by Carol James March 04, 2020

 Just the Facts:

1. Your socks should match your pants, not your shoes. Creating a smooth transition from your socks to your pants elongates your legs and makes you appear taller.
2. Avoid mixing patterned pants with patterned socks. Adding too many patterns to an outfit will look garish. 
3. Black socks can be worn with brown shoes. This look is best achieved with dark pants.
4. Yes, you can wear white dress socks. They'll look fantastic with lighter khakis or chinos for a casual summertime ensemble.
5. Black, blue and grey go well together. For a classic, stylish look, simply combine these colors and finish it off with dark shoes.
6. Earthy tones look great together. Combine khaki, olive, brown, orange or other earthy colors for a sharp casual look.

We frequently get asked for tips on coordinating trousers, shoes and socks. Whether you dress conservatively or enjoy making a bold statement, socks play an important role in your outfit. In this article, we will provide you with in-depth answers to many questions, including:

 Questions We'll Answer
(click to skip ahead)
Should my socks match my shoes or my pants?
What color socks go with blue pants?
What color socks go with khaki pants?
What color socks go with a grey suit?
How do I pull off colorful socks?
What color socks can I wear with brown shoes?
Can I wear black socks with brown shoes?
Can I wear white dress socks?


Should My Socks Match My Shoes or Match My Pants?

Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is to match your dress socks to your pants. When your socks and pants match, this creates a seamless transition up your leg and will make you appear taller. A key point of clarification is that your socks and pants don’t have to exactly match. In fact, we recommend that you instead blend the color of your socks with your pants. This will result in a cohesive, elegant look.

Your socks should not match your shoes unless you are going for a monochromatic look such as black pants with black shoes and black socks.

Traditional Ways to Match Your Socks and Pants

Remember, your socks and pants don’t have to exactly match. Instead, focus on combining colors that complement each other. In menswear, one of the easiest color groupings to coordinate is black, navy and grey. These three colors are classic, always appropriate and plentiful in most men’s wardrobes.

Classic ways to match socks shoes and pants

If you need to refresh your sock drawer, you can’t go wrong with black dress socks. As illustrated in the chart above, black dress socks will go with just about everything.

Earthy tones including khaki, olive and brown are another group of colors that blend well together. While these colors may be more casual and seasonal, they can look extremely sharp when properly coordinated.

how to match earthy tones of dress socks shoes and pants

We have an extensive collection of khaki dress socks which are perfect for business casual, spring and summer wear. If you frequently wear khaki pants, be sure to read our in-depth article on what socks to wear with khakis.

Contemporary Ways to Match Your Socks and Pants

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.

how to match colorful dress socks with shoes and pants

While these may not be an everyday item, these brighter pants, sock and shoe combinations can make an interesting deviation from your more muted looks. On the colorful spectrum, our purple dress socks have become quite popular and are surprisingly versatile.


How to Combine Patterns and Solids

To best match your dress socks and pants, avoid mixing patterns. When wearing patterned pants, avoid patterned dress socks and instead opt for a solid-colored sock. On the other hand, patterned socks can be an excellent complement to solid-colored pants.

avoid mixing patterned socks with patterned pants

Dress for the Occasion

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? Stick to the “traditional” guidelines outlined above. Heading to dinner with friends or out for a cocktail? In a relaxed setting like this, feel free to add some color to your outfit with earthy tones or colorful combinations detailed above.

Are you ready to upgrade your sock drawer? I invite you to shop our collection today! Interested in learning more about matching your dress socks, pants and shoes? Read on!

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I hope that the above guidelines were informative. While the above section outlined the “rules” for matching your socks, shoes and pants, the below section will provide you with specific examples.

What Color Socks with Brown Shoes?

While businesswear has historically centered around black dress shoes, particularly oxfords, brown dress shoes have recently exploded in popularity. But what color socks should you wear with brown shoes?

different colors of dress socks that can be worn with brown shoes
As shown above, brown shoes can be worn with just about any color of socks. The key to pulling this off is to tastefully blend your socks with your pants. After you have successfully done this, adding brown shoes becomes much easier.

what color dress socks can be worn with brown dress shoes
The collage above shows several examples of different colors of men's dress socks paired with brown shoes. You’ll notice in each look that the pants and socks blend together well and are then complemented by the brown shoes. As illustrated in the charts at the beginning of this article, navy, grey, khaki and olive all look particularly dapper when paired with brown shoes.

Can I Wear Black Socks with Brown Shoes?

You don’t typically see black dress socks paired with brown shoes and many consider this to be a faux pas. However, when executed tastefully, we believe that you can absolutely wear black socks with brown shoes.

how to wear black dress socks with brown dress shoes
Whether worn casually with jeans or professionally with slacks, the collage above highlights several different outfits that elegantly pair black socks with brown shoes.

How to Wear Black Dress Socks

Black is a classic wardrobe staple; it is a very clean, uncomplicated color that comes across as polished and professional. When it comes to 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 are always appropriate.

black dress socks are perfect for formal wear
Black socks are incredibly versatile and can be dressed down with jeans for a polished casual look.

black dress socks worn casually with jeans and light brown loafers
Black socks don't have to be "boring." 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. If your style is to make a bigger splash with your black socks, opt for patterned black dress socks.

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How to Wear Grey Dress Socks

We highly recommend that every man has a wide assortment 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.

The world of menswear focuses primarily on charcoal grey and mid grey. Charcoal is a dark grey that is much closer to black and can readily be used as a substitute for standard black socks.

charcoal grey dress socks with dark jeans and black dress shoes
Mid-grey socks are a lighter, yet traditional, shade of grey that pulls many combinations of pants and shoes together. 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 as shown below.

mid-grey dress socks with dark jeans and brown wholecut loafers
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 is to wear grey trousers, grey socks and black shoes. In this instance, the monochromatic presentation is on a scale of black to grey that keeps the look more interesting yet easy to put together.

For gentlemen who prefer that pop of color, pastels, particularly pink, look fantastic with grey. You can coordinate colors from patterned grey dress socks with other elements of your outfit such as shirts, ties or pocket squares.

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How to Wear Navy Dress Socks

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 dress socks. For a little variety, you can complete the look with brown shoes as shown below.

matching navy dress socks with navy pants and brown shoes
To step things up a bit, grey trousers also look sharp with navy socks. For a more casual, contemporary style, navy dress socks look fantastic with denim. One of our favorite looks is pairing navy socks with light brown shoes, as shown below.

navy dress socks matched with navy pants and light brown dress shoes
If you prefer patterned navy dress 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.

navy and orange dress socks matched with navy dress pants and light brown dress 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.

navy dress socks with light grey trousers and dark brown captoe dress shoes
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 dress socks or olive pants, finish the look with navy. For example, wear olive pants with navy socks and light brown shoes. Alternatively, navy pants with olive socks and brown shoes, as shown below, make a fantastic trio.

olive green dress socks matched with brown shoes and navy pants

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Can I Wear White Dress Socks?

White dress socks can work very well in specific situations, especially during the hotter months of the year. They’ll look great with linen, seersucker and light khaki or white trousers. Since introducing our white dress socks last year, they have quickly become one of our best-selling styles during the summer..

white dress socks with brown penny loafers and light blue dress pants

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 pants.

About Boardroom Socks

Thank you for taking the time to read this article! I hope it has been both informative and inspiring. Boardroom Socks is a small, family-owned manufacturer of premium men’s socks. We are committed to providing you with high quality, American-made socks that are just as comfortable as they are stylish. If you have any questions about this article or would like to share comments, we would love to hear from you. Our contact information can be found here.

Ready for a sock drawer upgrade?

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Carol James
Carol James

Co-Founder, Boardroom Socks

Carol and her husband, Mike, started Boardroom Socks in 2010. She serves as our CFO and keeps all of us in line! Outside of the office, she enjoys reading, gardening, traveling and exercising.

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