Men’s Sock Rules – When, How to Wear Brightly Colored Socks

August 19, 2017

The basic rule of thumb for men’s socks is an easy one: The color of your sock should match the color of your trousers. That means wearing black socks with black trousers, dark gray socks with charcoal trousers, blue socks with your blue jeans, and so on. But that’s boring, don’t you think? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good rule that keeps most men looking sharp and will always be appropriate for business settings — but for adventurous dressers, it gets dull after a while.

So what about mixing it up a bit? There’s absolutely a place in men’s style for colored socks that do not match the trousers.It requires a little more care, because it’s not a simple, neutral choice, but if you take that care it can look great.

Personally, I prefer when guys mix it up a bit with some brightly colored socks.


When Not to Wear Bright Socks

“Bright” socks can mean a lot of things: bold solid colors, classic patterns like on up to things that are bordering on novelty items. In general, none of those are going to cut it as part of a serious business outfit or an occasion like a funeral.  These situations are not about you expressing individuality – they are about you showing respect and fitting in.

Now, there are exceptions to the rule. There are some powerful men out there who’ve worn custom-tailored suits with handmade Italian shoes — and a pair of red or purple socks. Those guys know what they’re doing. They’re making a bold statement, almost a challenge. The business suit with colored socks is a look that says “Yes, I know the rules, and I’m confident enough and care enough about how I look to break it anyway, because it’s more fun for me. Deal with it”

When to Wear Bright Socks

If you’re not in a suit-and-tie formality sort of situation, you generally have the option of wearing colored socks if you want to. It has to be done right as you  can’t just throw them on with anything but there’s usually a way to make it work.

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There are a couple of times when you might specifically want colored socks, beyond just enjoying them for your own sake:

  • When you want to liven up a simple outfit. Got something basic going on for the day? A pair of unique socks turns something like a jeans/T-shirt or khakis/collared shirt combination into something that seems a little more deliberate. It tells people that you don’t look this way on accident. You put some thought into the outfit.
  • When you want extra color-coordination. Show off with some subtle matching. A colored sock that complements something else in the outfit is a nice, detailed touch. Work your sock into the same color scheme as your pocket square, your shirt, or even your jacket to get a coordinated look.
  • When you know you’ll be doing business in your stocking feet. Not every business culture keeps its shoes on all the time. In some places, shoes are often removed when you want to enter someone’s house. When you have a reason to believe your socks will be on display, go ahead and make it fun.

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Remember the reason for the “rule” about matching socks to trousers: it’s neutral. Socks that don’t match the trousers, by definition, are not neutral. They’re a contrast, whether you planned it or not. (That means you want to plan it.)

If you’ve never worn socks that don’t match your trousers before (or, worse, if you’ve been wearing white crew socks no matter what your trousers look like), start now. From there, head over to the internet and start indulging your own tastes. Be thinking in terms of the outfits you’re likely to be pairing your socks with — look for colors to complement your favorite shirts and jackets, for example, or some pocket squares that you’ve been wanting to work into outfits.


And above all, have fun. Life’s too short to never enjoy a colorful sock.

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