How To Style Your Socks

by Jamie

Socks – maybe not the most interesting thing to read about, but you really don’t want to be getting such a simple element wrong. We near enough wear them every day, and if you don’t, you’ll still need some tips on how to keep your shoes (and feet) fresh. Your socks don’t usually get much thought, so instead of neglecting them, here’s our complete guide on what socks you should be wearing.

The humble sock keeps your feet comfortable whatever you’re doing, whether it’s hiking up a hill or strolling around in town. They’re important and although you may not always think too much about it, sometimes you may need to. So, when buying socks you need to consider your needs, your budget and what socks go with what shoe.

First impressions are vital to everyday life, you want to look your best at all times! So when you’re deliberating your jacket, jeans, T-shirt, jumper and accessories, why would you leave out your socks? Socks don’t just have to be black anymore and gone are the days where a sock that matches your trousers is the only option!

Believe it or not, socks are also very important to the life of your shoes. As feet are prone to sweating, this can cause damage to the footwear, which highlights the importance of a good quality pair of socks. So all in all, your socks can be one of the most important part of your outfit.

The General Rules of Socks

  • No thin / fine dress socks for athletic shoes.
  • If you’re unsure about how to wear your socks, stick to black.
  • Make sure your socks match each other and have no visible holes. It sounds obvious, but it’s an easy enough mistake to make.
  • Remember you need to ensure that they fit well, so you don’t have to spend the whole day pulling them up as they sag around your ankles.
  • A good pair of socks shouldn’t just absorb sweat, but should distribute perspiration through the material to the outer surface which is an actual process called wicking.
  • The sock should cushion the foot from impact with the ground, and prevent the skin from rubbing against the inside of shoes.
  • If you’re wondering what colour socks to wear with jeans – black is your safest option.

Lengths of Socks

The length of your socks should to be considered when choosing what socks to wear with your outfit. No show or liner socks both give the illusion of going sockless, while ped and anklets are best worn with trainers or plimsolls, as they’re pretty casual and offer just a glimpse of colour at the ankle. Mid-calf and over the calf length socks can both be worn under your jeans or trainers.

Material of Socks

  • Common base materials include cotton, wool, nylon and polyester.
  • Cotton socks are absorbent and good for soaking sweat off the skin, but it doesn’t wick moisture towards its surface and it doesn’t allow wetness to evaporate quickly.
  • Wool breathes easily and lets wetness evaporate. It’s warmer, but lacks specific wicking properties for speeding moisture away from the body.
  • Synthetics such as polyester and nylon encourage wicking, but provide little cushioning for the foot.
  • Cotton and cotton blends are usually used for striped and patterned socks for casual sneakers and casual or dressier leather shoes.
  • Fine wool blends and cashmere dress socks are good for leather dress shoes and anything that needs to be smart.

Size of Socks

Although you’d think that sock sizes are like shoe sizes, most of them aren’t. Sock sizes are scaled from XS to XXXL and most ‘medium’ socks will fit up to about a size 10.5 (UK). Although this is usual, you should still check the size chart before buying as brand sock sizes vary.

Types of Socks

Plain and Dress Socks

If you’re more old school, plain or dress socks are the way to go! Standard black, plain grey and navy make the best dress socks, but even white socks can work depending on your outfit and where you are going. Classic black dress socks paired with a smart tuxedo and formal shoes will make you look extremely dapper while pairing plain grey or navy socks with formal shoes will give you a sophisticated look.

The Rules

  • If you’re unsure about styling your socks, stick to something plain or a classic pattern such as argyle.
  • Keep the colour of your dress socks matching to your trousers for suits.
  • Choose a pair of socks that are either a shade darker or lighter than the trousers you’re wearing.
  • Plain white socks and suits are a massive no-no.

Textured Socks

If you like the idea of plain socks but want to give your outfit a bit of an edge then textured socks are the way to go! Just remember that textured socks can add weight to a look! Not only do textured socks look great with brogues, they can look just as good in desert boots. Just make sure you co-ordinate the sock colour with the colour of your desert boots and your set to go!

The Rules

  • Choose a pair of socks that are either a shade darker or lighter than the trousers you’re wearing.
  • Pair your textured socks with pieces made from similarly heavy/rugged materials for your trousers such as denim, wool or even leather.
  • The socks may make your shoes a bit tighter, so take this into consideration.

Bright Statement Socks

Bright, statement coloured socks have made a comeback in recent years, with men becoming more conscious and a lot more confident when wearing fashionable, vibrant colours. If you are going to go for some bright coloured socks, it’s best not to draw all the attention to them. You want people to see them but you realistically don’t want to be looking like a clown. Where them with boots or some smart shoes, but make sure your trousers aren’t too short.

The Rules

  • Bright socks are generally not ideal for important work meetings or really formal black tie events; colourful socks with suits are acceptable, just be careful with how long your trouser leg is.
  • Wearing bright socks are very ‘out there’ and you need confidence to pull it off so don’t be shy.
  • When choosing what colour socks to wear, compliment or contrast correctly otherwise they will clash and look like a disaster.
  • If stuck with what colour to wear you can buy socks with more than one tone of colour.

Patterned Socks

Patterned socks are actually quite versatile and easy to style. A simple white T-shirt with either indigo or black slim jeans and a pair of low tops (black or white) will make these socks stand out, and make your day more comfortable and stylish. You can even wear them with a suit for a more snazzy look. As long as the sock colour isn’t too bright, you can pair classic patterns such as argyle, polka dot and stripes with smart brogues, lace-ups or even loafers! Just make sure the socks and the shoes co-ordinate.

The Rules

  • Wearing patterned socks with your finest suit is a pretty bold statement; it takes confidence.
  • Patterned socks work well paired with trainers as it gives a much more casual style.
  • Keep your outfit simple when wearing these as you want them to be the main focus of attention.
  • Try to choose socks in a pattern with a base tone that matches the colour of trousers you’re wearing.
  • You can even co-ordinate your patterned socks with a pocket square.
  • When it comes to patterns, it never hurts to stick with classic dots or stripes.

The Ankle Sock

Ankle socks are the best things to wear with trainers – you can’t see the sock yet your feet are comfortable and protected. These are by far the easiest to style and wear because if you have black, white and grey pairs, you’re pretty much sorted.

The Rules

  • Invest in some ankle socks that aren’t visible when you wear your trainers.
  • Make sure your ankle socks are very comfortable.
  • Ensure the ankle sock fits perfectly as they usually have a bit of elastic material which hugs your ankle.
  • You can experiment with colour, although it’s not necessary and neutral colours look best.

Going Sockless

To go sockless or not to go sockless? That is the question that most men face when picking out their shoes. Daring to bare is often seen as a risqué option; there’s some sort of taboo about slipping in to a pair of shoes without your socks on. However, when it is done right, going sockless can actually be a more sophisticated option!

If you want to play it safe and easy, you can stick with going sockless with boat shoes. Boat shoes with no socks create an effortless smart-casual look without causing too much thought to your outfit. These are for sure a summer shoe, so make sure you whip them out for a perfect day in the sun! Loafers are traditionally worn barefoot, and can be paired with a slick suit for a formal occasion, or can be paired with slim-fitted jeans and a white T-shirt for a more casual occasion. The possibilities are endless and are ultimately determined by where you are heading.

The Rules

  • You should ideally be wearing a pair of slim-fitting trousers or jeans which finish above the ankle.
  • Hygiene is essential and you need to wash your feet along with the inside of your shoes regularly.
  • Make sure you’ve broken in your shoes before going sockless to avoid any pain and blisters!
  • Pop in an insole, either terry cloth or leather, to keep your feet feeling fresh.
  • Although no socks can look sophisticated, it depends on where you are going and the event as some formal situations may require a traditional sock and brogue combo.
  • Your pants should draw attention to the ankle if you are going sockless


Right, so you’ve decided that sockless is the way to go, so now you need to consider hygiene – no one wants embarrassing foot odour following them around! To keep clean and smell free is actually quite simple and can be done with things just laying around at home. You can line your shoes with teabags which absorb smell, baby powder which absorb moisture, and even alcohol which sterilises the inside of your footwear! Just add whatever you decide and leave it for a night to work it’s magic!

The Invisible Sock

If you love the idea of the going sockless and love the sockless look, but don’t want to have to deal with the hygiene factor, you can actually invest in some invisible socks. These socks cover your toes and sit just below your ankle which means they won’t be seen when wearing footwear. Similarly to going sockless, invisible socks can be worn with loafers, boat shoes and trainers.

How To Style Your Socks

  • If you’re unsure about styling your socks, stick to something plain or a classic pattern such as argyle.
  • Plain white socks and suits are a definite no, so keep things tonal or slightly patterned.
  • Choose a pair of socks that are either a shade darker or lighter than the trousers you’re wearing if you want to look smart.
  • Try to choose socks in a pattern with a base tone that matches the colour of trousers you’re wearing.

On That Note

Well there you have it, a few simple styling tips and tricks that you can utilise the next time you’re picking out socks for your outfit. Just remember, once you open your mind to breaking the rules a little bit, the outfit options are really endless.

Feature image from Pinterest

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