Brown Acts As A Bridge In Men's Footwear

citizen | 6/21/2011, 7:40 a.m.
NEW YORK - Look down, see brown....
Men's Johnston & Murphy brand, derby style, brown, oil finish leather dress shoes with a single piece vamp and a heel cap. Photo Ch Th Jo

NEW YORK - Look down, see brown.

A trendier, more casual brown shoe might be becoming the standard in men's footwear, as men - even those wearing suits - look to replace their black wingtips.

The shift is being fueled by changes in fashion, the economy and lifestyle, says Paul Grangaard, CEO of Allen Edmonds. Men, most of whom are not serial shoppers, put a high priority on function, he says, so if a shoe can be worn with both gray flannel trousers and jeans, that's the one they want. (And, yes, it is OK to wear brown with gray and even with black, say the experts.)

Shoe designer Alejandro Ingelmo says he wears the same brown lace-up brogues with their perforated decoration almost every day, switching up into sneakers for running and a dress-casual boot for winter and weekends. He's experimenting with lighter sand shades for men, and he'd also like to see a shift from the very square toe to a rounder shape.

It took years, though, for the collective eye to transition from black to brown, so any other changes might take some time to catch on.

With a lot of men, probably most men, when they hear about a trend change, they get nervous, says David Lawrence, director of merchandise for the national retailer Men's Wearhouse. They need to see something an awful lot before they feel that they want to wear it. Most men don't want to feel like they are on the cutting edge.

Brown has probably been in their closets for years, it just wasn't the go-to color, but it's not jarring, Lawrence says. It is an earth tone, after all.

Movies back in the `50s embraced the brown shoe-gray trouser look, especially on dapper dressers Cary Grant and Fred Astaire, notes Grangaard.

Men don't usually make a habit of following trends from runways or red carpets, adds Men's Wearhouse's Lawrence. Instead they are looking at athletes, especially NBA stars, and sportscasters. You often can't see their shoes but it gets men thinking about this hybrid dressy-casual look that seems a natural complement for brown leather shoes, he says.


AP Fashion Writer