Hats off to those men who dare be original in their choice of socks and do it with style. You rock!
Most men, as did I till some time ago, consider socks as having a purely functional purpose – a necessity that nevertheless, should be barely noticeable. Hence, the norm to stick to conventional and neutral colours like black, brown, grey, and navy. Yet, hosiery is ultimately an accessory and like all other accessories can be used to give an outfit a bit of an edge and certainly, a personal touch.
True, there is a very fine line between looking original in fancy socks and looking eccentric. The only way to incorporate funky socks successfully into an outfit, even a formal one, is to keep coherence between all the separate pieces. It needs to be clear that you put that pair on as a result of a style-decision and not because it’s your favourite cartoon character or even worse (or is it?), a random choice.
Your starting point should always be to match your socks’ dominant colour with that of your trousers and not the shoes. There might be exceptions to this, depending on the particular colour but generally, I recommend going with this rule. Socks in the same colour as the shoes combine to form a unitary block that stops the eye at the level of the trousers’ end, rather than drawing it further down to achieve that lengthening effect.
If wearing other accessories, such as a tie or pocket square, or even small detail on your shirt/top, I would go for socks in a colour scheme and pattern that echoes those of the other accessory/detail. What you should avoid at all cost, is having your socks looking disjointed from the rest of your outfit. That is where people will give you that ‘what on earth?’ look.
As for how much colour to go for, well, that really depends on the outfit’s style. On a formal outfit you’d wear to the office, I would opt for a pair of socks in the same colour as the suit with subtle patterns and colour contrast. It’s not the place to make style statements – looking elegant and professional should be your aim here, keeping expressions of personal style minimal.
On the other hand, for something more casual, a colourful pair will not look out of place, of course as long as the colour scheme ties in with that of the outfit. Moreover, I would suggest to keep the main pieces (trousers and top) in a solid colour. This will maximise the impact of your socks, avoiding the separate pieces from clashing. You could still add a bit of colour/pattern through another accessory worn on your upper body e.g. a tie/scarf. In fact, this will keep you from only attracting attention to your feet.
The second important element in hosiery is texture and combining this with that of your outfit gives a more unified look. Essentially, what this means is going for a pair of socks that are similar in thickness to that of the trousers, which itself should be chosen to complement that of the rest of the outfit. Therefore, if wearing trousers in a heavier wool, opt for socks that are not as fine as e.g. the silk pair you’d wear as part of a black tie outfit (whose silk echoes the silk on the jacket’s lapels and trouser sides). Apart from complementary texture, thick trousers (fabric) need bulkier socks to avoid the ankles looking too thin, just like thick socks will add too much bulk around the ankle when worn with trousers in a light and soft fabric.
Cannot not mention…
I’m assuming if you continued reading till this point you already know this but no post on socks would be complete without mentioning that white socks are to be worn only for sports and open shoes, such as sandals are not to be worn with socks. If it’s hot enough for sandals, it’s too hot for socks.
So, those are the basics for combining socks with an outfit – matching the socks’ dominant colour with that of your trousers and the rest with any other accessories worn, and keeping the socks’ thickness similar to that of the outfit, especially the trousers.
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