Advice on Choosing and Wearing Socks

I love socks. It’s not a sentence you’ll likely hear every day, but I do. It’s to do with the fact that they’re so often overlooked by many men, but they can have a surprisingly large impact on pulling an entire outfit together. Like so many things in life, it’s the details that matter. It shows you’re someone who cares about doing things properly and that details matter to you. The other reason I love socks is for their variety, like ties, they give countless options in colour, pattern and texture, allowing for personal expression.

I’ve compiled the points below which act as useful guidelines for buying socks and then choosing a pair each day. 

Match your socks to your trousers:It’s one of the most simple but timeless guidelines in menswear. Matching your socks to your trousers extends the line of your trousers to a clean colour break at your shoes. It harmonises. Matching your socks to your shoes creates an almost bootie like effect, as the colour disappears up into your trousers. The easiest way to see how true this is, is to put on a pair of grey trousers, black socks and shoes. After that, change the socks to a similar shade of grey and you’ll see how much more cleanly it hits your eye. You don’t have to match the trousers exactly, it looks too studied, just aim for harmony in the colours (which is expanded a few points below).

Mind the gap:Most cheaper business socks are fairly short (saving on fabric costs) meaning they only reach part of the way up your calf. The issues with that is that the minute you sit down, particularly when you cross your legs, your trousers will rise, exposing your leg and leaving a pretty unappealing gap between trouser hem and sock. Aim for mid calf socks as a minimum. They’ll ensure that you’ll never have a gap again.

Height options: If you wear fully lined suits (typical of colder climates) full length (over the calf) socks are ideal. They stay up beautifully  and feel great against the skin if they’re in a fine gauge. My only issue with over the calf socks is that, as most of my trousers are only partially lined (given Australia is warm for most of the year) that over the calf socks cling to the wool of my trousers, stopping them from hanging properly and clinging to the socks when you stand up after being seated. Mid calf socks are the solution, as they will remain high enough to avoid any gaps showing, but not so high that there is enough of the trouser to cling to. However, as mentioned above, if your trousers are fully lined, this won’t be an issue anyway.

Highlight other colours:Matching socks to trousers is a solid base to work on, but as you become more confident and your wardrobe grows, you can use your socks to pick up on other elements of an outfit. Look at matching a colour or colours of your tie, pocket square or shirt.

A few examples: Imagine a pale grey suit, with black shoes, a pale blue shirt and a grey tie: The conservative choice is for grey socks, but if you feel confident enough in yourself, pale blue socks will pick up the shirt and harmonise with the overall outfit. It’s also surprisingly subtle. A happy medium would be to wear grey socks with a small blue houndstooth or birds eye weave. Using patterns lets you subtly highlight other details. It’s a quiet way of saying that you thought about what you put on that morning and that those traits permeate into other areas of your life.

Also, look for other colours which you might not have thought about before – deep greens (great with most colours – see Simon Crompton’s excellent writing on green as the third colour), pale pink and pale blue (great with grey), wine red (pairs well with navy and some grey’s) as well as  burnt orange or purple.

Material: For the cooler months, wool and cashmere are perfect. Fine guages keep them thin and light, but their natural thermal properties ensure you stay warm. I’ll wear thin merino wool socks even in the warmer months, on anything but very hot days. Once the temperature really picks up, lightweight cottons and silks are ideal, keeping you cool no matter what the temperature. 

Look for handlinked toes: When a sock is knitted on a machine, it makes them in the form of a tube. Once the machine reaches the end of the sock, you are left with an open end at the toe, requiring it to be closed (linked). When a machine does this, the seam tends to be more coarse and you’ll have an uncomfortable ridge running along your toes. Hand linking still uses a machine, but it is manually operated, meaning the seam is much more finely closed, due to a person at the other end ensuring the links are smooth, to the point where you are unlikely to even feel it when on. It’s a small detail, but we’ve all been driven mad by socks that have that ridge, so it’s worth choosing a quality brand which hand links (all the good ones do – Gammarelli, Bresciani, Gallo etc). Vincent of Mes Chaussettes Rouges carries all ofthese brands and he has created a beautiful store online, carrying the best brands you’ll find anywhere. I still buy most of my socks there.
Bearing in mind those points will make getting ready each day a lot more interesting and enjoyable.

The heart of style and dressing well isn’t in a statement piece or a singular item of clothing, it’s in pulling together an outfit as a coherent whole, where each piece reinforces the others.

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