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How to up Your Sock Game

Socks are an important part of a man’s wardrobe. They help you avoid blisters and other unpleasant side-effects that can come from wearing shoes. More importantly, they help you avoid massive foot funk. Can you imagine how bad society would smell without socks?

You probably understand how to wear socks for the sake of function, but learning about form is important too. If you’re ready to expand your fashion knowledge and learn more about making your socks look good, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to cover all of it, from color schemes to sock-style choices. It’s time to become an expert on men’s socks (are we nerds for being excited about this?).

Types of Socks

If we’re going to learn about the sock game, it makes sense to first understand the primary types of socks that men are likely to wear. You’re probably familiar with standard white cotton socks and dress socks. There’s a lot more in the world than those two. So, let’s break down the basics and get you started.


As the name suggests, these socks are designed to be worn without showing. They only go as high as the Achilles tendon. They provide the comfort and softness of a sock, but with no visibility, they don’t make much of a fashion statement, and that in itself is the statement.

No-show socks are common in warm weather. If you’re wearing shorts or casual attire, the no show socks protect your feet and keep you from looking goofy. They’re a staple, and every guy needs a cache of no-show socks.


Contrary to popular belief among some groups of guys, athletic socks are not all-purpose socks. True athletic socks are designed for intense use. They tend to be thicker, tougher and even come in compression varieties. Athletic socks are primarily about function, rather than form. You can find them in colors and designs that you like, but you’ll be more worried about socks that are good for your feet.

These are ideal when you’re playing sports or getting serious about your hiking. They’re not meant to be casual attire, and that’s something too many guys get wrong.


how to up your sock game

Fashion socks are often confused with dress socks. Let’s end that confusion right now. Fashion socks are for anything fancier than completely casual, but they’re not what you wear for truly formal settings. They’re great with business casual. When you want to look like you’re putting in the effort, but you aren’t wearing a suit, fashion socks are the way to go.

They’re one of the trickier socks to master. They come in every type of design you can imagine, and it’s easy to miss match them with outfits. Still, they can be a lot of fun.


Dress socks are what you wear with a suit (or anything even more formal than that). Plenty of guys have to wear them at work. You’ll wear them to formal gatherings. They’re a staple. There are two rules you need to know about dress socks. First, they should completely cover the skin that might show when you sit down. That’s their primary function.

Second, they need to be planned with the rest of your outfit. We’ll talk about matching socks in a minute. What you need to know now is that it matters more with dress socks than any other.

Matching Socks

We’ll talk about which socks should be worn in which scenarios in a bit. First, you need to learn about colors and patterns. There are a few rules you need to learn about how to match socks with an ensemble. Most of it is simple, but if you don’t know the basics, you can look like a complete goofball when it’s not your intention.

With Each Other

We’re starting with a softball. Your socks should come in pairs. Wear them as pairs. It really is that easy, but here’s where some guys mess up. If you get a pack of socks that all look the same, you need to match them for wear. Really, you shouldn’t wear socks that are no longer firmly elastic, but when you ignore that advice, make sure you don’t have one pristine sock and one old sock. It’s actually worse than two old socks.

With Shoes

The rule here is that you don’t match your socks with your shoes. That doesn’t mean it’s bad if you have dark shoes with dark socks (or anything other near-match). The real lesson here is that you need to match your socks with other parts of your outfit more.

Ideally, you want the socks to create a coordinated contrast with the shoes. It should be easy to see where the shoe ends and the sock takes over. That style prevents the dress ensemble from appearing like a boot at a glance. The contrast is the sock's strength.

how to up your sock game

With Your Outfit

When you’re using dress socks, they should match your pants. We’re not talking about a rough match; suits should be sold with truly matching socks. That’s the important thing. The sock works as an extension of the pants to cover your ankles/legs when the pants pull up a fraction while you sit. That’s the point.

When it comes to informal outfits, then matching the pants isn’t important. Instead, you only care about avoiding clashing. Most of the time, you’ll be looking at white socks or athletic socks with jeans. That’s safe and easy. When you’re somewhere between beach casual and business casual, your fashion socks will shine. Again, they don't have to match as much as they need to avoid outright clashing.

With Accessories

Again, this is less about truly matching and more about coordinating. There’s a lot that goes into this, so rather than bog you down with the details of complementary colors, we’re going to give you a reference guide. Until you go that deep, the rule remains to avoid outright clashing. When you master complementary colors, it will really make your outfit pop.

Pairing Socks

This is the part of the guide that a lot of guys need the most. This is where we help you learn how to pick socks to go with your general outfit. Let’s get into it.

Socks and Jeans

It’s a common theme. We all wear jeans on plenty of occasions. There are nearly infinite options when it comes to jeans. If you’re wearing tennis shoes, no-show socks are a great way to go. If you’re wearing something a little nicer on your feet, you expand the sock choices.

Fashion socks often shine with jeans and stylish shoes. Because patterns and colors are unlimited, the trick is to consider the whole ensemble. Ideally, the shoes, jeans, and socks should not all be the same color. You want to break that up and add a little pop to what you’re wearing.

Additionally, you want to consider your torso. Coordinate with the shirt (or sweater, or whatever shows the most on top). You can refer back to the complementary color guide for the best choices.

Socks With a Suit

The general rule of wearing a suit is that the socks should match the pants. We mentioned this briefly. Typically, when you purchase a suit, you can get truly matching socks at the same time. It’s pretty easy, and it’s the way to go in the formal occasions that often require you to wear that suit.

There’s a huge exception to this. You aren’t limited to wearing suits at work, weddings, and funerals. You can wear them on a date or for fun. When you’re wearing a suit outside of a formal occasion (or semi-formal), then you can have a lot more fun. You can get away from religiously matching your trousers, and you can even get back to your fashion socks.

You can coordinate the socks with the tie. You can get a little silly and have socks with characters or whatever you like on them. As long as they’re appropriate for the setting and they still don’t outright clash, feel free to have a little fun and be expressive.

Socks With a Monkey Suit

how to up your sock game

When it comes to a fully formal setting, tuxedo rules are simple. For a black-tie affair, you wear black, silky socks. That said, there are fun tuxes that get far away from the traditional. In those cases, the socks will either match the trousers or the vest. Again, they should come with the ensemble when you buy it (or rent it if it’s that kind of occasion). Following the designed fashion is the best way to stay out of trouble.

If you absolutely insist on wearing wacky socks to a formal event, you better be an eccentric billionaire. They’re the only ones who get away with it.

Socks With Shorts

The last one is still pretty common. It’s also super easy. The modern rule is that socks should not be seen with shorts. If you think about it, this was always going to become the rule. How long have socks been unacceptable with sandals? It’s a simple evolution to extend that to shoes as well.

The idea here is that shorts are showing off your legs. Socks get in the way of that, and unless you have some truly innovative ideas, socks don’t look great with man legs. You’re hairy. Your legs don’t naturally match any fabric. It’s just a weird thing to try and pair socks with skin. So don’t. If you’re showing your legs, commit to it and go with no-show socks. It’s an easy rule, and you’ll look good doing it. It just means that you can’t skip leg day.

That covers the essentials. You know your sock types. You know your sock settings. You know the basics of sock colors, and you have some extra resources to expand your color game. You’re ready. Socks will never hold back your sense of fashion again.



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