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I always liked the saying “If you want to know if a man is well-dressed, look down.” But while this refers to footwear, and it can tell you a lot about how well-dressed a man is, I prefer to consider his socks.

A man’s shoes tell you about how much money he spends, perhaps about his taste and certainly about how well he looks after his clothes. A man with well-turned, well-polished brown brogues under his blue suit demonstrates a certain interest and investment in what he wears.

But socks tell you something different. Socks tell you immediately whether someone can be bothered. In the City, most suits are dark. Most men wear black shoes. So if they wear black socks every day, they will look smart, professional and have to spend absolutely no time in the morning thinking about their socks.

If, on the other hand, a City man decides to wear socks that match his suit, he will need at least three colours – grey, blue and black (yes, a depressing number of City workers still wear black suits). He will be more stylish and his legs will look longer. But he will need enough of each colour to make sure he doesn’t run out, and a certain time will be needed tin the morning to select the right pair. Travelling will take a little more thought as well.

It’s not a big expense, but wearing socks that match your trousers shows you care. Someone boasted to me recently that he always wears a belt that matches his shoes. I asked him what colour his shoes were. He had three black pairs and one brown. And admitted he usually wore brown at the weekend. Not much of an effort to match his belt to them, then.

Socks, on the other hand, take a little effort. Particularly if you get into the world of pattern, and have some stripes, spots etc. Then you have to consider the pattern on your trousers as well (roughly the same guidelines as ties – create contrast in the scale of the pattern). It all takes a little more time.

Colours of course, are another big jump up. Dark red and dark green are often recommended for grey suits. I’ve always liked purples and pinks with navy. And bright red or yellow seem to fit best with tan shoes, in my opinion.

But this is just one of the factors. As soon as you go for colour, the whole outfit has to be borne in mind. Is matching the sock to the tie a little too affected? Is it better if one is patterned? As with a handkerchief, you probably want something that harmonises without matching, but you are likely to have fewer options with socks than handkerchiefs.

Unusual colours are a quantum leap from grey, blue and black. But look out for the man who can be bothered to match his socks to his trousers. It is the best and quickest sign of someone who cares.

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initials CG

I agree completely with the comments here. I especially like the title of your post, because I, too, believe that it shows careful thought. And that is always appreciated.

One curiosity: should socks match the trousers or the shoes? I’ve heard both, but I’m curious to other opinions and reasons.

I usually try to match the socks to my trousers. They are often solids like blues, browns, dark grays, medium grays, and rarely a black pair in a variety of weights for fall/winter, spring, and summer. I enjoy some play in subtle pattern however. In fact, I am always looking for the very subtle patterns that you have to be very close to notice.

I’ve mistakenly matched socks to ties a few times without intention. It looked terribly affected once, but damn good the other time.

annabelle

agree with comments by CG. I discovered Italian label Stanley Lewis who does this harmonising beautifully. I have been a fan since Christmas when I gifted my husband a pack. He now owns 5 different designs. http://www.stanleygentlemen.com.

Bertie Wooster

Hello…apolgies if this question has been answered elsewhere…did not come across

You said you could wear dark red or dark green with a grey suit…would that work only if you had brown shoes on, or is it okay with black shoes too

And in the case of a blue suit, will different coloured socks go with black shoes generally, or does one need brown shoes

Many thanks
BW

Antonymous

I prefer indeed matching socks to my shoes or dress shirt :).

Anonymous

Hello Simon,
This might seem like a bit of a random question, but now that I have acquired over the calf socks in different colors, I’m wondering what to do with my old black mid calf ones. What do you do with your old socks?

Bernie

Hi Simon,

What are your thoughts on linen socks for extremely hot summer weather in California?

Bernie Leung

I was indeed looking at the 100% linen socks from Bresciana but have read that some spandex is preferable otherwise there will be piling in the toebox.

I’m assuming thin cotton lisle would be the tried and true route?

I bought the 80/20 merino wools socks from Bresciania in a 240 thread count but it seems they will wear too hot for summer.

Bernie

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

For no show socks, do you just buy them from Uniqlo?

John

Hi Simon,

I’ve got two questions, if I may:

1. Is it in your opinion required to match the socks’ pattern colour to that of the shirt’s pattern if the tie and pocket square of an outfit are plain? For example, what do you think of this combination: dark navy suit, white shirt with dense light blue pinstripes, plain navy or charcoal tie, white handkerchief, navy socks with red stripes? Whitout hesitation I’d choose navy socks with blue stripes, but I don’t know about colour (red) that is not present elsewhere in the outfit.

2. You wrote this article (I apologize to reference it here, but I consider it related topic): https://www.permanentstyle.com/2007/12/red-socks-not-red-lining.html. I’ve just commissioned a bespoke dark navy suit with a plain red (burgundy, not bright) lining, but I want to regularly wear accessories of different colours (in my case that means shirts with blue checks or stripes and socks with (blue, green) coloured patterns, since I prefer rather plain and conservative ties and pocket squares). Now I wonder, if I did “violate” some sartorial or connoisseurial “rules”? Since the lining is practically never seen, it never occured to me that there should be so much thought in choosing it. I thought that plain red lining with navy suit is quite conservative and versatile combination (which I strived for but wanted to avoid navy lining since the suit is rather dark and there would be mismatch of colours which I don’t like).

Thank you very much!

J.