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‘Don’t wear brown shoes with a blue suit’, City law firm partner tells trainees

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📸 Wikicommons: sweeticecreamphotography

A partner at a top City law firm has reportedly passed on a provocative piece of advice to unsuitably dressed trainees.

Speaking at Thomson Reuters’ ‘Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law’ conference yesterday at London’s Hilton Tower Bridge hotel, the unnamed partner told juniors, “Don’t wear brown shoes with a blue suit”, legal affairs journalist Catherine Baksi reports.

It’s fair to say the partner’s fashion pointer created quite a stir among the legal Twitterati.

“This is silly,” pointed out Matthew Richardson, a family law barrister at Coram Chambers, while another user wrote, “sounds like lack in sense or fashion; or quite possibly both. People should wear what they want. The partner should get out of others’ wardrobes, or just get out more. People see an expert for his/her expertise, not for their dress sense”.

While Howard Kennedy media law partner Mark Stephens simple wrote, “Sh*t”, before posting an image of himself (embedded below), and presumably taken the same day, of him wearing brown shoes with a blue suit!

Turning it back on the partner at the subject of the controversy, David Hughes, a civil and public law barrister at Phillips, a law firm based in Gibraltar, asked “Was he well dressed?” before adding, “Brown shoes — of the right shade — are right for a blue suit.”

Another user had a stern piece of advice to throw back at the City partner:

This isn’t the first time a lawyer has posted controversial remarks to do with corporate dress. Katherine Cousins, a City solicitor, had in 2013 written a fashion blog for the then-named Berwin Leighton Paisner‘s intranet during her time there as a trainee. The blog was later pulled by the firm (which has since merged and is called Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner) over concerns it was inappropriate.

Her advice, which includes “skinny ties are for Hoxton bars” and that men should punt for a “dark blue, charcoal or grey” suit — “black is only for funeral attendees and bouncers” — and smart shoes that are “not too pointy” nor worn without socks can be found in her 115-page debut novel, Successful Solicitor: Get Ahead of the Game as a Junior Corporate Lawyer.

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121 Comments

Anonymous

Nothing wrong with a navy suit and brown shoes. This is one of those rules pompous people just make up.

Anonymous

Maybe for a night out in the town, not for the office.

Anonymous

If you wear black and navy, you may well be dressed appropriately but you’re still just as much of a twat as me in my brown shoes and blue suit. They do not go.

Anonymous

You’re wrong, sorry mate.

Anonymous

Keep telling yourself that. We can spot you from a mile off, and swerve to avoid.

Anonymous

Good hope you do.

Court of Appeal dress code

Brown trousers.

Blue shoes.

Anonymous

Am I missing something? I thought wearing brown shoes with a blue suit was the preferred aesthetic….

Anonymous

It’s traditionally not done and a bit of a faux pas; black shoes are preferred. I was advised by my pastoral tutor at school to avoid brown shoes with a blue suit when applying for professional jobs.

‘In September 2016, a report by the Social Mobility Commission showed that some candidates were not successful at interview (sic) because they wore brown shoes. The report (titled the Socio-Economic Diversity in Life Sciences and Investment Banking…) states “relatively opaque codes of conduct also extend to dress. To provide one example, for men, the wearing of brown shoes with a business suit is generally (though not always) considered unacceptable by and for British bankers within the investment banking (corporate finance) division.”‘

https://www.oxfordstudent.com/2017/05/10/blue-suit-brown-shoes-timeless-combination-mistake/

Anonymous

That is literally basic good taste. It is in the same league as “don’t wear running shoes with a suit to your interview”.

Anonymous

I strongly agree, but I just wanted to prove I wasn’t talking out of my arse.

Anonymous

Tell you what, to all these people “outraged” here: take your brown shoes and preferably wear them with your pastel or white stripped or checked suit to your interviews. You will look well dapper.

We will be all waiting anxiously to hear the stories of your success, being inundated with job offers.

Muchachito

I don’t agree. Navy and black is a faux pas in Italy, and brown is seen as much more complimentary. Maybe just a British thing?

Anonymous

Think this is typically a French concept.

Anonymous

In casual dress I wouldn’t wear black and navy. In business dress I wouldn’t wear anything other than black shoes.

Anonymous

The lunacy is that brown shoes just look better with a blue suit – blue and black look awful together. I’d not wear it to a client meeting or interview due to the number of grasping middle class losers that still care about this, but wear it to the office all the time as I don’t want to look like a twat after work.

Anonymous

Secret: People think you look like a twat.

Gordon Macdonald

Indeed, a black suit ware black shoes, a blue suit ware blue shoes, that should settle the debate! Only kidding, Monsieur A….

Jonathan Pearl

Any interviewer who has turned down a candidate based on what the candidate wore for the interview is foolish in the extreme, unless the job is for one in fashion.

Bored

Pastoral tutor at school? Posh kid gets inside tip early on how to work in the professions.

someone

Those pesky Italians wear it. Way too forrin for a City lawyer.

City Trainee

No brown shoes with a blue suit is just common sense advice. I do not see anything controversial here.

A non story this one.

Anonymous

What kind of shoes does one wear with robes and a Star of the Order of St John? Asking for a friend…

Anonymous

I used to work for a gentlemen’s outfitters in Savile Row and I can say without hesitation that clown’s shoes are the preferred footwear in that situation.

just me

Pass that piece of information on to partners at Linklaters *ROFL*

Anonymous

It might be traditional not to wear brown shoes with a navy suit, but in my opinion it’s a more, modern, harmonious and stylish combination, especially if the shoes are shiny and well polished. However, I would not (if a man) wear it to an interview or traditional client meeting.

Anonymous

Well surely it’s not too much to ask lawyers to not dress like spivs?

Anonymous

Or estate agents from Chelmsford

Anonymous

This is absolutely correct – navy or grey suit with brown (or worse, tan) oxfords/brogues looks absolutely awful. It’s not difficult.

Anonymous

Black shoes with navy suit is a total fashion faux pas, as is mixing black and brown in an outfit! It just doesn’t look right.

Blue / navy suit: dark brown shoes.
Black suit: black shoes
Grey suit: navy / charcoal shoes

Anonymous

Wtf is a charcoal shoe? Did you have to walk into an open pit BBQ to get that look?

Anonymous

Top bantz

Anonymous

Wrong. Or maybe right for some high street firm in Watford, who knows.

Gok Wan

Tbf fair he is bang on. Reserve your brown shoes for casual Fridays and second rate weddings.

Exceptions can be made for those who are senior and stylish enough to know what they are doing.

Steven Seagull

Brown shoes should not be worn in the town anyway. They are for the country.

Anonymous

Both the article itself and many of the comments reveal a difficult and frustrating problem with social mobility: even when one passes on sensible and helpful advice, rather than take it board, the listener often gets offended and fights back.

Debretts

Absolutely correct! The long-standing rule still holds: “no brown in town”.

Scep Tick

How about blue shoes with a brown suit?

JDP

Top bantz, here’s a TC

Managing JDP

Wait, that offer is subject to you sending over cup size.

Jonathan Pearl

People should leave their comments on sartorial elegance to “better halves” or Mums. I once went to a meeting with a guy whose suit still had a label on the outside of the sleeve – which is usually put there to assist retail staff to identify suits in a rack more quickly. These little labels are “supposed” to come off being worn. You might snigger, but it’s all the rage in some cultures to leave labels on, for instance, baseball caps. This is to signify that the item is newly purchased. Don’t be judgemental about these things. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry. The people who would have us all wearing bowler hats and carrying tightly furled umbrellas are not necessarily the best lawyers, or negotiators.

Anonymous

I was taught that brown shoes are for the country only, and that only black shoes should be worn in cities.

I’m sitting here in a city wearing brown shoes.

Anonymous

Correct. “No brown in town”

Anonymous

Ironically I received an offer from my white-shoe firm while interviewing in brown shoes.

Anonymous

…and then you woke up and realised you’re standing in the middle of a tube carriage with your pants down.

Anonymous

Thanks, but no. Sidleys.

Anonymous

Yeh sure mate

Anonymous

It’s been a long but mostly happy 3 years now

jockohomo

Yeh yeh sure lol

Anonymous

Lol @ Sidleys being a white shoe firm. do you even law bro ?

Anonymous

Anonymous

Wiki…

Anonymous

Yeah, cool list bro. Shame it also includes Reed Smith and a ton of other non-entity firms apparently as “White Shoe”. What a horsecock list lol

Anonymous

Dechert?

Cameltow

Rofl @ Dechert being a white shoe firm , more like a crocs boot shop

Anonymous

Lol!

Anonymous

I thought this had all been sorted out by Glanville Williams some time ago……

although I preferred Stanley Holloway’s take on the same subject myself. Brown boots, I ask you….

Anonymous

“top City firm”

*eye roll*

Anonymous

If it’s brown, flush it down…

Anonymous

What about brown suit with blue shoes?

Bob

The Partner is right about brown vs black shoes. it is not about what the lawyers like, it’s about what clients expect. Unless your firm only services media types, artists and hipsters, you dress how they would expect a professional to do. For every person who thinks showing up in a onsie is professional, there are dozens who expect for the money they are paying for the lawyers to wear suits and ties.

As for Mark Stephens he should just be ashamed of the shoes he is wearing, regardless of their colour.

Anonymous

Slightly tangential. I had some city lawyers out at my office today, 2 partners 1 associate. Naturally all of us were in chinos/jeans and open collars and the the 3 lawyers turned up suited and booted (annoyingly (or being a normal human) I didn’t check their shoes). 1 of the partners about 5 minutes into the meeting randomly took off his tie and stuffed it in his bag (I can only presume because none of us wore ties). The result however was just slightly weird and he looked quite disheveled with his collar hanging over his lapel. I have no problem whatsoever with lawyers not wearing ties but pick one of the other. Unless the air con is broken, don’t start undressing in a 1 hour meeting. On topic, could not give a hoot if they all turned up in brown shoes.

Biggie McBiglaw

Why Do you Capitalise “partner”, you Plum?

Anonymous

Imagine going to such an event just so that you can tweet upon the slightest whiff of a controversial comment.

Anonymous

I love that this is considered controversial. Love it. We’re truly through the looking glass now.

I’ll be getting my face tattoo and septum ring asap.

Anonymous

This is correct advice. You wear black suits with a business suit. Only spivs would wear brown shoes with such a suit.

Tufton

At the Bar a blue suit is the height of vulgarity.

Ditto light grey.

It’s:

Black or charcoal.

Three piece is a “must” if the jacket is single breasted.

The only acceptable light grey item is morning trousers, however these are now the preserve of silks, the elderly, eccentrics and the Midland Circuit.

Anonymous

Navy suit is fine too.

Bufton

No, it isn’t.

STFU

Man, stop talking.

Anonymous

Learn how to spell “Stu”, Stu!

TRUTH SIREN

Well fuck off back to the bar then you pompous muppet

Anonymous

City rules are laughable at times…

Anonymous

It’s not rules, just avoiding looking like an intern.

Anonymous

Not really – Just showing that you know how to shop in TM Lewin.

Anonymous

I’m still trying to figure out if this is a satire website…

Oppidan

Don’t wear a blue suit in the first place ffs

Anonymous

Yes:
– Navy suits
– Charcoal suits
– Grey suits (but not the silver ones that look like they are from Primark)
– Black Oxford shoes
– White shirts
– light blue or light pink shirts

No:
– Brown suits
– Tan shoes
– Square toe shoes
– Loafers with tassels on (including casually, have penny loafers or none at all)
– Skinny ties
– Double breasted jackets (unless you are over 50)
– a shirt that is not white, light blue or light pink, including and especially blue shirts with white collars
– Suits that have not had the legs taken up (this costs £10 and will make the trousers look a hell of a lot better, do it on all your suits)

Black suits are a no, the only black suit you should wear should be a tuxedo, you should not wear a black suit to the office.

Brown shoes are generally a no with navy/charcoal suits, but mainly because people tend to own crap brown shoes. Unless you have a nice pair of dark brown shoes, I would avoid.

Stick to the above and you cannot go wrong, simple.

Bud Fox

“including and especially blue shirts with white collars”

Huh? What’s wrong with the Dig Swinging Bick look from the 1980s?

Anonymous

LLL

Anonymous

Agreed with all of the above, other than to add a lightly patterned shirt is also fine – nothing floral, but checks or stripes is okay.

Hardo

My top, top American law firm insists on the wearing of pattagucci vests and deal sleds.

Anonymous

LLL

Anonymous

It’s black tie or DJ in England. Americans wear tuxedos. Apart from that, you’s absolutely right.
The maxim is: dress to impress your clients, not your mates.

Anonymous

Love a double breaster: makes me feel like Rees-Mogg

Anonymous

No black suit in the office? Isn’t black suit, white shirt and red tie the ultimate “board ready”?

Anonymous

No.

Anonymous

Absolutely not.

Black suits are for funerals. Bright red ties are for Trump and Corbyn.

Anonymous

Within reason, wear what you want.

Judge Dredd

Brown shoes don’t make it. Sentence: Death

Anonymous

You can delete my comment because some cuck reported it, but you cannot change the fact that this article is discussing UK Law firms and that the UK is the epithet of Class and Style.

you wear a white suit in Egypt. Doesn’t make it acceptable to trounce around the city of London in one.

Gladiatrix

I think you mean ‘epitome’ rather than ‘epithet’.

Anonymous

UK the epithet of class and style? You must be having a laugh.

Anonymous

This is all too complicated for me. I’m going into academia now.

Anonymous

Spot the plebs on this thread.

ZYZZ

Do u even lift brah ?

Anonymous

Yet another reason to go into IB over Law, as if the massive difference in pay wasn’t enough.

Anonymous

Nah its the same give or take.

Anonymous

LOL good one. It’s really not.

Emma

What is IB ? Genuine.

Anonymous

Cadwalader or Steptoe & Johnson – offers from both!

Anonymous

Absolute top

Gladiatrix

It’s a basic rule and I don’t understand why some people have either taken offence and, it must be said, displayed their sartorial ignorance.

Never brown in town, never brown shoes with either a blue or grey suit in particular, no shirts with white collars and a coloured body, no stripes and spots in combination – it makes you look like an untrustworthy spiv. No wide chalkstripes on your suit, again it makes you look ‘cheap’. A suit jacket for men should have at least three buttons on the front and at least four on each sleeve, Bill Nighy should be your template here.

If you’re female, all the above (except the number of buttons) still applies along with no white high heel shoes ever. I mean ever. Trainers yes, when travelling to and from work but not at work; change your shoes when you arrive.

For lawyers follow the Court Dress rules and you pretty much can’t go wrong:
a black/dark grey/dark blue suit (can be either a trouser suit or a skirt suit for women), or for female lawyers a black/dark grey/dark blue dress with matching jacket. A shirt or blouse that is white or cream, or predominantly white or cream (i.e. striped). Shoes should match the suit and be looked after, e.g. regular visits to Timpson’s et al and a supply of shoe polish at home/in chambers or the office. Don’t buy cheap shoes, they are a false economy; pay for quality and look after them.

Anonymous

Lol a good suit jacket should have two buttons on the front, not three.

Gladiatrix

Wrong, it’s a minimum of three and the lowest button should never be fastened.

Anonymous

Who. Fucking. Cares.

Anonymous

The self-styled Jimmy McGill failed bankers who end up at law firms care apparently.

Anonymous

Chuck* McGill

NQ3

Go to New York, Madrid, Dubai etc. Everyone wears brown shoes with navy suit. British are already seen as boring twats, this just adds on to it.

Steven Seagull

They are foreign so it is permitted.

Anonymous

Its ridiculous to say you should ‘wear what you want’. If you have to be smartly dressed (‘business suit’ etc) then that has to be defined. My view is that means a dark coloured suit and black shoes.

I was once told a blue suit is not acceptable and I only ever wear charcoal. Certainly would never were brown shoes in any case – they are not part of a ‘business suit’. Brown shoes are for the weekend.

Wigapedia

This is nothing to do with the aesthetics: this is to do with dressing as a legal professional in the City of London.

Brown shoes with a navy suit is perfectly acceptable if it’s ‘Dress as a Photocopier Salesman Day’.

Otherwise, not.

Anonymous

I only own a navy suit and a pair of brown shoes

I am unemployed however, and could think of nothing worse than being a city solicitor

FINAL WORD ON THE SUBJECT

Brown trousers are a must if appearing at the RCJ.

Anonymous

Gentlemen also used to go to work for only an hour or two before having a long lunch and retiring to the club. Times have changed unfortunately.

Wombleby

Those were the days my good old boy!

Steven Seagull

A true Gentleman doesn’t work. Indeed, having a job is something to be avoided.

Anon

At work the other day I noticed a newbie wearing navy and dark brown shoes and my mind immediately went to the following:
– thank god they’re not that ugly tan colour
– isn’t that a little too chilled out for the office?
– I thought this guy was intelligent, clearly he is not.

The odd thing is that I do agree blue and black clash and that the correct blue-brown combo can look good. I guess my lawyer instincts / the snob in me took over.

Kirpi

Threw away all my suits, posh shoes and fancy ties and the next job interview I have to go along to – they take me or leave me cos I no longer give a shit.

Arun G. Chitnis

If you’re competent, jeans/Bermudas and sandals/bare feet will do just fine. If you’re not, you’d best choose your disguise well

Nick Hems

It’s all about dress etiquette! Yes, the right brown shoes obviously go with the right shade of blue suit, this is basic colour matching.
However, if the debate is what you should wear for work because it delivers results and generates more money, the argument is nothing to do with personal taste, it is to do with dressing for our audience/clients, they are what matters here, not fashion, not your taste. Your fall back is dressing with style no matter the colour palette!

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