Twenty-five years ago, brown was reserved for weekend or ‘country’ attire. “No brown in town,” the menswear intelligentsia would say. But now, the color’s been having a moment. Brown shoes, suits, and (especially) brown men’s dress socks are popping up everywhere. Here are some ways to make socks in this most versatile color look its best.
Many men still enjoy wearing tailoring into the office. It gives a sense of purpose, of being ‘at work.’ But, with business casual dress becoming the norm, brown and grey are far more common than a traditional navy suit.
If you’d like a full suit, try a deep chocolate brown. Soft flannel works best for colder winter days; worsted wool for a versatile, three-season staple. Shirting in sky or pastel blues work best. Pure white is perfectly fine, but a cream or off-white shirt offers a softer transition. A pale pink looks surprisingly nice, too. As for socks, our merino wool over-the-calf in brown are just the ticket. Matching your sock to the trouser elongates the leg line.
A traditional Ivy-style business casual look is a navy blazer (single or double breasted, and perhaps with gold buttons) and khaki trousers. Shirting is most common in light blue here. If you’re going tieless, an Oxford Cloth Button Down (OCBD) is probably your best bet. In keeping with tradition, go for khaki socks.
Probably where brown is still the most at home. It is an earth tone, after all.
If going for a more elevated country look, tweed and corduroy are excellent pairings. Flecked tweed in greens and tans, and even a full suit in corduroy are very nice.
But, a full tweed or corduroy outfit can look a little costume-y. More practical is to do one or the other, or some combination of two rather than a full kit. So, a tweed jacket over a thin cashmere v-neck sweater and some milk chocolate corduroy trousers. Dark brown wingtip derby shoes in smooth leather or suede are an excellent pairing. Or, if you’d like to really elevate the look, some shell cordovan longwings. Our brown merino wool socks are excellent here, too.
A more dressed-down spin features the cords. A solid color (forest green, navy, or burgundy) or Fair Isle Pattern sweater over an OCBD looks nice here. Smooth leather or suede chukka boots are the perfect way to show off the socks.
The weekend means jeans and chinos for most. Jeans come in, of course, blue, with the lighter washes usually being more casual and darker a little dressier. For me, a typical Saturday errand-running outfit is medium to lighter wash denim, a terry cloth sweatshirt, white leather sneakers, and some of Boardroom’s mid-calf socks. That way, I incorporate all the core ‘menswear’ colors (blue, brown, and grey) into a simple, but thoughtful outfit.
If you’ve got a casual weekend evening with friends, jeans may not be the right choice. Some tobacco or stone chinos with any of the sweaters from above would be perfect. Minimal, low silhouette leather sneakers will be fine for the fashion-forward, but anything from chukka boots to suede derby shoes will be fine here. If you go with tobacco chinos, the darker brown sock would be best. Lighter chinos would call for the khaki.
Summer is the time for lighter fabrics and lighter socks. Breathable linen and seersucker are the way to go.
It’s also a time to get creative with your socks. Here at Boardroom, we’ve got brown socks in over-the-calf, mid-calf, and no-show. Our general guidance is if you’re wearing a tie, it’s usually best to have a dress sock covering at least mid-calf. If not, feel free to go sock-less. So, let’s consider two different situations.
First, a summer wedding. A sand linen suit, pale pink shirt, and a dark brown knit tie are perfectly complemented by a pair of either dark brown or khaki socks. The socks offer clean lines, but the color combination is just lively enough to match the festivities.
On the more casual end of the spectrum, a summer backyard barbeque. White or off-white linen trousers are perfect here. Shirting can span the spectrum as well-anything from a simple navy T or polo to a printed rayon number works. But, the socks are what make it fun. Show a little ankle with some no-show socks! We like unlined, lightweight loafers in brown here- but anything from blue, to even a bright red are fun for this time of the year.
Ah, the age-old question: can you wear socks with shorts? The answer is yes- but not the socks you think. White tube socks, athletic socks, and mid-calf socks aren’t something to be worn with shorts. Traditionalists and throwback enthusiasts may do over-the-calf socks with Bermuda shorts, but I suspect those readers are few and far between.
A more approachable way to pair socks, especially khaki ones, with shorts, is to deploy our no-show sock. It’s virtually invisible under sneakers and most loafers. This makes it easy to pair with virtually any short fabric or length.
We’re fans of a simple white T and khaki chino shorts, but you could throw on a linen overshirt in navy or a dark emerald green. Footwear here could be anything from minimal white sneakers to a dark brown suede tassel loafer. For really casual summer events, boat shoes are another great option. And, yes, you can wear socks with boat shoes.
Most quality footwear will have a leather insole to minimize odor retention and, in theory, socks aren’t necessary- we like them as an added insurance policy. Socks, especially merino wool ones, absorb sweat and regulate airflow- making them ideal even in summer.
Brown has become one of the most popular, versatile colors in menswear. How do you wear yours?
Thanks for reading.
Yours in Style,
|Further Reading on Sock Style:|
|Should I wear wool or cotton socks?|
|5 Ways to Style "Fun" Dress Socks|
|What socks do I wear with business casual attire?
Our editorial staff is comprised of menswear experts dedicated to providing you with helpful information. Sharing everything from style tips to sock care instructions, these gentlemen are a wealth of knowledge for both our customers and the Boardroom Socks team.
by Nathan James September 05, 2023
by Nathan James July 28, 2023