How to Wear Derby Shoes with a Suit


Footwear choices with a suit are constantly in flux, and the air these days favors derby shoes.

These are big on the classic style, trendy, and the younger siblings of Oxfords.

However, gentlemen give a wide berth to the fact that wearing derby shoes with the suit is a challenge.

Somewhat true! Until you know how to wear these together.

The Anatomy of Derby Shoes

Derby shoes appear modern but have been there since the 19th century Victorian Era.

Derby dress shoes anatomy

The Earl of Derby was the man behind the shoe creation. But it became mainstream after the British upper-class and military usage.

When it comes to design, derby shoes are characterized by an open-lacing system.

This design features separately stitched eyelets, appearing as flaps, on the shoe vamp.

It makes the shoe look more “open” but provides good adjustment for broad and wide feet.

Difference Between Derby and Oxford Shoes

Derbies are slightly different than Oxfords.

Oxfords feature a “closed-lacing” system in which the eyelets are stitched beneath the shoe vamp. This creates a more closed or slim design.

Open lacing vs. closed lacing dress shoe system

Derbies, in comparison, eclipse oxfords due to versatility featuring a relaxed profile and open lacing.

Oxfords are the ultimate formal shoes, paired with a tuxedo at black-tie events to formal business suits.

On the other hand, the natural match with derby shoes is a full suit, suit separates, or even chinos and jeans.

In conclusion, derby shoes evolved from oxfords and took variations along the way.

Derby Shoe Styles to Wear with a Suit

Leather derbies in black or brown are formal enough to mingle with any suit.

Suede derbies, in comparison, are good with a more casual-suited look and with separates.

Among the actual shoe types, the order of formality is plain-toe, cap-toe, wingtips, and brogues.

Plain toe vs. cap toe vs. wingtip Derbies

The general rule of thumb is that a more formal shoe type means an all-around smart choice with a suit.

Chunky derby shoes usually don’t pair well with a suit.

Wear Derby Shoes with a Suit for Different Occasions

Like a suit adorns your sartorial arsenal, derby shoes are a treat for smart casual footwear.

The versatility might be everyone’s favorite way to define these shoes.

But it would be remiss if I say you can’t dress up a derby shoe.

Black Derby Shoes with a Tuxedo for Black-Tie Events

A traditional tuxedo adheres to a uniform aesthetic. However, some style tweaks are always acceptable.

Black double-breasted tuxedo, white shirt, black bow tie, and black derby shoes

You can consider wearing a black tuxedo as the starting point.

Black derbies will do some part of the job. For the rest, have some texture in your tux.

A slim-cut jacket, plain-front shirt, and a self-tie bow tie will also help highlight a creative approach.

You can wear this outfit to a traditional black-tie event.

Black tuxedo and black derby shoes as a standard black-tie attire

But it will serve you better as a red-carpet cameo for creative formal wear.

Derby Shoes with a Dark Suit for Business Formal

As long as you’re wearing a dark suit, there is no need to be stiff about your boardroom shoes.

Black suit, white shirt, and navy striped tie

However, a better approach is to go with the tried-and-tested staples. Enter black leather derby shoes.

Whether it’s a black two-piece suit or a double-breasted navy suit, black Derbies match everything.

Navy double-breasted suit, blue dress shirt, brown tie, and black derby shoes

To nail these looks, let the suit do the talking, and derbies provide an anchoring ground.

Dark grey suit, white shirt, black sweater, black tie, and black derby shoes

A tie and some accessories are a must for the suit. But the shoe should lack embellishment or have a plain toe style.

Derbies with a Suit for Semi-Formal

Among all suited looks, derby shoes pack the most punch in semi-formal looks. Formality is up there with quite a creativity.

Also, opt for brown leather derbies to have the freedom in the suit colors.

Charcoal suit, white button-down, blue tie, and dark brown derbies

Match these brown derbies with a navy suit, white button-up, and any dark-colored tie for a rock-solid semi-formal wedding attire.

Navy suit, white shirt, brown tie, and brown derby shoes

Replace the navy suit with a pop of khaki suit to convert this into a summer suave.

Wear it sans tie with suede Derby shoes for evening semi-formal elegance.

Derby Shoes with a Suit for Cocktail Parties

For cocktail looks, consider derby shoes as an anchor that keeps your suited looks grounded.

This also allows room to add a bit of personality. And what can showcase personality better than a luxe burgundy suit?

Burgundy suit, white dress shirt, black tie, and black derby shoes

Match it with a dark solid tie and black Derbies to create the classic cocktail outfit.

The trendy olive suit can also create an eye-catching cocktail attire with brown derby shoes.

Olive green suit, white shirt, and brown derbies

For a more grounded look, wear a light grey suit. But keep in mind that this look can become too meh.

Light grey suit, light blue dress shirt, navy tie, and black derby shoes

So, take help from the brogue Derby and personal accessories.

Derby Shoes with a Suit for Business-Casual

Business casual is the perfect dress code for those who shy away from dressing up.

A safe place to start is to match brown derby shoes with a navy blazer.

Navy blazer, light blue dress shirt, brown jeans, and brown derby shoes

Replace the dress shirt with a fine-gauge roll-neck jumper to dress down the suit elegantly.

It’s the perfect outfit for dressy business-casual evenings and for those changing weathers.

To notch up the creativity, go with suit separates.

A blue suit jacket, beige chinos, and a blue striped shirt is a great starter. You don’t even need a tie.

Light blue blazer, striped tie, and tan pants

The hero piece is the modern brown brogue derbies, giving this look a contemporary edge.

Derby Shoes with a Blazer for a Smart Casual Look

Wearing derby shoes with a blazer as a smart casual outfit doesn’t take any guesswork.

Grey plaid blazer, brow shirt, white chinos, and dark brown derbies

It’s just a winning combination every time.

However, don’t wear boring combinations. Play with colors, textures, and accessories to create something unique.

Matching the grey tweed blazer with white pants is one good example. Wear a brown shirt for a head-turner.

An alternative approach is to wear a navy blazer with jeans.

Navy blazer, grey T-shirt, navy jeans, and brown suede Derby

Try this as a weekend outfit for casual occasions with a T-shirt and tan suede derby shoes.

Best Derby Shoe Colors for a Suit

It’s hard to dispute the effect of color on footwear. And it equally impacts derby shoes you can wear with a suit.

Dark shoe colors will be more formal, and lighter ones will be versatile. But with some exceptions.

Eventually, it’s a matter of picking the best derby shoe color for the occasion.

So you can put your best foot forward.

Black Derbies

Black currently holds the crown for best derby shoe color. It’s formal but also surprisingly versatile.

Black derby dress shoe

Look towards black derby shoes to cater to your dressy needs with a tuxedo or any dark-colored suit.

Also, with the right detailing, it’s a great fit for semi-formal suits.

If you want to all-in with only one derby shoe color, it should be black.

Brown Derbies

Brown anchors its place as the versatile derby shoe color.

Brown derby dress shoe

It helps style derbies as they were intended to be.

The best match with brown are neutral suit colors, including navy, grey, and brown.

Brown is also the most popular color for chunky and modern derby shoes.

Go with brown if you need an all-around derbies, leaning towards casual styling.

Tan Derbies

Leather Derbies in tan are a good match with less formal suit colors.

But tan derbies in suede are something truly extraordinary. Wear these as an alternative to sneakers with your suit.

Tan derby shoes are also a suitable footwear option with suit separates and blazers.

Burgundy Derbies

Burgundy or oxblood is an understated shoe color. Wear it to make a statement with your Derbies.

The best match is versatile suit colors like navy, charcoal, and brown.

But don’t shy from pairing burgundy derbies with light grey, khaki, forest green, and olive.

These are good for a modern take on a classic dress shoe.

Derby Shoes with Suit FAQs

Are derby shoes formal enough for a suit?

On the dress shoe formality spectrum, Derbies lie in the middle, between the oxfords and loafers.

That makes derby shoes formal enough for a suit in every capacity. Just do the proper styling to make this pairing work for you.

How should derby shoes fit?

Derby shoes offer an impeccable fit thanks to the open-lacing system.

To ensure a proper fit, find the right shoe size. The shoe should be snug around the midfoot, and the heel should feel close.

Any discomfort on the toes or the bridge means poor fit.

How do you take care of your derby shoes?

You can start by investing in a shoehorn. It will protect the heel.

Clean the shoe every time you wear it and polish it after every four to six wears.

Store the shoe properly in a dust bag and by using a shoe-tree.

Can you wear patterned or colorful socks with derby shoes and a suit?

This will come down to the dress code. For business-formal and black-tie, I’ll suggest only solid-colored matching socks.

However, if it is anything less formal than this, bring in your creativity.

Can you wear derby shoes for an interview?

Wearing derby shoes for an interview is perfectly fine for most industries, including white-collar jobs.

William Prector

I've been a fashion blogger for more than 10 years. Although I've finished a master's degree in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, I've decided to make fashion my dance for a living. My mission with this blog is to educate young and older gentlemen on finding the proper outfit according to their appearance, what to wear for the right occasion, and being confident in their choice.

  • auto draft
  • tagg gig guide - add event