Can you wear black with brown?
Contrary to popular belief, you can wear black and brown together. The key is to ensure that the colors contrast with each other. A deep black and a light rust look great together, but a lighter grey-black and a yellowy brown don’t mesh as well.
Final Thoughts: Brown’s for Every Season
Despite what you may have been told, brown is a fantastic (and underrated) color for menswear. There are plenty of ways to wear brown no matter the season or occasion.
Brown’s earthy, organic look is as versatile as it is comforting, so it’s a great color choice for outerwear and workwear-inspired pieces. If you don’t already have a healthy amount of brown in your wardrobe, hopefully this article has given you a starting point to explore all that this calming color has to offer.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!