Skip to Content

Can you wear brown shoes to a funeral?

When attending a funeral, deciding what to wear can be a delicate matter. You want to dress respectfully while also honoring the deceased and their family. A common question that arises is whether brown shoes are appropriate for a funeral or if black shoes should be worn instead. There are several factors to consider when making this decision.

The Formality of the Funeral

One of the most important considerations is the formality and tone set for the funeral. Very formal funerals where all black attire is requested call for black shoes. At more casual ceremonies, brown shoes may be fine. Consider the following guidelines:

Formal Funerals

For traditional, solemn funerals, stick with black shoes. These types of funerals have an unspoken dress code of dark, conservative colors. Wearing brown shoes could come across as too casual and not respectful. Safe options are black oxford or loafer style shoes.

Semi-Formal Funerals

If the funeral explicitly states semi-formal dress, brown shoes may be appropriate. Look for cues in the dress code like business attire. Dark brown dress shoes could work for these funerals.

Casual or Celebrational Funerals

For more relaxed, casual ceremonies focused on celebrating life, brown shoes are generally fine. The dress code may specify casual attire or bright colors. Just avoid light brown shoes that look too informal.

Your Relationship to the Deceased

Who the deceased person was to you should help guide your outfit choices. Use these relationship-based tips:

Immediate family

If you’re an immediate family member of the deceased like a spouse, child or parent, wear black shoes. This shows deep mourning and respect.

Extended family and close friends

Stick with black shoes if you were a very close family member or friend. More distant relatives or friends may be able to wear brown.

Work colleagues

For the funeral of a coworker or business associate, dark brown could work. Just avoid casual styles.


If you only briefly knew the deceased, brown shoes are fine for their funeral.

Time of Day

The time of day the funeral is held can be a factor too. Use this time-based guidance:

Morning Funerals

For funerals held in the morning, black shoes are safest. Morning light can make brown shoes stand out more.

Afternoon Funerals

Afternoon funeral lighting is more forgiving of shades of brown. Dark brown dress shoes should blend in fine.

Evening Funerals

At nighttime funerals and visitations, there’s more flexibility for wearing brown footwear. The lower lighting dims the contrast.


Lighter versus darker brown shades may work depending on the season:

Winter Funerals

For winter funerals, darker browns like a chocolate or coffee shade tend to complement somber cool-toned colors.

Summer Funerals

Lighter shades like tan or camel could work for summer funerals with warmer color schemes. But very light brown still risks looking too casual.

Your Skin Tone

The right brown shoe shade can complement your complexion:

Skin Tone Best Brown Shoe Colors
Fair, rosy Camel, light brown
Fair, neutral Mid-tone brown
Medium, warm Golden brown
Medium, cool Chocolate brown
Darker brown Dark coffee brown

Aim for a brown tone that aligns with your skin’s undertones. Lighter browns suit lighter complexions. Darker skins can pull off richer, deeper browns.

Traditional Associations with Shoe Color

Here’s an overview of the traditional meanings tied to black versus brown dress shoes:

Black Shoes

– Signify seriousness and solemnity

– Appropriate for formal events

– Represent grief in mourning periods

Brown Shoes

– Give an outfit a more casual, relaxed look

– Seen as less formal than black shoes

– Represent happiness and celebration

So black shoes align more closely with the solemn atmosphere of a funeral. But brown shoes don’t necessarily signify disrespect, just a more easygoing mood.

Standard Funeral Attire by Gender

The standard formal funeral outfit for men and women provides a guide:


The traditional formal look for men is a dark suit with a white collared shirt, dark tie, and black shoes. Brown shoes stand out and detract from the sober outfit.


For women, a formal funeral look is a modest black dress or skirt suit, neutral hosiery, and black heels. Again, brown shoes are too much of a contrast.

So black shoes fit the traditional funeral attire for both genders best.

Ask the Family

When in doubt about brown versus black shoes, you can discretely check with the deceased’s immediate family or the funeral director. They may clarify if brown shoes are welcome or if black is preferred. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.

Pick Darker Shades of Brown

If you opt to wear brown footwear, choose a darker, more formal shade. Lighter browns risk looking too casual and informal. Aim for a rich chocolate or deep coffee brown. These darker browns look classier.

Avoid Contrasting Soles

Solid black or brown soles are best for dress shoes worn to funerals. Avoid brown shoes with starkly contrasting white or tan soles, which can look too casual.

No Suede or Nubuck

Skip suede or nubuck brown shoes for funeral attire. These materials have too informal a look. Smooth leather brown dress shoes are a better choice.

Polished and Clean Shoes

Make sure brown dress shoes are freshly polished and cleaned for a funeral. Scuffed or dirty shoes can appear sloppy and disrespectful.


The most universally appropriate shoe choice for funerals is black. But well-selected brown dress shoes can work for semi-formal, casual, or celebrational services, especially when darker shades are chosen. Consider the funeral details, your relationship to the deceased, time of day, seasonality, and traditional attitudes toward shoe color. When in doubt, black shoes are always a safe bet for showing respect.