Reviewed & updated: March 28, 2023 by Jamie Wilson BA
Socks are a small part of any outfit, but they shouldn’t be overlooked.
When done right, socks can fit in seamlessly with an outfit or add some fun flair and colour. When done wrong, they can throw your whole outfit off.
When you’re thinking about how to match your socks with your outfit, there are a few vital rules you need to follow. These apply whether you’re going more casual in sneakers and jeans, or smarter in dress shoes and slacks. Once you know these rules, you’ll be surprised how much they can elevate your style as a whole.
If you’ve never thought about your sock game before, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Whether you’re opting for a smarter look with chinos or a more casual look with light blue jeans, your perfect socks are out there. And with a few helpful tips – we’ll help you find them.
Matching Your Socks To Your Pants – It’s All About Contrast
When matching socks with your outfit, color is the most important element to consider. Black socks will match with any colored shoes or pants, so they’re a safe bet if you’re unsure or want to keep it simple.
If you’re wearing brown shoes, we’d recommend you steer away from black socks and pick different colored socks. Matching colors in your socks and shoes will look odd, so steer away from brown socks as well. For a neutral look with brown shoes, opt for gray or blue socks – but make sure it’s a different shade to the pants. If you’re feeling bolder, pick a brighter color that contrasts with the color of the pants. For instance, if you’re wearing a gray suit, pick an orange or pink statement sock to match.
This is the best rule of thumb when you’re matching socks with your pants and shoes: pick a color that contrasts with the shade of your pants. So for cooler colored pants like gray, blue or green, pick warmer color socks in reds, oranges or pinks. And vice versa, so with warmer toned trousers in browns, reds or yellows, make sure to pick cool toned socks, in colors like green, purple or blue socks. With the bolder combos, pick shoes that are more neutral to match your socks and pants with, like brown, gray or black.
White Socks – Friend Or Foe?
There is one absolute rule when it comes to white socks: do not wear white socks with a suit. Don’t ask us why, it’s just one of the fashion rules that can’t be avoided. White tube socks or gym socks can look great with sneakers, jeans or tracksuit pants. So don’t throw them all away just yet! But dress socks rarely come in white for a reason. They are too casual to complement a suit, so stick to dark or bright socks if you’re wearing a suit or dress shoes. Anything but white.
If you like a sporty aesthetic, white gym socks can look great with shoes like your favourite pair of sneakers and cuffed black jeans or tracksuit pants. With shorts in the summer, they’re also a classic option.
Which Type Of Socks Is Right?
Some men aren’t even aware that there are different types of socks. If this is you – fear not, we’ve got you covered. It’s vital you wear the right pair of socks to go with your shoes, and once you know the types, it’s really simple.
Dress socks are a staple for any man’s wardrobe. If you’re wearing a suit or a tuxedo, dress socks are a must. Dress socks are generally crew or executive style socks that will stop above the end of your pant leg, so your bare leg is never visible. They range from more plain, cotton socks to brightly printed or textured options.
If you’re going for a more casual, streetwear look, you can opt for tube socks or gym socks at a similar length (crew or executive). Or if you want a more sporty style, you can opt for liners or ped style socks. Liners or no-show socks are a great option to match certain shoe styles that look better when your socks aren’t visible. For instance, boat shoes, slip-on loafers or even some plimsolls will look great with invisible socks as it gives your outfit a clean finish. If you’re wearing them with longer pants, cuff them at the ankle to get the full look.
Getting Creative With Your Socks
Socks are a great way to add a little flair and personality to your outfit, particularly if it’s more neutral toned. As they’re such a small garment, you don’t need to be afraid of bright colors or loud prints, as it only covers a small area. Even for a more formal outfit, a bright print can add some personality to a gray, black or navy suit. Wear socks with a bright print that contrasts your pants and your shoes. If you want to try a pop of color but it’s new territory for you, start with less bold colors, like pastels and work your way up to the brighter shades. A pale pink colored sock will go with most outfits, particularly suits, and will elevate your outfit without drawing too much attention.
To raise the bar even more, match the color of your socks with another accessory in your outfit. For example, if you’re wearing a navy suit and brown shoes, find a pale pink pair of socks and a pale pink pocket square to match, and you have an outfit that is formal, fun and fashion-forward.
If you’re not one for bright colors and prints, there’s another way to add a different element to your outfit with your socks. If you’re wearing a suit or outfit that is plainer in texture, you can find more textured socks to play with that will elevate your outfit without needing colored socks. For winter, there’s loads of textured knit socks to choose from. Thicker knit socks will match well with shoes that are also wintry and bulkier, such as brogue boots or a chunky chelsea boot. For the warmer months, you can still find textured socks that are thinner and will match lighter shoes like sneakers or dress shoes. Look for something with a ribbed texture or with a textured stitch that is still thin.
Should Socks Match Pants Or Shoes?
The short answer to this question is: your socks should contrast the color of your pants. You should definitely avoid socks in colors that are too close to the colour of your pants, unless it’s a very neutral color (like black or gray). Clashing your socks with your pants or your shoes is a big faux pas.
Don’t be afraid to use your socks to show a bit of personality and add some bright color or a print into your outfit. For the most sleek and put together look, match your socks to another statement accessory, such as a tie or pocket square. If it’s a more casual outfit, match your socks with a baseball cap or your scarf in the colder months. It will bring the whole outfit together and make you look a head above the rest.
Feature image: clemono via Unsplash