Depending upon your style, socks can serve a variety of purposes ranging from purely monochromatic to a bold statement piece. We frequently get asked for tips on coordinating trousers, shoes and socks; if you’re looking for pointers, this guide is for you.
You can read the full guide or use the navigation below to skip ahead to sections you are most interested in.
I. When in Doubt, Keep it Simple
First, to put your best foot forward, always assess the setting before you assemble your outfit. Being appropriately dressed for the occasion is half the battle. Are you off to attend a professional meeting? Heading to dinner with friends or out for a cocktail? Dress accordingly.
Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is to match your socks with your trousers.
Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is to match your socks with your trousers. This creates a seamless transition between your trousers and your leg, making you appear taller. This also avoids drawing attention to any one piece of your ensemble, allowing more prominent features of your outfit to shine, such as tailoring or fit. When in doubt, keep this in mind for a foolproof look.
II. Black - Clean, Uncomplicated and Refined
Black is a classic wardrobe staple; it is a very clean, uncomplicated color that comes across as polished and professional. In the world of men’s hosiery, a pair of black dress socks will coordinate with most shoes and trousers in your closet. Black socks look best with black shoes and dark trousers, creating a powerful, monochromatic look. In formal situations such as black-tie events, solid black over the calf dress socks are your best option and is always appropriate.
Another example of a well-coordinated, monochromatic look.
Splash of Color
If you prefer wearing bolder socks, you can opt for a black sock accented with a colorful pattern. Matching the colors from the pattern with other aspects of your outfit, such as your tie or pocket square, can be a great way to pull together an ensemble.
While we don’t typically recommend wearing black socks with brown shoes, the look featured above works very well. If your style is to make a bigger splash with your black socks, opt for an even bolder look such as the multi-colored “sprinkles” sock shown below.
For the bolder gentleman, a fun pattern to spice up traditional black socks.
III. Shades of Grey
While there may be “50 shades of grey,” the world of menswear focuses primarily on charcoal grey and mid-grey. Charcoal is a dark gray that is much closer to black and can readily be used as a substitute for standard black socks. Mid-grey socks are a lighter, yet traditional, shade of grey that pulls many combinations of pants and shoes together.
Grey heather socks with light brown shoes, an excellent pairing.
Versatility of Grey
We highly recommend a quality pair of grey dress socks due to their incredible versatility. While black socks typically look best with black shoes, grey socks pair exceptionally well with both black and brown shoes.
Some of our favorite looks include a mid-grey sock matched with navy trousers and light brown shoes, as well as mid-grey with denim (shown below).
Mid-grey is a neutral shade, pulling the color out of items around it. In the ensemble above, the socks act as a bridge to link the colors and accentuate the navy and brown. Another more traditional option (shown below) is to wear grey trousers, grey socks and black shoes. Here the monochromatic presentation is on a scale of black to grey that keeps the look more interesting yet easy to put together.
Adding Patterns to Grey
For gentlemen who prefer that pop of color, pastels, particularly pink, look fantastic with charcoal. In the picture below, the pink pattern from the charcoal socks coordinates beautifully with the pink tie.
IV. Navy on Deck - Easy
Navy is a menswear staple and a color that is extremely easy to work with as it pairs well with grey, olive, orange, red, salmon, coral and plenty of other colors. For the traditional man, it doesn’t get any easier than pairing navy trousers with navy socks. One of our favorite looks is pairing navy socks with light brown shoes, as shown below.
Adding Patterns to Your Navy Socks
If you prefer adding patterns to your navy socks, opt for colors that compliment other aspects of your wardrobe. For example, the orange pattern shown below does an excellent job of pulling the shoes into the picture.
Our orange square knot on navy patterned socks, perfect with walnut shoes.
The same pair of socks shown above are featured below in an entirely different look that perfectly compliments the orange hues in the windowpane pattern of the trousers. Use your socks as a tool to tie an outfit together.
Olive & Navy
Olive has long been a core color in menswear, yet with a myriad of shades and tones, it can be difficult to coordinate into an outfit. If you have olive socks or olive pants, finish the look with navy. For example, navy pants with olive socks and brown shoes are a great trio. Alternatively, wear olive pants with navy socks and light brown shoes.
V. Rules Are Meant to Be Broken
Contemporary influences on menswear have liberalized many traditional “rules” on how gentlemen should wear socks. Socks can be an excellent way to express personality, so don’t be afraid to make more of a splash, when the occasion allows. While these may not be an every day item, they can make an interesting deviation from your muted or monochromatic looks.
VI. Keeping it Casual with Earthy Tones
Khaki, brown, orange and other similar earthy tones are far more casual colors than black, grey and navy. Whereas a monochromatic presentation in black presents a powerful statement, the same is not always true of khaki and brown. One way to add a little style is to pair these colors with navy, as shown below.
VII. A Word About White
If you are not in the gym, you should not be wearing white socks. The rare exception to this would be when sporting seersucker or white trousers.
VIII. Putting It All Together
Minor changes to an outfit can make a big impact; tweaking one piece can take you from subtle to bold. Don’t be afraid to try something new! If you're ever in doubt about your ensemble, start by matching your socks and trousers.