qwerty

Super Member
I hear a lot about how in London gentlemen don't "wear brown in town". Of course I understand that one should only wear grey and navy suits with black shoes if one is doing business in the Town of London, but does the no brown rule extend to casual dress, too? If one is not working on a weekday in downtown London, would he be remiss to wear a pair of khaki pants and brown leather loafers? How about a pair of jeans and brown leather shoes at a casual restaurant, bar, or club? Is black the only shoe color which is truly "proper" in London?
 

JibranK

Super Member
How so? It's not hard to see why country shoes would be frowned upon in one of the oldest extant professional regions.

OP, "town" refers not to greater London but to the City.
 

Kav

Inactive user
Take a reverse look at this. If you are riding crosscountry in a pre railroad british mailcoach, there is dust, mud and even snow. Highly polished or even patent black leather goods fare worse than browns in sturdier tannings that acquire the varied antiquing we love through use and exposure. This is why even today most driving harness itself is divided between brown working harness and black show harness. The city, with it's Queen Victoria prescription for mourning dress and the grime of coal powered industrialisation went black. Take a look at the original Conan Doyle illustrations for Sherlock Holmes. That deerstalker went with brown shoes while the tophat went with black. It's elementary!
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
By statute, men are only permitted to wear black oxfords, dark grey or navy suits and bowlers while in London.

Or -

It's something written by an American to be clever.

While I'm very fond of many elements of English dress that Americans have adopted and Americanized, the near worship of an illlusory ideal of English dress is, to me, silly. Last time I was in London, the average Englishman is likely to be as badly dressed as the average American. Black shoes only? Socks and shoes would be fine, thank you.

To me at least, the age when Englishmen were automatically the best dressed in the world is long gone.The only Englishman with whom I'm familiar who is always brilliantly dressed is Charles. God save the monarchy.:icon_smile:

Sadly for me, the age of English style spanned a period roughly from the 1930's through the mid-1960's and has since then been generally in decline.
 
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Orsini

Honors Member
You should be able to dress appropriately casually for the city of London while avoiding earth-tones if you choose. I would think that a trilby, jacket, pocket square, tie, wool slacks, and leather-soled shoes in dark shades should be fine.
 

JibranK

Super Member
By statute, men are only permitted to wear black oxfords, dark grey or navy suits and bowlers while in London.

Or -

It's something written by an American to be clever.

While I'm very fond of many elements of English dress that Americans have adopted and Americanized, the near worship of an illlusory ideal of English dress is, to me, silly. Last time I was in London, the average Englishman is likely to be as badly dressed as the average American. Black shoes only? Socks and shoes would be fine, thank you.

To me at least, the age when Englishmen were automatically the best dressed in the world is long gone.The only Englishman with whom I'm familiar who is always brilliantly dressed is Charles. God save the monarchy.:icon_smile:

Sadly for me, the age of English style spanned a period roughly from the 1930's through the mid-1960's and has since then been generally in decline.
To this day, though, I find it much easier to put together a good-looking outfit that doesn't break the bank from London shops than anywhere I've been here in the US. The general public are as badly dressed as we, but there are far more options for one who would behave in the more traditional vein.
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
To this day, though, I find it much easier to put together a good-looking outfit that doesn't break the bank from London shops than anywhere I've been here in the US. The general public are as badly dressed as we, but there are far more options for one who would behave in the more traditional vein.
Paradoxically, I agree completely. The are many wonderful articles of clothing that the British produce. Individually they are exceptional, and collectively remarkable. The British shoe industry is a treasure. IMO, it was always significantly superior to the U.S. industry, and since all but perhaps two U.S. manufacturers have gone, it is no longer worth comparing the two.

My remark has to do with my opinion of the average level of taste and how a man puts himself together. Much of what seems popular now in Britain, from the cut on down, is not attractive to me and I do not consider it to be in good taste. But I feel the same about U.S. clothes that attempt to imitate current British fashion, but then do it even worse.
 

Rossini

Honors Member
I've never been to London; however, frowning upon someone for wearing brown shoes seems inane.
It is a standard of the business uniform and is part of being taken seriously there. A sign of being professional and ready for business, like wearing a tie or a suit. While it may have been "frowned upon" in the 30s, these days it is more a case of fitting in and respecting the traditions of the hosts.

While I'm very fond of many elements of English dress that Americans have adopted and Americanized, the near worship of an illlusory ideal of English dress is, to me, silly.

Last time I was in London, the average Englishman is likely to be as badly dressed as the average American. Black shoes only? Socks and shoes would be fine, thank you.
You should be able to dress appropriately casually for the city of London while avoiding earth-tones if you choose. I would think that a trilby, jacket, pocket square, tie, wool slacks, and leather-soled shoes in dark shades should be fine.
Undoubtedly true for both points above. There are many people in London these days working in many industries that do not demand suits (therefore there is a much more diverse range of clothes available and worn). But there are many that do. There are many exceptions, but there are also many situations where you will look a little odd and out of place without black shoes.
 

rocco

Senior Member
"No brown" is because some English still have standards, unlike those here who like wearing light brown brogues with business suits :cool: I joke.
 

Trimmer

Super Member
I suggest 'town' and 'country' are not so much places as activities.

'Town' includes business, ceremonies of various kinds, memorial services etc Black shoes are appropriate for these wherever they are taking place.

'Country' (as well as obvious country pursuits) might include shopping, visiting a gallery or museum, ordinary church going etc Brown shoes are perfectly acceptable for these pursuits even in the middle of London (and I would add even with a blue suit).


See discussion at:
https://askandyaboutclothes.com/community/showthread.php?t=71237&highlight=brown
 

Leather man

Super Member
What Trimmer said.

I would add that here black shoes convey a sense of seriousness and propriety that brown do not. I love brown shoes of all shades and prefer them to black because to me they are more pleasing. However I would never conduct a funeral or a wedding wearing anything but black shoes - the occasion demands it. I would never conduct a service of Holy Communion in anything but black shoes, again because the occasion demands it IMO. However I would conduct a family service in very dark brown shoes or very dark burgundy shoes if my suit was grey or navy respectively.

I imagine the City is the same though I've never had anything to do with it.

I don't know whether the above is self evident but if not then it is deep in the english psyche that black shoes speak of a person ( usually a man) who knows what he's about and is competant at his job. I am not sure the same really applies to women in senior positions.
 

Rich

Super Member
It seems to me that black, grey, navy etc. are simply more formal than brown and other earth colours. When the function speaks louder than the person, it's black. When the person speaks louder than the function, it's brown.

Also, traditionally there was a sharp contrast between country and city pursuits (outdoor sports, horses, managing the estate, etc. versus office work, politics, gambling, clubbing, theatregoing, etc.). You dressed accordingly.

Of course today these distinctions are blurred.
 

Frog in Suit

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
For what it's worth, one sees men in London, usually older ones perhaps, up only for the day, and dressed in tweeds (or other season-appropriate suiting) with brown shoes. They are clearly not on their way to an office so why should they wear a "city suit"?

During Royal Ascot, one also sees men in morning suits in central London, either on their way to the races or back from them.

One should probably not agonize too much...

Frog in Suit:icon_smile:
 

Rich

Super Member
For what it's worth, one sees men in London, usually older ones perhaps, up only for the day, and dressed in tweeds (or other season-appropriate suiting) with brown shoes. They are clearly not on their way to an office so why should they wear a "city suit"?

:
If they were going to dine out at the Savoy (or at a gentleman's club) or go to the opera, they would look out of place. It they were just visiting or shopping, then of course there would be no need for black.
Also, academics traditionally dress "country" even when at work (maybe because they don't consider what they do to be "work").
 

Sator

Honors Member
I suggest 'town' and 'country' are not so much places as activities.

'Town' includes business, ceremonies of various kinds, memorial services etc Black shoes are appropriate for these wherever they are taking place.

'Country' (as well as obvious country pursuits) might include shopping, visiting a gallery or museum, ordinary church going etc Brown shoes are perfectly acceptable for these pursuits even in the middle of London (and I would add even with a blue suit).
I agree with this, and believe it may have been true since around the 1930s or so. Tweed coats with knickerbockers and colourful argyle socks were popularly worn in town early last century as casual wear. All in an age when morning dress was still worn as proper town wear. And, we all know that brown as a colour has no place at all with morning clothes - which, I suspect, is the real origin of the term "no brown in town".
 

Frog in Suit

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
If they were going to dine out at the Savoy (or at a gentleman's club) or go to the opera, they would look out of place. It they were just visiting or shopping, then of course there would be no need for black.
You are right, of course. I should have made it clear that I only meant "in the daytime". One would then change into a dark lounge suit if dining at a restaurant.

Frog in Suit
 
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