by Nathan James September 28, 2018

Socks for Dress Shoes - Everything You Need to Know

The point of having specialized socks for dress shoes is to enhance your comfort. Dress shoes are designed to fit snuggly, necessitating a thinner sock. Cramming a bulky sock into a dress shoe will not only be uncomfortable but may cause rubbing and lead to blisters. Thick socks also have a tendency to bunch up around your ankles, breaking the otherwise smooth drape of your trousers. The best dress socks are the ideal thickness; not so thick that they cause the aforementioned issues but not so thin that they wear out prematurely.

Should I Wear Mid-Calf or Over the Calf Dress Socks?

Mid Calf or Over the Calf Dress Socks

This is a question that garners some debate within the world of men's fashion. An exposed leg is thought of as a faux pas, making the length of your sock very important. If the day's agenda involves presentations, client visits or formal situations, an over the calf dress sock is best. As your pants ride up when you cross your legs or are seated, the over the calf length will ensure consistent coverage of your legs. If your greatest concern is ensuring that the socks stay up and do not slip, sag or bunch, we again recommend over the calf length. Some gentlemen find the over the calf length uncomfortable and prefer mid-calf dress socks; at the end of the day, your comfort and personal preference are ultimately the determining factors. For a more in-depth discussion, see our article on dress sock length.

What is the Best Material for Dress Socks?

American Grown Supima Cotton

We always recommend opting for dress socks that are knit using primarily natural yarns, more specifically, cotton or wool. While the ideal sock is knit with largely natural yarns, it should also include a blend of synthetic fibers such as spandex and nylon. These fibers make the sock more durable and provide it with the stretch needed to both fit around your foot and stay up on your leg. Socks made predominantly with synthetic fibers, while more affordable, do not breathe as well and are typically not as comfortable. As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for.”

Choosing between the two natural fibers, cotton and wool, is a matter of personal preference. Merino wool dress socks help manage moisture and odor, retain their color for longer periods of time, and also provide more warmth during the colder months of the year. Cotton dress socks are lighter and can be cooler during the warmest months of the year. Our opinion is that merino wool is the optimal fiber to produce socks; for a lengthy discussion on the topic, visit our article about the benefits of wool socks.

What Color Socks Should I Wear?

Drawer Full of Dress Socks

The color of your sock is driven primarily by the color of your pants and, to a lesser extent, the color of your shoes. Socks can be thought of as an extension of a man’s trouser and the simplest rule is to ensure they match. Creating this seamless transition between trouser, sock and shoe will actually make you appear taller. With a focus on business-appropriate fashion, our designers recommend the following color combinations:

Navy Trousers:

Pair your navy trousers with navy or black dress socks, and either black or brown shoes. To add a splash of color, opt for a lighter color shoe such as a walnut.

Navy Dress Socks with Navy Trousers

Charcoal Trousers:

Charcoal, midnight navy, grey heather and black dress socks all go well with charcoal pants. For some extra pop, try a brighter color such as sky blue.

Sky Blue Dress Socks with Charcoal Trousers

Black Trousers:

When wearing black pants, the tried and true look is to opt for black dress socks. This is a timeless and foolproof look that you can never go wrong with. If black on black is too traditional for you, reach for a pair of black patterned socks with colorful accents.

Black Dress Socks with Dark Charcoal Trousers


Ah, the weekend is here and you’re about to slide on your favorite jeans. When reaching into your sock drawer for accompanying hosiery, you really can’t miss. Black, navy, brown, khaki or grey socks will all work well whether you are wearing loafers, boat shoes, or even a dress shoe.

Denim with Loafers and Dress Socks

Khaki Trousers:

When sporting khaki trousers, our favorite hosiery choices are khaki, brown and olive. We highly, highly recommend you avoid black shoes and instead choose brown when wearing khaki pants.

Khaki Dress Socks with Khaki Pants

Which Color is Most Versatile?

Aside from black, which is certainly the workhorse of a man’s sock drawer, we believe charcoal is the most versatile color sock. Charcoal goes well with black, blue and grey trousers as well as denim and casual slacks. Our charcoal merino wool dress socks are knit in a heather shade that enables them to pair well with virtually any color.

What is the Best Dress Sock for Formal Wear?

Our black Mercerized Pima Cotton over the calf dress socks were specifically designed for formal wear. These socks are knit using premium mercerized pima cotton yarns imported from Italy. The mercerization process is an additional step in the yarn manufacturing process that strengthens the fibers and makes them more receptive to dye. The end result is a very durable sock that has a deep, rich black color with a lustrous finish. This sock pairs exceptionally well with black tie attire.

Black Dress Socks with a Tuxedo

How Should I Care for my Dress Socks?

To ensure longevity, avoid washing your dress socks with stiff, rough fabrics like denim. The rubbing of jeans on socks may degrade the strength and color of the fibers. Most importantly, never wash your socks with towels or other fabrics that have lint. Always wash like colors together, and avoid bleach at all costs. The properties of bleach will not only erode the color of the socks but will degrade the fibers and could lead to premature holes. We recommend washing in warm water and either air drying or tumble drying on low heat. If available, washing dress socks in a lingerie laundry bag is a great way to ensure they are handled gently. Wool requires slightly greater care in the laundry, so be sure to check out our guide on how to wash wool socks.

Ready to Pick Out Your Next Pair of Dress Socks?

Our socks are designed for the consummate professional, a man who appreciates timeless style while demanding the utmost in comfort and quality. What are you waiting for? Shop Boardroom Socks today.

Nathan James
Nathan James

CEO, Boardroom Socks

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