You've heard me say it before and I'll say it again: when it comes to men's fashion, the rule is, shoes to match the belt, and socks to match the pants. If you want to look polished, this is an easy rule to follow. However, like most rules, it's not necessarily just cut and dry. How closely should the belt and shoes match? Must they be the exact same color?
The answer is no, they really don't need to be the exact same color, or the exact same material, for that matter. When matching belts and shoes, you can think of them as matching in the same color family. They don't even need to exactly match, rather they just need to "go together."
Because of this, a chestnut colored belt goes very well with a reddish-brown pair of shoes. A pair of shoes that are dark brown will go well with a similar dark brown belt. The belt and the shoes really do not need to be the exact same color, which is fortunate, because unless you are purchasing a set, this can be difficult to do anyway.
Colors that would not be in the same family would be, for example, a dark reddish-brown belt with a tan pair of shoes. In this case, you would be better off opting for a light brown belt. Obviously, pairing a black pair of shoes with a brown belt won't pass, either.
Now, just when you thought you had the rule down, I am going to throw in another slight exception here. The degree to which your shoes and belt match may also vary depending on the kind of look you are trying to achieve. For example, if you want to look extremely approachable and professional for a business networking event, then you should not deviate from the rule as listed above. Your tie knots should be perfectly straight, your shirt should be ironed, and your shoes and belt should be in the same color family. However, what if you want to appear a little more edgy or daring? Can you get away with tying a scarf around your waist, a la Steven Tyler, rather than a belt? Sure, as long as you can do it with confidence! The rule here would be to only pick one element with a pattern. So if you want to wear a flashy blue and red belt with your jeans, stick to shoes that are solid colored either blue or red.
If you wish to wear a white pair of shoes, which is not a bad look for summer, don't wear a white belt (unless you want to look like an extra on Saturday Night Fever). Opt instead for a brown or grey belt, whichever best matches your pants and shirt. If you can find a belt with a white accent, such as a brown belt with white stitching, this is a great choice. Black belts tend to look a little too stark with white shoes.
When matching your shoes and belt, don't go overboard with trying to be exact. Let your general fashion sense dictate your look. You would never wear a chocolate brown shirt with chocolate brown pants, would you? No, because this would be very monochromatic. With shoes and belts, it is okay for them to be different color variations. Just select shades within the same color family in order to look polished. The colors don't need to exactly match, they just need to coordinate.