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Proof This Antiquated Style ‘Rule’ Is No Longer Valid

Can black and brown actually be worn together? We investigate.

black and brown

In the fashion world as we know it, so-called fashion “rules” have been abolished though their corresponding stigmas manage to pervade—often in the form of mother-induced guidelines that still reverberate in our heads. Among them is the ill-founded belief that black and brown cannot be worn together.

If you subscribe to Miuccia Prada’s manifesto about finding beauty in the ugly, well, isn’t that reason enough? The Italian designer has been using this tabooed combination in her designs for decades, further emphasizing the validity of the phrase, ‘just the right amount of wrong.’ Each look emphasizes the beauty in the odd contrast of cool black and warm brown. Though at the time, that was rather radical, the combination has been popping up in many other ensembles the past few seasons.

black and brown

Photo: Monica Feudi /

When it comes to putting the pairing into action, there are no rules. That said, the outfits of boundary-pushing style icons provide a little guidance for anyone who views the task at hand as daunting. One commonly employed tactic is to throw another color into the mix. Opt for something completely different than the shades in question, like a muted yellow or vibrant turquoise. Stylist Julie Ragolia went so far as to break the line between black and brown with a shocking hot pink.

As is emphasized in nearly all of these examples, the wearer should try and avoid monotony of materials. Lean into varieties of suede, leather, and knitwear to intrigue the eye as you switch from brown to black. Danish brand Totême is a fan of working with rich textiles in muted hues and pairs a brown suede jacket with black leather pants, all layered over a white cable knit sweater.

Suede Blazer


Editor of the Financial Times’ ‘How to Spend It,’ Jo Ellison can also often be seen donning this combination. Instead of letting black and brown dominate her entire ensemble, she peppers both in with neutral items, like a crisp white button-down and jeans. She dons a solid black blazer, then mixes brown into the look in the form of accessories.

black and brown

Photo: Melodie Jeng/Getty

Another way to ease the harsh juxtaposition, is to lean into various shades of brown. In the below ensemble, a beige trench almost prepares you for the more aggressive chestnut hue of the suede boots. Though they vary in execution, each ensemble serves as proof of how well these two shades can actually work together, but we recommend keeping an eye out, as we’re sure many similar outfits are sure to follow.

The Kate

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