I have contemplated a men’s guide to socks for some time, debating with myself whether it is enough of a subject to really write about. How much is there to men’s socks? How bad can it go? I am not sure if there are unwritten rules for wearing men’s socks, but if there are – I had the misfortune to sit opposite a gentleman on the train today who broke them all. He was sitting with his legs crossed and his trendy brightly coloured stripey socks on proud display for the world to admire. No harm there I hear you say, and in most cases you would be right. However in this instance, it looked very wrong, he broke the rules.
The socks on display were a sky blue and baby pink stripy combination, not my first choice considering he was wearing cream chino trousers, green jumper and brown shoes. The socks were old and the colours were faded and dirty. This would be harder to tell on dark sock, but because of the choice of colours, meant this was very noticable and they looked scruffy. Did I say his socks were old? I meant they looked REALLY old! The elastic was loose so his pale, hairy calves were showing. I am still feeling a little nautous now, it was very distressing. While I am on the subject of sock crimes, do not wear white sport socks with a suit and shoes. It looked bad in the 80’s, it looks worse today. The only person who could get away with it was Michael Jackson, and you are not Michael Jackson even if you have sewn diamante sequins on to your socks and can moonwalk.
Rule 1: Match your colours correctly
Socks should compliment or contrast with your outfit, but never clash with it. Learn what colours work well together. If in doubt, choose socks the same colour as your trousers. I know a lot of the advice out there is to match your socks to your shoes, but you need to understand what this does to the overall illusion. Matching your socks to your trousers will mean the visual contrast between colours is an extra inch or so lower. This gives the impression of lengthening your leg, making you look taller. Matching your socks to your shoes will raise that contrast by an inch or so, making you look shorter.
Once you understand the best way to make colours work for you – experiment and use your socks to add a dash of colour as you would with a tie or pocket square. In a recent Wall Street Journal article with Michael Drake by Kristiano Ang, Michael Drake (of Drakes of London fame) revealed in the blog post Drakes Co-Founder: ‘Men Should Be Stylish, Not Fashionable’
I always wear purple socks, which is a bit unusual. I like to match a lilac cashmere sweater with plain but nice lilac socks. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a look. – Michael Drake
Rule 2: Socks should always look clean and fresh
If they are starting to look worn out, they are. The days of dyeing and darning socks are long gone, throw them out and replace them. Did I say look clean and fresh? I meant they must BE clean and fresh. Everyone remembers the guy at collage who never changed his socks and you knew when he came in the room just from the smell of his feet. Don’t let that be you! (if that was you, I am sorry, somebody should have told you at the time).
Rule 3: Never accidentally show your calf
The only time you should show any flesh between your shoes and trousers is if you decide not to wear any socks at all. I defy anyone to say they don’t admire Nick Wooster! Your trousers will rise up approximately 5″ when you sit down, so make sure your socks can cope. Have them at least 7″ above your ankle bone, or half way between your foot and your knee (what ever is easiest to remember) so you don’t give anyone a nasty surprise.
Rule 4: Keep sports socks for sports
Wear the right socks in the right place at the right time. Leave sports socks for when you actually play sports and you will be fine. All too often you will see guys walking around with jeans far too short, exposing white socks and shoes. Even worse than that is white socks with a dark suit and shoes. Make sure you are not the man who gets this wrong. If you have to be reminded you are really not MJ – There is a problem! I wish there was more to say about this travesty, but there isn’t.
Rule 5: Remember socks come in pairs
Sounds obvious right? But some men still get this wrong, but in subtle ways so they think the have gotten away with it. I am talking about the guys who have a drawer full of black socks and they pick up two just because they are black. Who is going to notice if the material is different or one is slightly more faded because you have had it longer? The truth? probably not everyone, but far more people than you would expect. Don’t risk it, after all, it’s sloppy and you are an elegant modern gentleman, you don’t do sloppy. Socks should live together and die together.
Rule 6: Do not take your socks for granted
Upgrading your socks is an affordable upgrade, where a step up in quality will make a significant difference to how you feel, after all you wear them all day! When you buy socks 5 pairs for £3 from your local discount store, you are undermining your style credentials. It’s an easy upgrade that really will make a difference.
Remember Socks do not always have to be black, grey or navy. Colour is cool, fun and fresh. If Michael Drake (who I have only every seen impeccably dressed) can wear signature purple socks, you can inject a bit of colour too!
These are some of my favourite socks of the moment:
Selfridges says: Made from a soft cotton–blend and detailed with a colourful print, Hugo Boss’ fine striped socks are designed with both comfort and style in mind. Complete with reinforced heels and logo detailing.
I say these are great socks that manage to walk the line between fun and subtle. The colour is great (as Michael Drake will testify). The shade is dark enough not to draw too much attention and loud enough to look great.
- Striped pattern sock
- Contrast stripe on each sock
- Block colour heel and toe
I say: If you feel comfortable with colour and you really like to stand out in a crowd, then these are the socks for you! They are also a great bargain at only £15 because the quality is first rate and similar to socks costing twice as much.