Reader Request: What to Wear with a Navy Suit?

A professional colleague recently asked me to write up some thoughts on a common question: what colored shoes and accessories should be worn with a navy suit? 

In the past, the “rules” would have stated that navy should be paired with brown - however, as my colleague noted, navy is now often shown with black as well. So is the navy-black combo the new rule? Or are the navy-black wearers merely exposing their own sartorial ignorance? The answer will depend on your audience. 

Navy with Black
Pairing dark blue with black is a fairly recent development in fashion, but it is a fashionable development (i.e. not a faux pas). Still, you should take care to make sure that you wear it in an environment where it benefits you to look “fashionably developed.” Here is a brief brainstorm on the traits navy-with-black might exude: 

• modern
• analytical
• cool-headed
• creative
• efficient/streamlined
• technical
• fowrard-thinking

Navy with Brown
All of these are wonderful traits, but it’s important to take a few minutes and think about whether those are the most important traits to emphasize. To illustrate this point, contrast the aforementioned traits with those suggested by navy-with-brown: 

• traditional/fundamental
• warm
• people-oriented
• reliable/tried-and-true
• diligent
• approachable

As you can see, while both color combinations are currently acceptable and normal, they can be used in decidedly different ways. When one of my clients recently went on a business trip to meet her new company’s support staff, she paired her navy suit with taupe brown, because she only had a short time in which to build friendly rapport. Conversely, when a different client wanted to look and feel more modern and technologically savvy than his age might suggest, we paired his navy suit with black and gray. 

In short: there are no right or wrong answers here - just as there are never hard-and-fast rights or wrongs in fashion and personal style. There are only the choices we make, and traits we choose to share through our clothes.