By Heather Johnston
In the world of menswear, there are tons of guidelines to follow when selecting the perfect combination of undergarments and accessories for a particular outfit, especially a suit. Though these un-spoken rules are often overlooked by guys in more casual contexts, there is a certain etiquette that goes into dressing up that should be acknowledged to give the right impression with the right outfit.
With the strategic thought that is placed on the perfect belt, shoes, and even undershirt when coordinating a suit, the most forgotten accessory tends to be socks. However, socks are very important, because they are very visible to those around you. Chances are, if you are going to the trouble to put on a suit, you are trying to make a good impression, so we have prepared some general rules to follow to make sure your dress socks stay tactful, not tacky.
Just to make sure we are starting on the same page, let’s go ahead and state the obvious: No white socks with a suit! White socks are either in the medical or athletic genres of footwear, so don’t ruin your business or formal wear by breaking this simple rule. It is distracting and unattractive for many reasons, so simply avoid this faux pas.
Selecting your sock color is a bit trickier, because the ideal shade is based on the color of your suit. You want the dress socks you wear to be a shade darker than your suit pants, but in the same color family to create continuity all the way down to the floor. A common misconception is that socks should match your shoes, but in truth, you could be creating a line at your ankle where the socks are visible, which shortens your frame. Therefore, socks that blend with your suit pants are a much better fit, because they are subtle and elongate your legs.
If you, however, are someone who is daring in his fashion statements and enjoy combining heavily patterned socks with your suits, there is an aesthetically pleasing way to approach this issue as well. If you are wearing a suit that is patterned, you should wear solid color socks. But if you have a suit that is uniform in color and would like to add a bit of flair, choose socks with an unobtrusive pattern that have a hint of another color your are wearing—perhaps that of your tie. The patterned socks should still blend with the leg of the suit, but the added touch of a matching color can be very chic.
As far as sock length and thickness are concerned, you should make sure the socks are a thin cotton/nylon or cashmere blend for wear with leather shoes and extend over the calf. You truly want to avoid ever having your bare leg exposed when in a suit and sitting down, as well as wearing thick socks that are meant to be paired with chinos or jeans, because both show that you are unaware of the difference between casual and dress socks. A great rule of thumb is to match the thickness of your socks to the thickness of your suit or slacks.
In summary, socks are an important detail associated with men’s suits and should be acknowledged to avoid any embarrassing fashion mistakes. Hopefully, these basic dress sock guidelines will help you make the right footwear decisions and keep you looking sharp!