What rules should I follow when it comes to dress socks?
#1: Dress Shoes Require Dress Socks
If you wear dress shoes, you absolutely cannot wear athletic socks, no matter what their color; it’s simply not enough that your socks be black. The reason for this rule? Athletic socks are often bulkier than dress socks because they are usually made of heavier cotton or other materials geared for intense movement and sweat absorption. Due to their thickness, they tend to bunch over the top of narrow dress shoes which makes them look strange and uncoordinated. Instead, wear dress socks with dress shoes. They are easier to slip into your shoes, and the fine, thin material of dress socks will result in your shoes being the statement piece, not your socks.
#2: Match Your Socks with Your Pants, Not Your Shoes
When wearing dress pants or casual pants, apart from jeans, the color of your dress socks should be dictated by the color of your pants, not by the shade of your shoes. Black pants should obviously go with black socks, and brown pants with brown socks—the same goes for blue and gray pants. Ultimately, your dress socks should be an extension of your trousers through their color tone. Choose your dress socks carefully for pants of different hues: if you are wearing a pair of dark green pants, or a unique shade of brown, try a few pairs of socks to determine which socks match your pants best. If you are in doubt, darker colors usually work better or choose a patterned pair that features the unique color within it. The reason for this is simple: when you have to take your shoes off or sit down, your socks will be exposed. Socks that coordinate with pants create a fluid appearance for your outfit, and socks that don’t match your pants will break up an otherwise perfect ensemble.
#3: White Socks are Only for Sports
The most well-known, yet still broken-too-often rule of socks is to never wear white socks with dress pants and shoes. When going to the gym, white athletic socks are fine; however, apart from activities that generate sweat, white athletic socks are a big “no-no.” Paired with a suit, white athletic socks can look unprofessional, and most people will associate them with bad taste. The only time to wear white dress socks? When you’re wearing a white tuxedo. One more thing: steer clear of novelty socks. Socks with reindeer, cartoon characters, or colorful designs are juvenile for formal occasions and don’t exactly give off that serious, “I mean business” vibe at work.
For more information on how to dress-up your dress socks, head to the How to Wear Dress Socks page.