In Style + Design

Sock Etiquette: Style Rules For The Modern Man To Live By

Socks: an easily forgettable yet crucial link in the male wardrobe. Let these rules guide you through our new world of stripes, colours and patterned socks.

Socks: an easily forgettable yet crucial link in the male wardrobe. For something so inconspicuous, socks hold a lot of sway – they have the power to just as easily ruin an outfit as completely make it when chosen right. Though in the past socks might have functioned solely as perfunctory shoe protectors, these days a well-picked pair sets the fashionable and the style-challenged apart.

For best style results, brush up on the ins and outs of this understated wardrobe fundamental, and let sock etiquette help you kill it in the office and beyond.

Take heed: both socks, you need

Socks are born and destined to live as twins, so make sure you keep the family together. The threat of sibling loss – thanks to ravenous pets, spin dryer vortices, et al. – is real, so be extra vigilant and keep your eyes on the deuce at all times. No one has time or patience for a ‘swapped in’ mismatch – it’ll get noticed, it’s sloppy, and it’ll likely make the wrong impression.

Do colour right

The explosion of acceptable hues in the modern sock spectrum has never been more generous or exciting, but don’t let the central tenet go – good style always relies on that artful mix of confidence and restraint.

For a classic, fluid look, coordinating sock colour with the tone of your trousers remains the conservative go-to – you can’t go wrong if you follow this line. But hey, it’s 2017, and breaking up the monotony can be a welcome thing. Bolder dressers should consider mixing it up with a contrasting tone, especially if it successfully complements another detail of the ensemble (tie, shirt, pocket square, etc.).

NB: this only works if it looks deliberate, and it’s within the parameters of good taste (casually pairing hiking socks with tan khakis is not going to win you any friends).

The Happy Socks brand is built on bright colour combinations. Photo: Happy Socks/Facebook

Ensemble is king

Whether business attire, weekend casual or black tie, the broader ensemble is always king. By all means splash out on a pair of power socks, but make sure they work in the context of your overall outfit.

Banish holes from your life

Being a sock is a tough gig – you’re on every day, keeping things dry, getting the life squashed out of you (for little reward or recognition). It’s a rigorous job. Even the best-sewn pairs have a shelf life, so be sure to wash regularly, don a fresh pair daily, and keep a well-stocked drawer of rotating options. When a pair has finally given up its ghost, put them out of commission no matter how ‘comfy’ you think they are. Holes in your socks? Holes in your life. It’s a mantra to live by.

Length matters

Sock length is a serious consideration in the mix. Steer clear from showing raw ankle – always go for longer rather than shorter. Calf length, about middle of the way up, is a fair bet. Don’t forget that when you sit down in a suit or slacks, your trouser hem will raise a good few inches (and the last thing you want is anyone copping an eyeful of your exposed hairy leg flesh in between).

Consider the occasion

Even the most well curated and fashionably dynamic sock-and-suit selections can fall apart if they’re worn in the wrong setting. Consider business situations in different cultures – the Japanese, for example, don’t always keep shoes on over meals, something you’ll want to keep in the back of your mind if you’re hoping to close that Tokyo deal wearing busted or incongruously toned socks. Avoid a potentially embarrassing situation – Blacksocks co-founder Samy Liechti founded the global ‘Sockscription’ service for this very reason.

Dress shoes? Dress socks

As with the ‘broader ensemble’ tenet, make sure your shoes determine the quality of your socks. In short, dress shoes demand dress socks – the dressier the situation is, the darker the socks need to be.

Don’t fold

Folding socks is, like neck sweaters, neon and parachute pants, a trend bound firmly to the 1980s and ought to stay there for a reason.

Take them off in the sack

All kinks aside, no one wants to be in bed with someone with their socks on. As well as being downright uncomfortable under the covers, they’ll overheat you in the night and give you nightmares.

The peril of ‘motif’

We’re all know the guy in the office who regales all come Christmas time with generous flashes of his lime green reindeer ankle socks. Don’t be that guy. Unless you’re off to a fancy dress bash or themed affair, leave seasonal gaudiness to others and stick to your style guns. There’s nothing wrong with motifs, but stay classy: polka dots, stripes and classic shapes are always the way forward.

 There you have it. Though remember: rules are always there to be broken, but only if you know the rule in and out to confidently baulk it with your own personal style. Choose right, choose thoughtfully, and be a savvy power sock hero.

Published 20 July, 2017