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How to Match Dress Socks to Your Suit

Socks can make or break an outfit. They can mark you as sartorially savvy or as an amateur. The purpose of this guide is to help you to choose the right dress socks, so that you can wear your suits confidently. Suggestions herein range from conservative to fashion-forward.

The Basics of Choosing Socks to Wear With a Suit

Match the dressiness level of your socks to your outfit. Always wear dress socks with a suit. Save the athletic socks, even if they are black, for the gym. Some people prefer to wear over-the-calf socks because they stay up better than mid-calf socks. However, mid-calf socks are what’s most commonly available in stores; it’s also in good taste to wear them. 

The Conservative Approach to Matching Socks to a Suit

The most fail-safe, basic approach to matching socks to a suit is this rule: dark socks go with dark trousers. Match the tone of the sock to the trousers. For example, wear a dark brown sock with a dark brown pant. (Do not wear a light brown or mid-tone brown sock with it.) If you do not have socks that match your trousers, the second option is to match your socks to your shoes. It will, at least, not break up the line of your outfit.  

The Creative Approach to Matching Socks to a Suit

If you prefer a more fashion-forward approach, coordinate your socks with your outfit -- tie their colors into one element of your outfit, like your trousers, tie, shirt, or shoes . Your socks will become the element that pulls your whole outfit together. The following list enumerates your options for creative socks, from the most conservative choices to the most daring:

[Image via Mes Chaussettes Rouges.]

1. Go to a different solid color, like burgundy or green: It does not have to be a color from your tie, though that is a good option. It could be a color that simply complements the rest of the outfit.

[Image via: ViccelSocks/Etsy.]

2. Shadow ribbed socks: These socks are super fashionable. They offer you three colors to work with: the dominant color, the secondary color (the inner part of the rib), and the color that the dominant color and the secondary color combine to make.

3. Vintage patterns: This is a solid dress sock with a line of small conservative pattern on the outer shin. It’s a good first foray into patterns. They don't necessarily need to match your suit or tie; they can simply complement the outfit as a pop of color.

[Image via: Ben Silver.]

4. Checks or houndstooth: Dark, neutral-colored small checks or houndstooth add a touch of flair to your outfit. Higher-contrast checks or houndstooth are a confident look.

[Image via: Tabio.]

5. Argyle socks: This classic pattern looks excellent with flannels. Go neutral or bold. It's nice when a color in the argyle pattern ties into something else that you are wearing -- it makes that color pop.

violet dress socks

6. Pastel solid socks: Famously worn by Fred Astaire, solid pastel-colored socks are a bold statement. Match them with your tie, or let them be the only pop of color in your outfit. 

[Image via: Tumblr.] 

7. Bright solid socks: Some sartorially-minded men make solid-colored bright socks their signature. They’ll wear, for instance, bright red socks with every suit.

striped dress socks

8. Horizontal stripe socks: What started as athletic-wear has become fashionable. Neutral or bold, they’re a fun way to bring out the colors of your outfit.

motif dress socks

[Image via: Ben's Scrapbook.]

9. Motif socks: A playful look done elegantly. Do not confuse novelty socks with motif socks. A repeating motif looks upscale; novelty socks look goofy.

 Paul Newman white socks

[Image of Paul Newman via Ivy Style.]

10. White socks: Only the most sartorially experimental can wear them -- they are a major fashion risk that very few men can actually pull off. Elvis, Michael Jackson, Paul Newman, and Gene Kelly wore them. Best worn with loafers. 

More Men's Suit Style Guides:

Chaya Kurtz

Chaya Kurtz

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