Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Shoes Can I Wear With Navy Blue?

Like most bloggers, I track my search terms. Guess what's most common? The meaning of life? Just kidding. Shoes. "What color shoes should I wear with navy blue?"

Let us consider why it's harder to decide what shoes to wear with navy than, say, with gray, or forest green, or burnt umber. Here's what I think. Women have heard that there's a rule against black.

I am here to conclude, definitively, you can wear black shoes with navy clothing.

How did the no black shoe myth get started? I looked around. No trace of origin to be found. I considered. Is it like white shoes after Labor Day, a remnant of our upper class habits? In the absence of proof, I theorize. What? That's the prerogative of social anthropologists, especially us amateurs.

My theory is that this rule, if it ever existed, was to prevent the wearing of black shoes with very, very dark navy. Because with a very dark navy pair of pants, or skirt, and let's say, a pair of matte black leather shoes, it might be possible to think that the wearer had been CONFUSED. That the wearer had MADE A MISTAKE and worn black shoes THINKING SHE HAD ON BLACK CLOTHES. Oh, the horror.

In case you still query the present-day acceptability of black with navy, here's corroboration. From Highly Diverse Sources.
"Black shoes can most definitely be worn with a blue suit. But it depends which blue. Sky blue and hues all the way to teal and French blue (none of them a good idea anyway) call for something different, like a light-brown shoe. Navy, however--the default setting for suits--is perfect for black or brown shoes, right up to a pale tan if you're brave. Or from Naples (Italy or Florida). The motto is choose your suit first, then buy the shoes." (Esquire)

"For another example of a celebrity breaking this rule, see the photo of Rachel Bilson (left), mixing navy, black, AND brown. Her outfit looks adorable and fashion-forward, proving that this rule is really just a dumb myth." (College Fashion)
"Traditional wisdom long held that navy suits must be paired with navy or brown shoes. But, in the past decade, black shoes have become acceptable and fashionable to wear with navy. This is primarily due to navy and black pairings on the runway from designer Donna Karan." (

"The problem is that the navy blue does not have the glamourous connotations, instead we think of it as the professional or the nautical color, and thus when we pair it with the black shoes it has the potential to become too drab, or too uniform. (Black clothing and black shoes do not suffer from this drabness because black has the glamourous associations.)" (Manolo's Shoe Blog) Confirms our point, given that for work, we don't WANT glamorous connotations...
If you are STILL worried, try black shoes with a high gloss sheen, further differentiating them from your clothes. If your clothes are shiny, matte shoes.

Of course, as previously discussed, you aren't limited to black either. The thing about navy clothing is that almost any color shoe can be said to "go." In one way or another. For example, in the "preppy" style (I use preppy in the current sense of the word, not as in went-to-Exeter), one could wear lime green, or bright red, or pink shoes. Color-wise, all those choices work. They just have a certain feel to them you have to take into consideration.

Conversely, if you follow the Stacy and Clinton "pop of color" practice, you can go with orange, or lavender. An edgier Artsy Cousin can pull off wearing shoe colors right next to navy (but with enough yellow or red tinge to avoid confusion), forest green or aubergine. A Grande Dame senior partner can sport fabulous chocolate brown crocodile pumps.

The sheer flexibility and range of navy is what makes it tricky. So I will put forth my particular High WASP prejudices for you to avoid, with the caveat that they are only that, prejudices, and navy is a case-by-case phenomenon.
  • Light brown with navy is declasse unless we're talking sandals. I don't know why. This can make nudes, or pink, difficult to pull off too.
  • White with navy better be pretty clearly nautical or don't try it. White bucks for men perhaps, but there I defer to Reggie Darling.
  • Gold with navy should be worn a la Grecque, somehow. Or on a red carpet with very avant garde jewelry.
  • Bronze is the best metallic, inasmuch as it's the most surprising.
  • Turquoise-studded sandals would look fab.
  • Purple and aqua are tough, as they tend to verge into navy territory dangerously near to the SHE COULDN'T SEE THE DIFFERENCE gaffe.
In sum, it's about the style tribe signals you want to send, your color sense, and your tendency towards the sombre or the cheerful. The strict or the playful. Not about rules. Here are some examples, from previous posts.

All this extends to jeans. They are navy, you know. And east side bride says Bensimons are the way to go. I'm a fan of Tretorns too.

So there you have it. Speak now or forever hold your navy peace. Speak now anyway. You guys are fun.

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Blogger Marla said...

In winter I have always like burgundy(or cordovan)with navy. But spring is much more fun!

February 17, 2010 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger hostess of the humble bungalow said...

My ignorance is obvious here, how does one track their search terms?

I do not own pants or a dress in navy but have dark denim jeans and a lovely Saint James navy cardigan...with spring and summer on the way I may invest in a dress or pant in navy, it feels lighter than black and safer than white!

February 17, 2010 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Suburban Princess said...

I read an article by a stylist once and she said 'If black shoes with navy pants are good enough for the military....'

February 17, 2010 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger DocP said...

Pewter. More interesting than black, more subdued than most other choices,

February 17, 2010 at 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Jan said...

My top 2 search terms so far this month are "lillies" (yes, spelled incorrectly) and "gorillas." I can't even begin to imagine what kind of a post I could put together about that.

February 17, 2010 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Belle de Ville said...

Since navy is a staple of my wardrobe, with gray and black, I tend to wear either navy shoes...which are almost impossible to fine or black. Today with my navy skirt, I am wearing platform pumps with ankle straps in ox blood.
For evening silver or gold look great too.

February 17, 2010 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Susan B said...

Hooray! I've been slowly warming up to navy and am finding it quite easy to pair with other colors. Yes! to black shoes. Yes! to avocado green sweaters. Yes to turqoise anything! Your Polyvores are inspiring me....

February 17, 2010 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Susan B said...

And as Belle mentions, wine and oxblood color shoes are also fabulous with navy.

February 17, 2010 at 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Genteel Decay said...

Yes, I love wine or dark red shoes with navy! I also love Tretorns, which I wore throughout my childhood. I think I need to search out a pair...

February 17, 2010 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

Funny that you can wear black shoes with navy but NOT navy shoes with black!

February 17, 2010 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

Oh and- had lunch with GF who told me her young EA plans to wear black Louboutin pumps with her conventional many-tiered long wedding dress... we both said, gaaaaah!

February 17, 2010 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

The forest green in the final photo looks TOO CLOSE to me, but the orange is fabulous!

Lisa, thanks for taking this seriously. Someone has to take a stand. I'm glad it's you.

February 17, 2010 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Summer is a Verb said...

I concur. Anything but navy shoes with navy. You'll be mistaken for a Swedish Airlines Flight Attendant. If you're lucky...XXOO

February 17, 2010 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Jessica Ryan said...

A nice brown pump is my choice for the winter months. When the weather warms, there are many more options: Red, orange and I have a lovely pair of rose-colored RL slingbacks that I love to wear with navy... also my silver Revas.

And now a question for you. Do you wear blue or black scrunchie with navy? ;)

February 17, 2010 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Miss Whistle said...

I love brown and navy blue. Probably because my mother didn't. I also have navy blue patent leather roger vivier's (with the pirate buckle) and they make me very happy. I think navy on navy is fine. "You can never go wrong with navy" my mother used to say. But you have to layer it up, make it an obvious choice to be a flight attendant for the day. You know, "coffee, tea or me?" Also pale pink, light apricot and yellow are sweet, sweet, sweet for summer.


Miss W x

February 17, 2010 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger Reggie Darling said...

I say, LPC, thanks for the shout out. The only navy we WASP men wear with white bucks is a blazer. Never navy trousers (except jeans, but that's another matter). Maybe could get away with navy shorts but that's pretty nervy. As far as men in navy suits go, here on Wall Street I mostly see them paired with only black shoes (some dark shell-cordovan Brooks slip-ons get through, though). Lawyers can get away with brown shoes with navy suits, but I don't trust those buggers at all in matters sartorial.

February 17, 2010 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger CDS said...

Oh, I think you can wear anything with navy---its such a non-neutral, neutral. I like navy with red, yellow...brown...even black! orange is pretty too....honestly i love it with anything. gold...pretty with white...beige...i can go on. love your blog!

February 17, 2010 at 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great style tip from Vera Wang - if you feel washed out in black as you age - wear navy. I find it is true. Now what color evening purse with navy dress and gasp, navy shoes? Wedding this weekend.

February 17, 2010 at 6:45 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Agreed. I think of my black patent peep-toes as "neutral". I really wear them with pretty much everything in the spring and summer!! My daughter has a gorgeous silk top from J. Crew - Navy with black pleating trim. Yes, Beautiful!

February 17, 2010 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger myletterstoemily said...

once again, you are the master!

February 17, 2010 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger Town and Country House said...

I like the black with navy for work, and I think you can do a straw-y type shoe with navy linen in the summer--not for work, of course. Sneakers with jeans is kind of dicey--at least in the South. They shouldn't look like athletic shoes, just casual. My favorite jeans ensemble is black loafers with no socks, dark denim, a great white shirt, and a serious bracelet. I hope that's not too boring. It generates a lot of compliments.

February 17, 2010 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Delia Lloyd said...

thanks, LPC. I'd always wondered about this!

Delia Lloyd

February 17, 2010 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Marilyn *Pink Martinis and Pearls* said...

So much thought into this. Yes, black with navy. Why not? Thought I'd let you know Son1 got into Princeton but it is down on his list due to the small size. I am trying to encourage him to go to take a look but their open weekend coincides with another higher on his list. So much for my new sweatshirt. Thank you for your entry for my cookie give-away. I am always willing to make your tigers a cookie whether your number is chosen or not. xoxo :)

February 18, 2010 at 12:08 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Mmm, bronze is my favorite metallic, and it is great with navy.

Amusingly, it's not the navy clothes I have trouble finding shoes to go with, it's the navy *shoes* I feel strange about matching with black outfits! I have a killer pair of blue suede heels that I can't quite seem to pair correctly in my wardrobe...

February 18, 2010 at 3:13 AM  
Blogger ADG said...

It's SO easy being a guy.

February 18, 2010 at 4:34 AM  
Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

I'm not a big navy girl; doesn't do much for my coloring. But I love your suggestions for shaking it up a bit!

February 18, 2010 at 5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been a vicitim of "the fear" of black and navy. Thanks for setting me straight. I think I need to write a book entitled "Everything I know about life I learned from LPC's blog."

February 18, 2010 at 6:12 AM  
Blogger ELS said...

We were brought up wearing navy with black shoes, it holds no horror for us. But pairing navy and white is a regresive step schoolwards so we wear navy and pink, cream and light or lime green.

And we talk about it for HOURS. The bliss of this post - have forwarded it to all kinds of sisters.

February 18, 2010 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger Ashley Turner said...

I love to wear navy with either black, nude or brown shoes, but sometimes I go colorful too! Navy is a neutral and as far as I'm concerned its totally awesome to mix neutrals and colors! Ah, love navy!!!

February 18, 2010 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Cape House, that makes me very happy. If only one thing you learn that solves a problem comes from me and the other people commenting here, well then we're on the right track. ADG - yeah but you have that whole tie+shirt+jacket thing that I completely don't get. Reggie, thanks for the sage advice. Town and Country, that outfit doesn't sound boring it sounds killer:)

And, for the record, I wear a gray or light brown scrunchie to match my hair....what! They look OK. I swear they do.

February 18, 2010 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger Princess Freckles said...

All this talk of sandals is making me depressed. I'm ready for Spring an dloads of navy and sandals!

February 18, 2010 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

Genteel Decay - Lands End is carrying the old classic Tretorn Nylites this season.

I would not recommend them with a navy suit, however. ;-)

February 18, 2010 at 8:39 AM  
Anonymous barbour and madras said...

Totally agree! Mummy (who learned from her mummy) recommended black patent with my navy blue shift. But love red shoes with navy dresses. The orange pump in the picture would be fab.

I have those gray & yellow Tretorns (and the pink ones too). Love Tretorns (wore them with my tennis whites as a child at tennis camp). They are becoming very popular again...

February 18, 2010 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love the nude high heels you chose in your polyvore and that would probably be my choice for a dress. I suppose with a suit I would wear black or dye some shoes navy (I have done that in the past with great results).
Regarding jeans, I love the pop of color. I wear mine -dark wash- with red or green flats and I love how it looks.

February 18, 2010 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Headbands and Hand Bags said...

You are fantastic! I have had this very question myself! I usually go for color, but sometimes orange and red are not meant for a formal occasion, where a formal navy will be worn. Black it will be after your blessing!

February 18, 2010 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Tish Jett said...

Whoa, wait just one minute: You've forgotten the famous spectators, i.e. navy and white, spiffy AND WASPy. Am I right or am I right?

And yes of course black and navy. Personally, I have a thing for patent leather, but that's just me.

OK, my chere, please pop over I have a cadeau for you.

Merci par avance.


February 18, 2010 at 12:15 PM  
Blogger Buckeroomama said...

It's great to see the many different options there are that would go well with navy.

February 18, 2010 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger Vix said...

Hey now -- Rachel's dress is midnight blue, not navy; as a result, she has more leeway to pair it with that particular brown. /color pedant

For a REAL navy, I am with the other posters who like black, dark brown, or cordovan if it's a dress suit fabric. I also love eggplant, preferably in patent. I think a tortoiseshell or leopard print could be pretty awesome, though I am not tawny enough for either.

I don't like a bright shoe with navy unless it's a more casual fabric, and I don't like a light shoe unless it's a skirt/dress and the "light" is close to one's skin tone.

But then I'm much more conservative about shoes than I am about...hmmmm, anything.

That aside, some of the other colors I love with navy = jadite, turquoise, olive/baby fern/pine/teal greens, medium pink, dove grey, marigold, icy pale blue, and lavender.

February 18, 2010 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Punctuation Mark said...

love those concept boards... have a nice weekend!

February 18, 2010 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Your search terms and mine must be total polar opposites!

Yay to bronze...

February 20, 2010 at 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am late coming to this post and this is a bit of a hijack..but what shoes are best with a seersucker suit?

February 21, 2010 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Anonymous, I assume you mean women's seer sucker? Blue and white? I wore spectators, in the same colors, with my sole seersucker skirted suit. But that was not for corporate life. I have never worked for a company where seersucker skirt suits would be appropriate for women. Really even pants suits either. For recreation, you have more leeway. If not spectators, I'd probably go for nude shoes.

February 21, 2010 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Sources said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 16, 2010 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger lilymom said...

I have a beautiful navy dress, I wore red open toes pumps in the summer with it. I am planning on wearing it again in November, but since it's sleeveless, i think I'll need a cardigan to wear. Any suggestions on colors for shoes/cardigan? Thanks

September 27, 2010 at 8:05 PM  
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