by Editorial Staff February 18, 2023

We've all been there - you wear your best suit to this fine event, only to realize you haven't paid much attention to your dress socks. As a result, you've made a fashion blunder!

If there is anything related to socks for suits that you need to know, you’ll find it here. In this article we’ll cover:

  • What are suit socks?
  • Considerations for choosing the right socks
  • What color socks match with my suit?
  • Do you have to wear socks with a suit?

Often mistakenly overlooked, dress socks are a key component of formal attire, and wearing them incorrectly could seriously hinder an otherwise dapper outfit. Whether you're getting dressed up for a wedding, dinner party, or the boardroom, you'll feel like the ultimate gentleman if you choose the right socks.

What are Suit Socks?

If you've tried poking around online for suit socks and haven't come up with much, it's because there really isn't a specific type of men's hosiery designed solely for suits.

You're really just looking for dress socks; the same type of socks that you normally wear to the office with dress shoes are usually all you need to round out your suit.

Shop Dress Socks

Things to Consider when Wearing Dress Socks with a Suit

Gentleman's etiquette demands that you know which socks to wear with a formal suit. When searching for the perfect pair, it's important to consider quality, length, and style.

Luckily, we've got you covered. Here's how to navigate the sock-selection process:

Dress Socks Quality and Materials

Our recommendation is to always wear either wool or cotton socks. Both are high-quality natural materials, offering comfort and breathability that are unmatched by synthetics.

Different fabrics feel different, and you may have a preference. While cotton is lighter, wool tends to be slightly thicker but both offer breathability for all day comfort. High quality cotton will have the softest hand and is the ideal material for the warmest seasons. Merino wool offers the best breathability while still providing warmth in even the coldest seasons.

Finding a pair of dress socks with a reinforced heel is the best practice. They'll prevent the material from wearing away too quickly.

Socks Length

When it comes to wearing socks with a suit, there are two lengths to try out. Over-the-calf dress socks are an ideal choice, notable for their ability to stay up without slipping. This makes them the obvious option for long days with lots of walking.

Mid-calf dress socks are another safe bet, promising the wearer a sophisticated and professional look for formal occasions. The basic rule is the higher the sock, the smarter you'll look.

infographic showing dress sock lengths for suits

For example, avoid wearing Oxford shoes with anything lower than a mid-calf sock. It might be doable but certainly won't be pleasing to the eye when you cross your legs.

Last on the list is the no-show sock. Wear no-show dress socks with a suit and loafers if the dress code allows it. The sockless look portrays a casual appearance. Hence, it's best to pull it off with cotton/linen suits and preferably suede loafers for a dapper summery look. (We'll dive deeper into the no-show sock later on.)

Different Styles of Dress Socks

You'll elevate your fashion game when you wear colorful socks. A solid color can retain a sense of professionalism in a business environment while allowing you to explore your more playful side.

Life can be pretty drab at the best of times, and it's far too short not to be a little extravagant sometimes. Wearing colorful socks with a pattern will add character to your attire.

black and purple striped dress socks with light grey suit

When shopping for patterned socks, the possibilities are truly endless - from zig zags to checks and stripes to spots. At Boardroom Socks, we prefer more traditional, subdued patterns for an elegant look.

When wearing colors, match your socks with another item of your ensemble - your tie or pocket square are obvious contenders.

It may seem obvious, but always wear socks that match one another. No one has yet pulled off the odd-sock look, and I don't think you'll be the first person who does.

Dress Socks with Suit Color Coordination

When picking out a pair of men's dress socks, it's important to give proper attention to how they complement your suit color combination.

A colorful pair of socks will provide a burst of color that will make you stand out and get noticed - just make sure it's not for the wrong reasons.

Suit Color Best Sock Color Best Shoe Color
Black Black Black
Navy Navy Dark Brown
Grey Grey Black
Tan Khaki Light Brown
Brown Olive Light Brown
Burgundy Black Black
Green Olive Dark Brown

Black Suit

A black suit is as classic as they come. It is the most formal of all suit colors, but only a small handful of colors match well. A pair of black socks nicely compliments a black suit, while gray is useful for adding slight variation.

charcoal gray dress socks with black suit

If you're feeling a little more adventurous, red, purple, or light blue dress socks look great and add a spot of color to a wedding or party outfit.

For more information and style inspiration, be sure to read our in-depth guide to socks for a black suit.

Blue Suit

As with all dress socks, matching the exact color with your suit is a sure way to look professional and ready to take on any meeting or event thrown your way. But don't feel that the shades have to exactly match. A more tonal look such as the darker blue socks and lighter blue suit shown below is quite sharp without being monotone.

dark blue dress socks with light blue suit and walnut oxford dress shoes

As such, blue socks work really well with a blue suit or trousers. Black and gray socks also look swish and provide a subtle contrast with the blue shade.

Navy Suit

Just like black, navy suits are another staple of men's fashion. No wardrobe is complete without a navy suit, and wearing matching socks is a great choice.

navy dress socks with light navy suit and brown wingtips

Gray, brown, and red socks are also well-suited to navy outfits, providing a sometimes much-needed flash of color.

Be sure to read our entire piece on sock colors for blue suits for more tips.

Gray Suit

If you're wearing a gray suit to your upcoming formal event, it can be tempting to pair it with colorful socks - but this isn't always the correct choice.

black dress socks with a grey suit and black monkstrap shoes

Gray suits are best matched with gray, navy, or black socks. If you're looking for a splash of color, purple or red dress socks are a great option. Purple is a unique color you don't often see in men's clothing, and it's sure to turn heads for the right reason.

To explore more of our style suggestions, dive into our guide to socks for a grey suit.

Tan Suit

After your formal wardrobe is stocked with the core blacks, blues and grey, tan is a great next suit color to add to your closet. While more casual and seasonal in nature, tan suits are a little off the beaten path and will add an element of sophistication to your ensemble.

navy socks with a tan suit and brown suede dress shoes

In terms of accompanying sock colors, earthy tones in the brown and green families are going to be the easiest pairings while blues and reds can add a pop of color.

Our article on sock colors for tan suits is an excellent resource for additional tips.

Brown Suit

While tan is arguably a shade of brown, brown suits are popular enough that they deserve their own section here. Similar to its close relative tan, brown suits will pair best with earthy sock colors.

olive green dress socks with dark brown suit

Visit our extensive article on socks for brown suits to learn more about which sock colors look best with brown suits.

Green Suit

Before you raise your eyebrows, green suits can look extremely elegant but it is most important to choose the right shade of green to avoid looking garish.

tan socks with a green suit and brown penny loafers

After nailing down a tasteful shade of green for your suit (such as the dark olive above) complete the look with a subdued color of socks. Earthy tones look great, with tans and khakis being our favorite.

If you're noticing a trend here in our advice, it's because earthy tones look so good when paired together. Browns, tans and olives are incredibly tasteful when combined.

For suggestions beyond these earthy shades, be sure to explore our guide to sock colors for green suits.

Burgundy Suit

Burgundy is the last shade that we've done a deep dive on and for good reason; it is certainly off the beaten path of suit colors but can look sharp when done tastefully.

Given that burgundy suits are a statement themselves, our recommendation is to tone down the accompanying socks and shoes. Try solid black socks with black oxfords to elevate the look while also tempering the pizzazz.

Read our exhaustive article on socks for burgundy suits for more suggestions.

Styling Tips when Wearing Dress Socks with a Suit

Now that we've identified the different types of dress socks, and how best to match them with a variety of colored suits, we'll explore some additional tips and tricks to truly excel as a suited gentleman.

Match the Socks and Trousers for a Traditional Approach

While there are variations you can make, it's sometimes best to keep it traditional. This is the perfect choice for very professional settings, where flair can sometimes count against being taken seriously.

Wear dress socks that very closely match the color of your suit and trousers, or you can pick a shade lighter or darker for the same effect.

Match the Dress Socks with Pocket Square or Tie

It's very stylish to anchor your color choices to one another. Mixing at random will look jumbled and unprofessional.

Matching your dress socks to the color of your pocket square or tie will make it immediately obvious to others that you've put thought into your appearance. This may prove especially valuable in that next job interview.

More Room to Experiment with Casual Attire

Informal outfits offer you a chance to play around more with colors and patterns. Casual suits and accessories are most suitable in less-formal office environments and at social events with a smart-casual requirement.

Stand Out with Contrasting Socks

Alternatively, you could decide to make a major statement and wear socks that strongly contrast with your suit and trousers. This isn't advised for everyone, but if you think you can pull it off, that confidence level is half of the battle.

purple cotton dress socks with grey windowpane suit

Avoid Patterns That Clash with Your Suit

Even those brave enough to pick contrasting colors should avoid picking patterns that clash. If your suit has any pattern at all, including pinstripes, either pick a pair of socks with patterns in similar colors or opt for solid socks.

Reserve the Athletic Socks for Athletic Shoes

While white dress socks can be worn with certain formal attire, athletic socks shouldn't be worn with anything other than athletic shoes. If you're dressed up in a suit, few things will kill your look faster than chunky pair of athletic socks peeking out from under your trousers.

Appropriate Socks Length for the Occasion

The longer the sock you wear, the more formal the occasion. That's the general rule, and it works. No-show socks are for the most casual of occasions, mid-calf are for great for work suits and other semi-formal attire, and over-the-calf are perfect for everything up to and including the most formal occasions. If you've got a black tie event on the horizon, be sure to read our guide to tuxedo socks.

Do You Have to Wear Socks with a Suit?

The "sockless" look combined with formal attire really took off in the early to mid-2000s, largely pioneered by designer Thom Browne. While this relaxed look can be tastefully pulled off in certain casual occasions, we highly recommend not wearing dress shoes without socks.

The best way to achieve the "suit without socks" look while still being comfortable is to wear no-show dress socks. This type of hosiery is designed to sit out of sight below the tops of your shoes, providing all the benefits of a pair of socks while facilitating the no sock look.

no show dress socks with navy suit and brown suede penny loafers

So, while you technically don't have to wear socks with a suit, the right socks will allow you to pull off the look without sacrificing comfort.

For further reading on this style, be sure to read our in-depth guide titled No Socks with Suit? Everything You Need to Know.

What's Next?

We hope that this article has been informative and has answered your questions. If you need further guidance on choosing the right socks, don't hesitate to reach out; our US-based team is ready to help. Click below to explore our collection and pick out your next favorite pair of socks.

Shop Dress Socks

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.

Also in The Boardroom Memo

man standing on hardwood floor wearing black cotton dress socks decorated with small red polka dots
Patterned Dress Socks: Doing More With Less

by Editorial Staff June 14, 2024

Styling patterned dress socks is best if you make them the star of the show. But, it’s easy to go overboard. We show you how to wear patterned dress socks by incorporating small patterns in classic colors into your your
Read More
navy wool dress socks with dark slacks and black oxfords for male banker
Banking Attire: How Bankers Dress Like a Million Bucks at Work

by Editorial Staff April 18, 2024

Whether you’re new to the banking industry or are a seasoned vet, this article shares style tips on how to dress like a million bucks as a banker.
Read More
pastel pink dress socks worn with dark denim and brown tassel loafers
Pastel Dress Socks: How to Embrace the Spring Season in Style

by Editorial Staff March 15, 2024

Spring weather marks the transition away from darker colors as brighter shades emerge into full bloom. This guide to spring socks offers advice on incorporating pops of color to your attire for the new season.
Read More