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!

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.

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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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Further Reading on Socks with Suits:
What color socks do you wear with a grey suit?
What color socks do you wear with a navy suit?
What color socks do you wear with a black suit?

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 the most formal occasions. If you've got a black tie event on the horizon, be sure to read our guide to tuxedo socks.

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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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