by Editorial Staff February 22, 2022

A practical guide to pairing solid and patterned socks with any color and type of outfit.

The more questions we’ve asked about socks, the more we’ve realized just how versatile of a piece of clothing they are. This is particularly true of dress socks — because while you can stick with the classic black and navy blue, branching out into colorful mens dress socks is one of the surest ways to create your own signature style.

In this guide, we’re going to put our sock expertise to good use and give you our best styling tips for how to choose and wear colorful dress socks. By focusing on a half dozen of our brightest and boldest sock offerings, we hope to introduce you to the joys of filling your sock drawer with unique options to liven up your workday outfits.

The Basics of Wearing Colorful Dress Socks

When you’re first dipping your toes into the wide range of dress sock colors and styles available, we’ve found it very helpful not to jump right into the deep end. That means that at least at first, it’s probably best to stick with solid color socks or tasteful patterns rather than heading straight for the nearest rainbow-colored socks with big, bold graphics on them.

bright red colorful dress socks for men paired with dark brown dress shoes and navy trousers

To develop a real solid foundation of sock options for your wardrobe, we can wholeheartedly recommend choosing three or four different colors of socks that will complement the slacks and shirts you already own. In practice, this means trying out a few solid sock colors that are natural complements to the colors you already enjoy wearing.

One type of wardrobe we see around quite a bit trends towards khaki, tan, brown, and pastels. Navy blue and black are the classic pairing here, but if you’re looking for something more colorful we suggest trying these colors of our socks:

And the other most common wardrobe color scheme consists of blues, blacks, and grays. As more neutral base tones, black and gray are probably the easiest to add a bold splash of color to; navy blues can take a little bit more testing to get the perfect match for. Either way, we think these colors of socks look great with darker wardrobes:

Overall though, don’t stress yourself out too much about which single color socks you choose. It’s honestly pretty hard to go wrong with solid color socks, no matter what colors you try to pair together — yet another reason to stick with high quality solid socks as your first choice to add a splash of color to your outfits.

How to Wear Colorful Socks with Patterns

Once you have a solid feel for pairing solid colored socks with your outfits, the next step is adding even more visual interest with patterned socks.

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The trick here is that you’ll need to pay a bit more attention to any patterns naturally present in the slacks and shirts you’re wearing — and make sure they’re not clashing with your sock patterns. And while fashion rules are made to be broken, this generally means pairing like with like; e.g., don’t try to wear horizontal striped socks with a vertically striped shirt.

colorful American flag patterned dress socks paired with grey slacks and light brown loafers

If you already have a few patterned dress shirts that you enjoy, take a look at our full selection of patterned dress socks. They’re broken up into two major types: Striped socks, and dotted socks (which for the sake of matching includes the square knots, sprinkles, and American flag socks as well). Tastefully matching the colors of the stripes or dots with the colors in your shirts is a surefire way to create a good looking outfit. But if you’re working with the types of outfits mentioned in the section above — the khaki and brown or black, blue, and gray color schemes — all of our colorful patterned socks will work like a charm. That’s because when you’re wearing solid colors to begin with, your socks can be as bold and eye-catching as you’d like without starting to look over the top.

What Color of Shoes to Wear with Colorful Dress Socks

One of the big advantages of wearing colorful dress socks is that the rules around what shoes to match them with aren’t quite as strict. And because there’s no hard and fast rule for whether, say, brown or black shoes look best with purple dress socks, you can really go with either. The colorful socks will be the main point of attention, while the shoes just provide a nice base of color to build on.

bright purple colorful dress socks for men paired with blue jeans and brown loafers

Another Approach to Master Your Socks Game

In addition to the contemporary style advice given in this guide, we’d also like to encourage you to read Carol James’s thorough perspective on matching your dress socks, shoes, and pants. In that article, she covers the basics that everyone should know about choosing which colors of dress socks to build a foundational wardrobe with. That includes these rules that echo the advice given here on colorful socks:

  • Your socks should match your pants, not your shoes.
  • Avoid mixing patterned pants with patterned socks (too much potential for clashing).
  • Black, blue, and gray always go well together.
  • Earthy tones (khaki, olive, brown, orange) look great together.

Taken together, these two guides give you the best of both worlds: Advice for building a solid foundation of classic colors and transitioning to earth tones, then the best ways to wear colorful dress socks in any situation.

And if you’re ever stuck trying to figure out the perfect socks to complement an outfit you have in mind, please don’t hesitate to give us a shout! We’ll be happy to give you our two cents on which pair of socks will really pull your whole outfit together.

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

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.

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