Last Updated on September 10, 2023 by Martina McKeough
Funeral wear etiquette can be a minefield especially if you have never attended one before. Knowing how to dress appropriately and what footwear to wear can be confusing which is why I wanted to write about what to wear on your feet. In particular, the question that comes up time and time again is can you wear brown shoes to a funeral?
Choosing the appropriate funeral attire not only shows respect to the deceased but it also stops you from standing out amongst the other mourners for all the wrong reasons.
Here’s my guide on what is appropriate to wear to a funeral and what you should avoid wearing on your feet at all costs.
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What Shoes Are Not Appropriate For a Funeral?
Let’s start with the easy footwear choices first by telling you what is generally never acceptable to wear at a funeral no matter what the weather is.
Flip flops, strappy sandals, sneakers, Birkenstocks, Crocs, very high heels, and casual shoes are not going to be appropriate to wear to a funeral service.
Why? Because they are not formal attire. If you show up wearing these on your feet expect to get some glares from the other mourners because of your disrespect and inappropriate fashion choices.
Traditionally funerals are formal occasions and that means you need to dress conservatively. Casual attire and footwear most certainly do not make the grade. Instead, think about what you would wear on your feet to a formal job interview and you will be less likely to go wrong.
What Shoes Are Appropriate For a Funeral?
So can you wear brown shoes to a funeral and if not what shoes should you be wearing?
Traditionally wearing brown shoes to a funeral wouldn’t have been considered proper funeral attire because everyone would have been expected to wear black.
This funeral etiquette has loosened up over recent years and now darker traditional formal shoes have become acceptable footwear to wear. This means black, brown shoes, dark blue, and dark grey shoes are generally seen as acceptable to wear.
For men oxford shoes or derby shoes are usually the most suitable however brogues could also make the cut. The shoes should match the suit that you are wearing and not look out of place.
For women, the same colors apply and shoes such as flats, wedges, and low to medium-court style shoes (never ultra-high heels) would not look out of place. Dark-colored boots may also be appropriate, especially in winter.
Consider The Location of The Event
Whilst you may not be able to read the room to judge what to wear you can think about the person’s funeral you are attending, the location, and other people who may be there. This should give you some big clues as to what you can get away with.
If the deceased is a well-respected citizen having a huge funeral in a massive local church or cathedral with a formal service attended by important people you are going to need to be very formal in what you wear. This is when a black suit and black shoes are almost a necessity for men. Women would typically wear a black dress and jacket or coat.
If however, the gathering is family members holding a local more informal service then men’s funeral attire can include dark grey, brown or dark blue suits. Your footwear can now include darker brown shoes or certainly shoes in dark colors.
Women can also veer away from black but still stick to those darker shades in clothes and in shoes.
Traditional Vs Non-Traditional
Whilst I’ve talked a lot about whether you can wear brown shoes to a funeral that is traditional it is important to realize that many funerals nowadays are much more casual affairs.
Usually, a funeral invitation to a non-traditional funeral will tell you about what the deceased would have wanted people to wear if it breaks the typical strict dress code.
Many funerals now involve bright colors to celebrate someone’s life rather than mourn their passing. In these situations, traditional funeral attire is ignored in favor of lighter-colored clothes and footwear. You still need to be smart of course but the dress code will be different.
Do You Need Black Shoes For Funerals?
When it comes to traditional funerals the darker the shoe the better. Formal black shoes are elegant, smart, and non-controversial and should really be your first choice if you have them in your wardrobe.
Black dress shoes work so well and are highly appropriate funeral attire however if you don’t wear black shoes it doesn’t make sense for you to buy some for one occasion.
If you don’t have black shoes then wear grey or brown shoes preferably in a dark color. Oxford or Derby shoes are typically the best styles for men whilst women can get away with flats, court shoes, wedges, and smart boots.
Remember whatever shoes you wear they should go with the outfit you are wearing and not look out of place or stand out.
Can You Wear Shiny Shoes To a Funeral?
So what about shiny shoes? Do they make the cut or should they be left at home?
Well, it depends on what you think shiny shoes mean. Glitzy, sparkly women’s shoes are most certainly not appropriate to wear as funeral attire. By all means, wear them to a party or nightclub but they are not appropriate footwear for a somber occasion.
If we are talking patent shoes in black then that is another matter. I wear patent black ballet flats regularly as a woman and I do not think they are too showy or flashy to wear as funeral shoes. In fact, paired with a black dress and jacket they look smart and understated.
Men’s patent shoes however would be a very odd choice as they are normally worn with a tuxedo at a ball or perhaps a wedding. As these events are the exact opposite of a funeral it can be easy to see why you might get strange looks if you decided to wear them.
Can You Wear Loafers To a Funeral?
Can you wear loafers to a funeral? Well if the event is very traditional then these leather shoes would normally not make the grade. Instead, formal lace-up shoes like Oxford or Derby shoes would be deemed more appropriate.
If the event is a less formal local affair with immediate family and friends then smart leather loafers could be acceptable. They would still need to be dress shoes and of a dark color to fit in with the occasion.
Do not however be tempted to wear the loafers without socks as if you were at a Mediterranean resort or restaurant. This gives a very casual vibe that isn’t suitable for a funeral.
Closed-Toe Or Open-Toe Shoes?
Can you wear brown shoes to a funeral? Well as I have explained yes you can so long as the funeral is not incredibly formal where a black dress code is a standard.
However, if you are a woman and are choosing to wear brown shoes there is one unwritten rule you do need to follow and that is you should be wearing closed-toe shoes.
Open-toed shoes are something you definitely avoid wearing as they are far too casual. This means that sandals for both sexes are also not acceptable to wear.
Shoes Must Be Well Maintained
No matter what colored shoes you choose to wear make sure they are well-maintained.
Scruffy, unpolished, or shoes that are falling apart will be considered disrespectful. This means you need to spend time polishing your shoes and making sure they are suitable to wear to a funeral.
It takes very little time to maintain your shoes using a shoe care and polish kit so take the time to do that before the event. Remember using shoe trees to keep your shoes in shape when you are not wearing them makes sense and it stops them from getting creased and misshapen. Basic shoe maintenance can save you time and effort in the long run.
Wearing Socks and Tights With Your Shoes
As I mentioned earlier bare feet with loafers would not be considered acceptable for funeral wear because it’s just too much of a casual look.
Men should make sure that they are wearing socks with whatever shoes they choose to wear. Please leave the novelty socks at home and choose a dark color that matches your suit and shoes.
For women, bare legs are not really acceptable either so make sure you wear a pair of tights with whatever outfit you are wearing.
Socks and tights should never be overlooked as they are an important part of your outfit.
Your Wake Attire Also Needs to Be Suitable
Whilst I write about foot care and shoes I thought it was also worth mentioning the obvious about the clothing you can wear to a wake or a funeral.
Traditional funerals are not the time to pull out your casual wear from the closet. They are a time for you to dress conservatively in dark suits and ties if you are a man and in smart dresses or pantsuits if you are a woman. Think interview wear but in dark colors.
Dresses need to be at an appropriate length so mini skirts are out. Cleavage should be hidden and your bling jewelry left at home.
For men a tie should be worn, again in a dark color, to match your dark suit. A white shirt is always appropriate so stick with that instead of wearing something with too much color.
If you want to visualize what you could wear on your feet here are some shoes that would be suitable to wear at a funeral.
Women’s Funeral Shoes
If you are a woman any of these shoes would be suitable to wear for a funeral service. I’ve included both flats and mid-heel shoes in my selection to give you an idea of what might work.
By the way, don’t forget to check if any walking is required during the day of the funeral. This is because it is not unusual for a church service to take place at one location and the burial or cremation at another. I know I find as a woman walking any distance in heeled shoes can be a struggle so don’t forget that you need to be comfortable wearing your footwear.
Low Heel Funeral Shoes – Vionic Shoes Caroll Pumps
As I am all about comfort so I would recommend Vionic Caroll Pumps as a great low-heel ballet pump. They are brilliant if you need arch support or suffer from plantar fasciitis. I own these shoes and they are really easy to wear and have helped my foot pain.
These are plain and understated ballet pumps and would not look out of place at a funeral or in the workplace.
Mid Heel Shoes – Cole Haan Women’s The Go-to Block Heel Pump
If you are a woman who likes wearing shoes with a slight heel then these Cole Haan Pumps help to add a little height but are also suitably conservative enough to wear at a funeral.
If you are looking to wear dark brown pumps or shoes to a funeral these are an example of shoes that would be perfect to wear without you standing out at the service.
Men’s Funeral Shoes
When it comes to men’s funeral shoes then basic Oxford or Derby shoes will always be the most suitable footwear to wear.
These black leather lace-up oxford shoes are classics that will never go out of fashion. These can easily be worn to a funeral or in the workplace without turning heads.
Whilst loafers are seen as less formal than Oxford or Derby shoes this pair of Florsheim Loafers is smart enough to be worn at a funeral.
Do however be aware that there are many different types of loafers on the market that are less formal. Try and stick to wearing the more conservative leather styles rather than the ones with tassels or that resemble driving shoes.
Finally, can you wear brown shoes to a funeral? Well, you can to a slightly less formal event providing they are a dark color and are smart and conservative.
These shoes fit the bill and could be worn with a smart suit and you wouldn’t look out of place or draw attention to yourself at the event.
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