Summer is a good time for lighter-colored shoes, but they’re not always the easiest to wear. Outside of plain white sneakers – which are admittedly pretty useful, even if ubiquitous – colors that are lighter than mid-brown often stick out too much from your trousers. Most men want to wear things that draw the eye upwards, putting the focus on their shirt, tie, and jacket combination. Lighter-colored shoes, on the other hand, often draw the eye down.
There are a lots of exceptions. Tan shoes can look great with a pale gray suit, if only because they’re darker than the trousers (the other combination, tan shoes with a navy suit, almost always looks terrible for the opposite reason). I also think they work well with low-contrast ensembles, such as these in this post, or when the shoes are balanced out with a lighter-colored jacket.
There are also some shoes that are just iconic, such as white buckskins. Having started with students at Princeton in the 1950s, white bucks quickly spread throughout the Ivy League school system, becoming “the shoe” for the style-conscious. Usual combinations included tan chinos or grey flannels, with the dirtiness of the buckskin being a source of pride (much like a well-worn button-down collar). They’re less commonly seen today, but their association with traditional American style endures.
I like white bucks on other people, but they’re too preppy for me. If you’re interested in getting a pair, you can find them at all the usual places – O’Connell’s, Brooks Brothers, and Sid Mashburn. Guideboat Company also has a pair of on sale right now, which are made in England. If you’re bold, you can wear them with seersucker suits or madras sport coats, although I like them in quieter combinations, such as with tan chinos and navy jackets. Christian Chensvold also wears them in with grey-tonal outfits in the fall.
An even more conservative bet, and one that I like even more, are sand suede derbies. Less preppy than white bucks; easier to wear than tan calf; more interesting than dark-brown leathers. They’d look great with something like what Mark from The Armoury is wearing below: a brown sport coat with off-white pants and a cheerfully-colored shirt.
Alden makes a nice pair for Brooks Brothers, although if you want something a little more casual, there are also these derbies from Heschung and driving mocs from Tod’s. For something sharper, Edward Green and Saint Crispin’s have some nice sand suede colors for custom MTOs. I particularly like the ones pictured at the top of this post: Saint Crispin’s Mod. 520 in what looks to be the company’s BCK071 suede. Like with buckskins, let their eventual dirtiness be a source of pride.