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Are two tone shoes formal?

Are two tone shoes formal?

Two tone shoes, featuring two different colors on the upper part of the shoe, have become increasingly popular in recent years. While once considered too casual for formal events, opinions on wearing two tone shoes to formal occasions have shifted. There are several factors to consider when determining if two tone shoes can be worn formally.

History of Two Tone Shoes

Two tone shoes first became popular in the 1930s and 40s. This style was commonly seen on saddle shoes, which featured a strip of leather across the top of the shoe in a contrasting color. Saddle shoes were considered casual footwear. In the 1950s and 60s, wingtip shoes with two tone designs also emerged. However, these were still regarded as casual shoes at the time.

It wasn’t until the 1980s and 90s that two tone shoes began to gain acceptance in slightly more formal settings. As casual dress codes in offices and other workplaces started becoming more commonplace, two tone shoes worked their way into business attire. Shoe brands such as Cole Haan and Armani Exchange popularized saddle shoes and other two tone leather shoes for men to wear to the office.

Still, strictly formal events like black tie weddings and galas required solid black or brown dress shoes. Two tone shoes were not considered formal enough for these occasions. This perception has continued to evolve in the 2000s and 2010s.

Factors that Determine Formality

Several factors impact whether a two tone shoe design can be worn formally:

Type of Shoe

Certain two tone shoe styles are more formal than others. For example, oxford or monk strap dress shoes in two tones can look dressier than casual sneakers or boat shoes in two colors. The former may be acceptable with a suit, while the latter are too informal.

Color Combination

More subtle or complementary color combinations come across as more formal than bright, contrasting colors. A two tone shoe in black and brown can look dressier than one in blue and yellow. Neutral tones like black, brown, gray, navy, and tan tend to appear more formal.


The formality of the event also determines if two tone shoes are appropriate. They may work for a business conference but not a black tie wedding. A day at the office is less formal than a gala or evening event.

Other Attire

The formality of the rest of the outfit also impacts whether two tone shoes can be worn. Pairing them with a proper business suit is more formal than wearing them with casual trousers and an open collar. Formality should be consistent across all elements of an outfit.

Guidelines for Wearing Two Tone Shoes Formally

If you want to incorporate two tone shoes into formal looks, keep these guidelines in mind:

– Stick to formal shoe styles like oxfords, monk straps, or loafers. Avoid obviously casual designs.

– Opt for neutral, complementary colors like black and brown or navy and gray. Don’t combine bright, contrasting colors.

– Only wear two tone shoes to events with a business formal or semi-formal dress code. Avoid black tie optional or black tie required events.

– Pair them with a coordinated, conservative outfit like a suit, dress trousers, or dress shirt. Don’t wear them to “dress down” an outfit.

– Make sure the two tone shoes match the formality of any accessories you choose like belts, ties, or jewelry.

– Consider subtle patterns like textured leathers instead of glossy patent leathers, which come across as more casual.

– Use traditional lacing and avoid flashy details like tassels, fringe, or unconventional colors.

Situations Where Two Tone Shoes Work

Two tone shoes have become acceptable in these formal or semi-formal situations:

Business Conferences

Many business conferences now have a business casual or smart casual dress code. Two tone oxfords or monk strap shoes work well with dress trousers and a sports jacket for these events.

Job Interviews

An interview with a conservative company still calls for formal attire. Two tone shoes can demonstrate style within the boundaries of business professional guidelines.

Certain Offices

Some traditional offices maintain formal dress codes while others have relaxed to business casual. Two tone shoes meet the requirements for both environments.

Daytime Weddings

Daytime, especially outdoor weddings tend to be less formal affairs. A two tone oxford or loafer complements a summer suit or seersucker pair of trousers fittingly.

Graduation Ceremonies

While graduations require formal caps and gowns, two tone shoes work well for the parties and celebrations surrounding the ceremony.

Situations to Avoid Two Tone Shoes

It’s best to avoid two tone shoes in these more formal situations:

Black Tie Galas/Fundraisers

These exclusive evening events call for traditional black tie dress codes. Two tone shoes are too casual for the occasion.

Evening Weddings

Formal evening weddings where guests wear tuxedos call for solid black shoes, not two tones. This includes black tie or black tie optional weddings.

Political/Diplomatic Events

Political functions, embassy events, and other formal government occasions warrant conservative, traditional attire where two tone shoes may seem out of place.


Somber, formal funerals typically require solid black suits and shoes. Two tone shoes don’t fit the required dress code.


Although not as formal as they once were, proms still lean traditional for attire. Teens should avoid two tone shoes with their tuxedos.

How to Style Two Tone Shoes

If you want to incorporate two tone shoes into formal looks, consider these styling tips:

Matching and Coordinating

Take colors from your two tone shoes and coordinate them with your outfit. For example, pair navy and brown loafers with a navy suit and brown belt. Or wear black and white oxfords with a white shirt and black trousers. Creating a cohesive color palette pulls the look together.

Patterns and Textures

Use patterns like checked shirts, textured ties, and subtly textured shoes to add visual interest while remaining formal. Pair two tone wingtips with a glen plaid suit, dotted tie, and pocket square for example.

Minimal Accessories

Avoid loud socks, jewelry, or other accessories that draw attention away from the two tone shoes as the focal point. Stick to minimal cufflinks, tie clips, watches, etc. to keep the look refined.

Classic Suit Colors

Gray, navy, black, and tan suits make versatile pairings with two tone shoes across multiple color combinations. Let the shoes make the statement against a conservative backdrop.

Proper Fit

Two tone shoes should fit impeccably and be polished to a shine to maintain formality. Pay attention to details like clean soles and trimmed laces.


While once considered casual footwear, two tone shoes have gained wider acceptance in formal settings over the past decades. Subtle color combinations and formal shoe styles now make them appropriate for many business, professional, and special occasions that call for dressy attire, stopping short of the most formal black tie events.

With versatile styling potential, two tone shoes allow gentlemen to inject personal style into their formal wear. Following coordinating guidelines helps keep outfits refined. As dress codes continue to relax in many professional and social environments, stylish yet tasteful two tone shoes present an opportunity to stand out while still fitting in.

Two Tone Shoes Formality Table

Event/Occasion Acceptable to wear two tone shoes?
Business conference Yes
Job interview Yes
Office work Yes
Daytime wedding Yes
Evening wedding No
Black tie gala/fundraiser No
Political/diplomatic event No
Funeral No
Prom No