Man Style: Belts. Shoes.
Some social norms make sense. For example, when a sneeze ejects itself from one’s nasal cavity at well over 100mph, we cover our mouth because it’s gross and spreads disease. Other social norms are absolutely pointless, either they have fallen so far into antiquity that they are irrelevant, or they were just stupid to begin with. My favorite model of an outdated social norm is the “no elbows on the table” rule; why in the world was that one ever invented?
Equally as innocuous, but somewhat more relevant than resting your elbow-meat on the table: the belt/shoe rule. For decades it has been a stylistic faux pas to wear a mismatched combination of belt and shoes, but is it still a relevant “rule?”
Yes and no.
When it’s okay…
Imagine yourself at a straw hut type tiki bar on some beach of a tiny island in the Caribbean. As you sit there drinking a Long Island and listening to the waves roll in, what are you wearing? Does it matter? You’re probably not too concerned about whether the belt on your waist matches the shoes on your feet, assuming your wearing either. The point being that this “rule” is completely dependent on the environment and the clothes you’re wearing. If it’s a super casual setting, the belt and shoes can tastefully mismatch and look awesome! Keep in mind, that doesn’t give free reign to wear stupid things, like leopard printed belts and crocs, but that should apply to your entire wardrobe.
The most appropriate time to clash shoes and belts is with shorts and flippy-floppies on a boat (or not on a boat, really anywhere). Flip-flops are thin, so they don’t really broadcast their color no matter how vibrant. Also, they’re usually worn in an environment that is uber-casual.
When it’s not okay…
As of late, there’s been this weird white-belt-with-a-dark-gray-suit thing going on, and I don’t get it. It screams fad, and I don’t think it looks like…a good thing? It’s almost like the white belt people are trying to reach back to the ‘70s. Even when the white belt is matched with white shoes, it looks super gaudy. Technically, wearing a white belt with a suit follows the matching rule, and apparently it also means that you’re “IN STYLE” in 2013, but that doesn’t change the fact that you look like a complete tool.
For the more sensible gentlemen, it would be advantageous to wear a matching belt/shoe combination in a formal environment. There should never be anything brash or distracting about the clothes you wear, including clashing shoes and belts. This is in the same arena as wearing stupid tie knots and overly pointy shoes.(Everything in moderation gents).
This style norm isn’t based in nonsensical idiocy; it is anchored by the fact that matching your belt and shoes will ALWAYS look good. Decide whether to match or not by gauging how formal you want to be. If it is even almost formal, always, always, always match.
Things to keep in mind…
Hues and shades can get really tricky in clothing. It is important to remember that not all blacks are the same and brown is not tan. Consider: Some black dyes are derived from a very dark blue, while others are created with red overtones. Indirect light and poorly lit rooms let you get away with murder (both metaphorically and literally), but when exposed to the harshness of the sun, the contrast between red-blacks and blue-blacks becomes soberingly evident. The easy fix is just comparing a shoe and a belt side by side in intense light to ensure the best match.
Note too that brown, tawny, and tan are different colors. Because these colors have much more latitude regarding hue and shade than black does, it can be harder to match. A dark brown belt probably wouldn’t look great with an orange-hued tawny pair of shoes. It’s totally subjective, but don’t think for a second “all brownish stuff matches.” Again, it would be a good idea to compare belts and shoes side by side, or put them on together before purchasing them.
Remember… if it looks stupid: don’t wear it. :D!