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Why does the City hate brown shoes?

And so the big brown-shoe debate rages on. Speaking at a conference, an unnamed lawyer has told trainees never to wear brown shoes with a blue suit. A study by the government’s Social Mobility Commission in 2016 found that investment banks are less likely to hire men who wear brown shoes to an interview. The former editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre hated them (although, to be fair, Dacre hated a lot of things and probably still does).

It’s the old “no brown in town” adage. I admit I’m not totally up to speed on this, as well as being an offender: I’m currently in town in brown, although this being the Guardian offices, perhaps that’s OK. Peter York, cultural commentator and arbiter of style, class and everything else is on hand to help.

It was always considered a bad thing to wear brown shoes in the City, he says. “In the country, everything is different, but in town you had to be sensible, you had to be formal, you had to observe a palette that had to be dark blue or grey with black. No other considerations were possible.”

And, although the shoe situation has become more nuanced (if you’re in a less formal part of town or a less formal profession, you might get away with brown), the rulebook hasn’t yet been booted out entirely.

What is York wearing? “Brown loafers, with navy-blue corduroy jeans.” But that is because he’s at home. If he was visiting an analyst at a big bank (I don’t think he means the Co-op), he would be wearing “a very plain and tremendously boring blue suit. And plain, black Oxfords. You don’t want to distract people by your footwear, do you? Unless you do! You don’t want to accidentally distract people with your footwear, when you want them to concentrate on what you say and what you are proposing.”

Justin Myers, an author and GQ columnist, isn’t a lover of black shoes because they’re boring and safe, and they remind him of school. And they have a tendency to look cheap even when they’re not.

Myers doesn’t like rules such as no brown in town either. “It’s always about trying to make someone feel left out. Usually, these weirdo rules are born out of people’s own insecurities. It’s all about the British obsession with class and keeping people out. When you can’t find anything else to fault someone on, then look at the shoes.” He is wearing bright green trainers, but that’s because he has been to the gym. There is a lot more brown than black in his shoe arsenal, he says. “Brown shoes show someone more at ease with themselves because of that old rule: the height of class is breaking the rules.”

Now, I’m feeling better, looking down, in town, proudly wearing the brown. Although I could probably do with some new ones.

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