Once upon a time in the land of strict sartorial codes, the notion of pairing black and brown together was the ultimate fashion faux pas. It was a tale of rebellion filed next to other rigid rules like wearing white after Labor Day, mixing silver with gold, and combining stripes with polka dots.
The two stalwart hues were relegated to opposite corners of the color wheel, too close in tone to harmonize in an outfit. But thanks to boundary-pushing, trendsetting It girls like Bella Hadid, Alexa Chung, and Zendaya hitting the streets in black and brown with an IDGAF attitude, the combo is decidedly in. After all, fashion rules were — say it with us — meant to be broken.
If you’re unsure of ways to wear black and brown together, we’ve compiled some approachable ideas and consulted fashion experts that will help give your old neutrals a fashion-forward leap.
Start with Accessories
“Most of us have tons of black in our closet, but you might be lacking in the brown hued department,” says Cindy Conroy, a New York- and Toronto- based celebrity stylist and TV host. “To add a healthy amount start small with accessories. Kick things off with a spiced brown top handle, leather tote, crossbody or slim belt bag.”
Creator and stylist Timothy Chernyaev adds, “wearing an all-black outfit with a brown leather bag is a no-brainer and always looks stylish. I would recommend smooth leather in a warm tone like cognac, it looks amazing against a black wool coat.”
Mixing textures adds depth to any outfit. In the world of combining black and brown, the added element helps harmonize the unlikely hues without falling flat. Pair black leather or silk with something more matte, such as brown suede, chunky wool or corduroy. Remember juxtapositions are your friend.
A Neutral Break
Balance between the boldness of black and the warmth of brown with a creamy neutral to break it up. The trio is a sophisticated chic combo, easily executed through brown pants, a cream blouse, and a matching black shoe and belt that ties it all together.
Build Off Prints
One easy way to tie in black and brown is through an already existing print. Whether it’s a snake print or plaid — let this set the tone for the rest of your outfit, keeping it tonal with rich chocolatey hues and black accents. The whole vibe feels super luxurious.
A Plaid Update
Plaid is one of the most common ways to mix black and brown together. From checkered to plaid and even tweed, it’s a one-and-done way to wear black and brown together. Layer a blazer or jacket over a black base and add a chunky boot for a foolproof fall formula.
Go for a Matching Set
Otherwise, stick to a matching plaid set that does all of the work of mixing colors for you.
Add Color, Too
“A fun and unexpected way to mix brown and black is through mixing in bold statement colors,” says creator and fashion stylist Caroline Vazzana, adding that “When bolder colors are mixed in, it makes mixing black and brown a little less intimidating and more playful.”
Contrast with Cognac
Cognac is a reddish brown color that works with black every. single. time. It gives a sense of modern luxury, as the deep, warm tones of cognac fall against stark and sophisticated black, resulting in an ensemble that's effortlessly refined.
One easy way to achieve this is through a leather topper or classic trench coat over black pants.
Focus on the Details
Strappy black sandals add a fun contrast to a light brown suit. But the most important accessory that elevates this pairing is the handbag, which adds more dimension to the tonal look. Thanks to the accessories, the outfit becomes a masterpiece in versatility, ready to make a seamless transition from the office to post-work dinner and drinks.
The Equestrian Route
There’s something about the black-and-brown color combo that is giving stables – in the best way. Play up the look with black tall riding boots, a brown crossbody, and a chocolatey jacket over a little black dress.
We can’t write an article on how to wear black and brown without mentioning leopard print. In past decades, it was probably the only acceptable way to combine the two colors, and it’s still a go-to. Keep the other half solid black to let the leopard speak for itself (but don’t be afraid to add pop with your accessories).
Leather on Leather
An ultra-modern way to play up black and brown is to keep the texture in the same family. While this doesn’t work as well for more subtle fabrics like knits or silks, sturdy leather turns this ‘fit rich and elevated.
A black base under a brown suit is a classic that works every time. From a crop top to a billowing blouse, the key to wearing this look is simply to make sure the suit’s color has enough contrast from the base. Plus, a primary color pop accessory will take this from basic to bold.
Add Some Grey
Grey is the secret chameleon of the color palette that effortlessly bridges the worlds of brown and black. It also tempers the color combo, in case there are times you feel your shades are too stark when worn alone.
Never Doubt Denim
You can never go wrong incorporating denim into just about any outfit, and wearing it is the perfect way to introduce black and brown together. Whether through a simple black blazer, brown bag, and jeans or getting a little more complex with denim shirting—it’s a casual and cool addition to break up the uniform.
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