Black or Brown Boots? Which are the Most Versatile?

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

Getting a new pair of boots isn’t as easy as it seems. 

You probably know what brand you’re going to get. You probably know the style.

The last question remains…

Black or brown boots? 

It’s a debate as old as time (or, more like as old as boots). 

Luckily, there’s an answer. I’ll run you through a few different scenarios so by the end of this article, you’ll know whether to get brown boots or black boots. 

Which is Better: Brown or Black Boots?

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Brown is my favorite color for boots. 

But just because they’re my favorite color doesn’t mean it’s automatically the right choice for you.

It comes down to what your wardrobe looks like (or what kind of wardrobe you’re looking to build). Here are three reasons to get brown boots, and three reasons to get black boots.

3 Reasons to Get Brown Boots

1. You wear a lot of colors

Grant Stone Chelsea in dark oak roughout leather
Outfit with my Grant Stone Chelsea

You’ll rarely catch me in a black t-shirt. It’s just not my thing. I think a girl I liked in fifth grade told me my eyes look good when I wear a green shirt, and I’ve been wearing olive green ever since. 

I like the deep blue indigo of denim, rich navy shirts, military inspired olive green, and the off-white cream color of unbleached cotton. These more natural tones pair much better with brown boots. Same is true for reds, oranges, and yellows. 

Basically, if your wardrobe has a decent amount of color in it, a brown pair of boots is going to match a lot more than a black pair of boots would. 

Grant Stone Chelsea Boot

If you’re all about value-for-money and you’re looking for a high end Goodyear welted Chelsea boot for everyday wear, then the Grant Stone Chelsea is the boot for you.

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2. Age and Patina

Brown leather ages and patinas more visibly than black leather. You’ll be able to notice more where the indigo dye from your jeans has transferred onto the leather, or where dirt and oils have saturated the leather.

I think brown boots show their age more, which I like. Now not everyone is going to be into that sort of thing—you might want your boots to look as good as new all the time. You can certainly polish up a pair of brown boots to make them look refreshed, but black boots take shine much easier. 

Oak Street Trench Boot

Built with thick 3mm Horween leather, the Oak Street Trench is rugged---even for a service boot.

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3. Versatility

Brown boots are more versatile than black boots. The biggest reason I say that is because you have a much broader color palette available to you when rocking a brown pair of boots. 

But brown boots can work with a navy or charcoal suit in more formal situations, and can be dressed down more easily with a pair of jeans as well. 

Black boots can also go formal, but a formal pair of black boots probably won’t match well with a pair of jeans, unless you’re going for that upscale casual look. 

Thursday Boots Wingtip

The Thursday Wingtip has a super slim shape---it’d be tough to manage if you have wide feet, but the profile looks rich.

The Wingtip is one of those boots that easily looks three times what it actually costs. 

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3 Reasons to Get a Black Pair of Boots

1. You Wear a lot of Greyscale

If your wardrobe has a lot of black jeans and white t-shirts, then a black pair of boots might be the better option. 

Take a look in your closet—do you see a lot of color? Or do you see a lot of greyscale?

Honestly, I would base my answer off of this one question. If your closet is mostly white, grey, and black, then a black pair of boots is the way to go. 

Ace Marks Troy Chelsea Boot

Ultralight full grain Italian calfskin leather gives this boot elegance that's hard to find under $500. Ace Marks keeps things full Italian with a narrow last and Blake stitching for that sleek Euro flair.

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2. You Need Them Polished

polishing black boot with rag

If you need a more formal pair of polished boots, then black leather is an excellent option. You can definitely polish a brown pair of boots, but nothing quite takes polish like black boots. 

spit shining black boots with polish

Black cream polish is the best option, and the easiest way to work up a mirror shine. I’ve seen mirror shine on brown leather, but I think black leather looks classier. 

Kiwi Black Parade Gloss Shoe Polish

Made with carnuba wax, this particular polish will give you a glass-like mirror shine on your boots and shoes.

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3. You’re a Working Man

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Security officers often wear black boots, and I know a lot of construction guys that wear black boots because it hides the scuffs and marks better for their specific line of work. 

While I normally recommend brown boots for tough labor jobs, there are certain industries where you’re in contact with tar or black paint more often, so getting a pair of black boots makes more sense in that situation. 

Match the Style with the Color

Best Styles for Black Boots

model wearing black chinos and ace marks chelsea boots

Black boots match best with black jeans. If you want to go all the way, throw on a black t-shirt and a black leather jacket. 

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After a long summer here in NC, the idea of wearing all black is disturbing to me, but a lot of guys love the all black look. 

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You can also try other neutral colors like charcoal or navy blue. Just make sure if you go with a non-monochrome color that you tie the black back in like you see here with the black t-shirt.

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Can you wear brown boots with black jeans?

Yes, you can definitely wear brown boots with black jeans. This style looks best if you’re also wearing a brown belt and a white t-shirt. Don’t add any other colors to the outfit, though—keep it simple with white, black, and brown.

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Best Styles for Brown Boots

Grant Stone Diesel on model in brown shirt and green pants

When you’re styling brown boots, you’re free to mix and match about any colors you want. 

As I mentioned earlier, I like olive green, tan, brown, white, and blues. But even if you gravitate more toward warmer colors like orange, red, and yellow, a brown pair of boots will look better than a pair of black boots.

model wearing Alden Indy sitting on steps 1

Because brown boots are generally less formal, you can also cuff the hem of your jeans to get a little variation of color and draw attention to your boots. Many readers here are divided here on whether to cuff their jeans or not, but I’m totally for it. 

Thursday Boots Captain arizona adobe rugged and resilient leather

I think if you’ve got a great pair of boots, anything that brings them more attention is a good thing. 

Best Color Brown for your First Pair of Boots

Ok, so maybe you’ve decided to get a brown pair of boots over a black pair. Good choice (it’s what I would do). 

But now you have a different issue: there are so many variations on the color brown. Which should you get? 

what shade of brown boots is best for a first pair 1

If I were getting my first pair of boots, I would choose something basic and universal like the fourth option in the image above. That’s brown Horween Chromexcel leather, which has a rich milk chocolate color. 

It’s not super dark like the waxed flesh leather in the first panel, it’s not too light and orange like the second panel, and there aren’t the same red-tones you see in the oxblood color in the third panel. 

close up Grant Stone Diesel crimson chromexcel leather on foot
Grant Stone Diesel in Horween Chromexcel leather

A lot of guys know they’re getting multiple pairs of boots, so getting a neutral leather to start makes a lot of sense. Of course, if there’s a certain leather color that’s catching your eye, then you should just get that. 

While my opinion is that simple brown leather will give you the most opportunities to actually wear your boots, you may think that oxblood leather is the best color on the planet and decide to wear it every day. And that would be awesome. 

Which Style Are You Going to Choose? 

Personally, I’m a fan of brown boots, especially if you’re getting your first pair and want something versatile. 

You may have a special reason to get black boots—I have a friend who plays in a symphony where they need to wear all black. So for him, black boots are the obvious choice. But he also bought a pair of brown boots at the same time so he could wear boots more often and with a greater variety of outfits. 

If you’re completely stuck and you’re not sure which to choose, go with a standard brown pair of boots. 

You can always get a second pair in any color you want. But brown leather is going to give you the most versatility.

Grant Stone Diesel

The Grant Stone Diesel is a no-frills mid-weight boot built with superb attention to detail and materials. The quality is comparable to other boot makers who retail for $450-600, but the Diesel is much less expensive. It’s one of the better price for value buys you’ll find.

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What is the best color for boots?

One leather color isn’t better than another. But if you’re getting your first pair of boots, I recommend getting a classic, mid-tone brown leather. Brown leather will match with a greater variety of clothes, whereas black boots tend to only match with greyscale tones like white, black, and grey.

Are brown boots more versatile than black?

Yes, brown boots are more versatile in casual wear than black boots.

Is it ok to wear brown boots with black jeans?

Yes, you can certainly wear brown boots with black jeans. This style looks the best when you’re wearing a neutral white t-shirt on top. Avoid strong colors like saturated reds or greens on top if you’re pairing brown leather boots with black jeans.