Introduction

There seems to have been a lot of talk about socks on FashionBeans recently. First we showed you how going sockless is an art in itself, and then we counteracted this by detailing the benefits of the current trend of wearing socks in the summer. With this in mind, today I am going to tackle the subject of men’s socks once and for all; showing you the types and styles available to modern gents, as well as giving you tips and examples of how to pull off a great pair of socks successfully.

But why socks? Well, socks are rarely given the attention their stature deserves. While we are all quick to pick up a new pocket square, tie or bag to liven up an outfit – or even to build a look around – the same is seldom said about a new pair of socks.

For the majority of the male population, socks serve a solitary purpose, practicality. They often fail to register even an afterthought of due attention, presenting a sorely missed opportunity. In fact, I can guarantee that once you have bought your first pair of quality fashion socks, you will wonder how your outfits ever sufficed without them. Without wanting to sound over the top, they open up a world of possibilities when it comes to putting together a well considered and coherent look – a role those worn out sports socks you currently own will never be able to fulfil.

While getting your sock etiquette right is a step in the right direction, there are a number of sock-related gaffes that will leave you looking a touch foolish. I recently covered sock faux pas in my breakdown of three all-too-common men’s style mistakes, so head over there for a refresher course, before we get into the exciting world of pinpointing that perfect pair.

Finding The Perfect Pair Of Socks

Socks; they are a small detail that can serve to pull an outfit together, a subtle cohesion between top and bottom, or pull it apart by breaking any considered choices in half. They also possess the innate ability to add a pop of brashness that would be somewhat unwelcomed if placed elsewhere. Not to mention being the only form of underwear in which it is acceptable to experiment with and show off.

Here is a breakdown of the key fabrics you should consider when buying hosiery:

  • Wool – Woollen socks are a real classic. Used in the earliest forms of sock production, wool socks are hard wearing and warm, making them perfect for the outdoorsy type. They are also relatively inexpensive and will go perfect with the heritage inspired wear that was so prevalent last season. They prove especially potent when paired with a heavy suit such as tweed or corduroy.
  • Cotton – The most widely worn sock material. Cotton, like wool, is relatively cheap and most often blended with man-made fibres to improve the fit and strength. While it can’t match up to wool in terms of insulation, cotton is lightweight and is a great choice for both formal and casual wear.
  • Cashmere – Cashmere is a mark of luxury and carries many of the same properties as wool, but is far less cumbersome. Cashmere, however, has to be properly cared for or you risk losing its shape. It’s best to avoid a washing machine or dryer when it comes down to cashmere. Hand washing and fine fabric soap is best if you want to get your moneys worth.
  • Silk – A second contender for the sock drawer when looking for luxury, silk is often blended into higher-end wool socks to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer; the same reason cashmere often has an element of silk blended into them. Silk socks are frequently blended with nylon or another man-made fiber and are generally reserved for black tie and formal affairs. This is because silk socks aren’t all that durable and last nowhere near as long as cotton, wool or well looked after cashmere.
Sock Designs
Neutral

Neutral socks are perfect for the professional setting or black tie event. When wearing neutrals formally, match them to the colour of your trousers – not your shoes or shirt. Where possible, try not to match the shade exactly either (this is obviously a non-issue for black, but for navy and grey, try to differentiate the hue of the trouser and sock.) Finally, get your textures relatively similar. For example, don’t wear silk – or other shiny material socks – with a tweed suit.

However, neutral socks should not only be reserved for formal occasions, as they can still work in casual outfits. Even though they may lack the vibrancy of a block coloured sock or the character of a patterned version, they still have a role to play. You can tie the top and bottom half of your outfit together (try using a navy sock that matches your navy blazer), use plain socks to anchor bold coloured chinos, or simply use something as subtle as a black or grey sock to make a statement when paired with shorts this season.

Final Note: Please remember that white socks are reserved for the sole occasion when you are engaging in physical activity.

Men's Neutral Socks Lookbook

Block Colour

If you’ve moved up in the sock stakes and decided to get bolder with your choice, block colours are a simple place to start. This means working with pastels, brights or generally anything that doesn’t comer under the neutral tag. Try to pick out accent colours in your look – such as a tie – and contrast or compliment your socks to fit.

There is of course nothing wrong with basing your sock choice on the hue of your knitwear but sometimes, less is more. Lastly, like when wearing neutrals, don’t get too matchy. If you’re picking out an orange hue, try pairing slightly more yellow socks (or contrast with blue.)

Men's Block Colour Socks Lookbook

Patterned

Prints and patterns are going to this season’s big thing; a fact well documented here on FashionBeans. We’ve discovered that socks are a great entry-level way to adopt the trend.

When going for patterns, try to pick out colours that are above the waistline and don’t match the pattern of your socks to a pattern already in the rest of your look. For example, if you’re rocking an argyle print cardigan, don’t attempt to don some argyle socks as well (it will look overly matched and generally just a bit too much.) Similarly, if you have a heavily patterned outfit already in play, leave the patterned socks in the draw – they’re best paired when minimal patterns are in play.

As I mentioned in my three common style mistakes, novelty socks are a no-go and as Grenson say, “Your socks shouldn’t be funnier than you are” – take this nugget of wisdom with the assumption that you have zero sense of humour.

Men's Patterned Socks Lookbook

Boot Socks

Book socks are a relatively new style which have staked a claim for a place in your sock drawer over the past two autumn/winter seasons. Usually long, thick and warm, with a flecked or mottled appearance, they are designed (as you would imagine) for pairing with your chunky boots. They have become increasingly popular within men’s fashion due to the emphasis we have seen placed on an outdoorsy aesthetic and the rise of heavy duty footwear. Most men will now own a pair of hiking or military boots, and the thick construction of a boot sock ensures comfort when wearing this type of footwear for extended periods of time.

Not only that, they also make socks a legitimate fashion accessory during the colder months, when you wouldn’t usually consider cuffing your chinos or showing off your thin cotton versions. The longer length allows the socks to stick out the top of your boot, breaking up the lines between your trousers and footwear whilst allowing you to add another focal point or colour.

This season’s lookbooks and campaigns show that they do not have to be reserved to the winter months however. If you purchased boot socks last season, why not try implementing them into your spring looks? In the lookbook below you can see a couple of outfits where boot socks have been utilised with shorts, although more seasonal appropriate footwear, such as desert boots, would probably be a better option to pair them with than full on leather military versions.

Men's Boot Socks Lookbook

The Extra Rules
  • Always match your socks. Odd socks aren’t quirky; they make you look like you got dressed in the dark.
  • Don’t get attached. If you get a hole in your sock then it’s time for them to go. You wouldn’t carry on wearing a shirt or tie with holes in.
  • A flash of skin above the sock line is in the majors when it comes to true style sins. If we can see both sock and flesh, then I’m afraid the socks are just too short. Knee length socks can alleviate this issue if you’re struggling with the size of those made at ankle length. ‘Invisible’ socks are the cure for a VSL with cropped trousers or shorts.
  • Be confident in your sock choice. You may not always have your colour theory spot on and patterns may occasionally clash, but at least you’ve been bold enough to have some fun with it and be that little more individual.
  • If socks aren’t your thing in the warmer months, this is more than acceptable and in which case I will direct you to Matt Allinson’s article on the art of going sockless.
Men’s Socks
  • Falke Charcoal Firenze Fine Cotton SockFalke Charcoal Firenze Fine Cotton Sock
  • Topman Black Premium 3 Pack SocksTopman Black Premium 3 Pack Socks
  • Hugo Boss Plain SocksHugo Boss Plain Socks
  • Topman Pastel 3 Pack SocksTopman Pastel 3 Pack Socks
  • Uniqlo Men Colour SocksUniqlo Men Colour Socks
  • Paul Smith Polka Dot Socks 57445Paul Smith Polka Dot Socks 57445
  • Royalties Cable Knit SocksRoyalties Cable Knit Socks
  • Richard James Ribbed Cotton SocksRichard James Ribbed Cotton Socks
  • Falke Light Pink Shadow Stripe Ankle Socks FalkeFalke Light Pink Shadow Stripe Ankle Socks Falke
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Sailboat Embroidered SockPolo Ralph Lauren Sailboat Embroidered Sock
  • Paul Smith Fleur-de-lys Socks 57415Paul Smith Fleur-de-lys Socks 57415
  • Richard James Embroidered Cotton SocksRichard James Embroidered Cotton Socks
  • Paul Smith Striped SocksPaul Smith Striped Socks
  • Richer Poorer Mens Walk On SocksRicher Poorer Mens Walk On Socks
  • Happy Socks Stripe SocksHappy Socks Stripe Socks
  • American Apparel Stripe Calf-high SockAmerican Apparel Stripe Calf-high Sock
  • Paul Smith Accessories Navy Ankle Stripe SocksPaul Smith Accessories Navy Ankle Stripe Socks
  • Reiss Birch Fair Isle Socks RustReiss Birch Fair Isle Socks Rust
  • Austin Reed Richard James Orange Stripe SocksAustin Reed Richard James Orange Stripe Socks
  • Red & Navy Aztec SocksRed & Navy Aztec Socks
  • Happy Socks Animal Print SocksHappy Socks Animal Print Socks
Conclusion

We’ve become all-too notorious for advocating the notion that the devil is in the detail. That little extra bit of thought in the morning can bring you up a level in the fashion game and socks are fantastic tools for the job.

On the other hand, bad socks will have an incredibly negative impact on your look. A flash of flesh above a white gym sock will ruin even the crispest of bespoke suits; so give your socks more than the afterthought they deserve.

  • Are you a sock savant?
  • Have you learnt to incorporate socks as a more active part of your outfits?
  • Or do you need to up your sock game?
  • Do you neutral, block or pattern your slip ons?

Let us know in the comments below.