These days, stylish men’s socks seem to be on everyone’s look book. More than ever, we’re starting to realize how the right socks could completely change the mood of an outfit. In some cases, they can totally redefine it.
Of course, there’s much more to socks than simply buying the colors or patterns you like. To elevate your sock game, you’ll want to try the ideas we laid out below.
Ditch the White Gym Socks
First order of business is to avoid wearing white gym socks—unless, of course, you’re at the gym. Even then, gray or black socks tend to be a more stylish choice that will match just about any shoe you’re going to wear while working out. In most other contexts though, white gym socks may be either inappropriate, as is the case with business attire, or a lost opportunity to up your style game.
Apart from the gym, the other exception to the acceptability of white gym socks might be if you’ve fully committed to a “normcore” style. Even then, there are probably better ways to get the look.
Get Socks with Better Materials
If you’ve only ever had generic store-brand socks all your life, you probably never realized how life-changing having better socks made from wool or superior types of pure cotton can be. They’re not only more comfortable, but they also tend to be better at preventing blisters from forming—which is worth considering if you have the type of job where you’re on your feet all day.
Higher-quality socks also tend to last much longer than generic socks, with some being able to last up to 10 years or more. While socks made from better materials may cost more initially, they are often much better value, providing both the comfort and longevity absent from cheap alternatives.
Avoid Using Visibly Worn-Out Socks
Most men have a pretty blasé attitude towards socks. Surely no one notices them or cares, right? Admittedly most people you meet will not bother to strike up a conversation about your socks, regardless of how awesome (or awful) they are. But people do notice. You probably notice socks on other people as well.
This is because socks, similar to belts, watches, and shirt cuffs, are in “transition zones” between the different things that you wear. Since socks are visible between your shoes and pants (or bare legs), they are especially noticeable parts of your outfit, even if they may not cover a lot of area.
Unfortunately, discolored or worn out socks can speak negatively about your character just as much as a ratty t-shirt might. Socks that have seen better days should be relegated to be worn on cold winter nights around the house or for the most casual of occasions only.
Avoid Patterns That Clash with Your Pants
Patterned socks are now a huge deal. They’re probably the biggest men’s style item to become mainstream in the 2010s through to the present. Patterned pants are generally less popular for streetwear but are a mainstay in business attire, particularly in herringbone, tweed, pinstripe, and check patterns.
Because bold patterned socks are now used so often with suits as statement pieces, it can be easy to forget to take extra care with matching your socks with patterned pants. When the look is misused, it can throw the coherence of your outfit off, so take a few moments to consider your patterns before committing.
Complement Ties and Pocket Squares
Speaking of statement pieces, it’s now a generally accepted guideline that patterned socks—especially the bold ones popular these days—really pop when properly matched with a tie and pocket square. While not necessarily a rule by any means, this can be a simple way to get even more mileage out of having interesting socks in your wardrobe.
Get a Few No-Show Socks
Sometimes the best style choice is to not have any visible socks whatsoever. While you could choose to go without socks, anecdotal evidence suggests that this could lead to accelerated fungal growth on both your shoes and your feet.
So if you want to avoid athlete’s foot, using fresh socks with your shoes is pretty much mandatory. Thankfully, no-show socks are a thing now, so you can easily stock up on a few for those times you want to have the no-sock look but still maintain your commitment to hygiene.
Buy Only Novelty Socks That Mean Something to You
We know bold patterned socks are a big thing now, but we recommend you avoid impulse purchases unless the design is especially meaningful or appealing to you. As with the humorous statement tees that exploded in popularity during the early 2000s, many jokes don’t particularly age very well. Chances are you’ll be cringing at your impulse purchases in a few months and avoid wearing them altogether. Avoid this trap and take a few moments to be especially careful when choosing novelty or patterned socks.
Consider the Rest of Your Wardrobe
Compared to plain socks and those with muted patterns, bold-patterned socks are more challenging to pull off. With these socks, your shoes and your pants have to have the right patterns and colorways themselves to be coherent. This means that if the rest of your wardrobe does not jibe with your socks, you might not be able to get much use from them, making them a waste of money.
The “Socks and Sandals” Look Isn’t for Everyone
While the socks and sandals look is a thing in streetwear, for most people, it really should only be enjoyed in the comfort of one’s home. While comfy, it comes across as sloppy regardless of how awesome your socks are or how put-together the rest of your outfit is. If that doesn’t gel with your personal brand, you best leave the look to someone else.
For things that are essentially elastic foot sacks, socks can be an extraordinarily powerful weapon in your style arsenal. Not only can they communicate about as much as a shirt or tie, but they can be a major factor in our confidence and comfort as well. While we can’t guarantee you won’t get into any missteps, following the tips above can help you get both feet in the sock game.
What other tips for men’s socks can you share? We’d love to hear from you!