With men's business attire having such a narrow range of choices – suit, shirt, shoes and tie - it used to be the necktie that was the only outlet for a bit of flair and personality when dressing for work. Corporate attire dictated that the outfit should be discrete and not flashy. Changing up the tie game brought a bit more fun and colour into the mix, but socks were still a bit of a touchy topic, being respectably serious and remaining black, black or black. Occasionally you would wear grey, navy or beige, depending on what colour suit you were wearing.
Often overlooked and disregarded, the importance of a good fitting and good looking sock is underestimated. This article on men's socks will attempt to highlight the importance and also offer some insight and guidance.
When you consider what you will be wearing, whether for a business meeting, a social occasion or to simply play a casual sport, you spend a fair amount of time selecting your clothing. Do you ever think of how important your socks will be in that outfit? No? You are not alone. This is a seldom thought of aspect, often seen as a necessary but unimportant part of clothing. Everyone has to wear socks but no one wants to spend too much time thinking about them or buying them. If first impressions (and second, and third!) really do count, don't spend a small fortune on a beautiful suit and then overlook the socks!
Since the first time someone decided to create a comfortable buffer between naked feet and footwear, way back in the time of making shoes out of animal skins by hand – and I'm not talking about your expensive bespoke shoes now, I'm referring to back when electricity hadn't been discovered – the sock industry has come a long way. At first socks were made out of animal skin and fur, until mankind progressed a bit further and someone decided to hand knit socks. Their functionality was of prime importance, and they were not considered for their looks. They had to last and serve the wearer well.
Now, of course, knitting machines are used to make socks. Thousands of socks can be made in an hours, which makes the finished product cheaper and more readily available. The advent of synthetic yarns and blends also makes the sock more practical. Adding in Lycra and elasticated yarns meant that the sock garters could be done away with, giving them staying up power and making them far more comfortable to wear. Knee socks are mostly a thing of the past in formal wear now, so if this is your particular sock that you enjoy, they are quite difficult to find and will not have the same range of colours and patterns as the regular mid-calf sock.
The option of fabrics, styles and patterns that are now available means that you can match your socks to your every mood and sock-wearing opportunity. Either discreetly patterned, brightly coloured or with a repeating novelty print, socks are quite the fun option now. Of course, if you are a traditional black sock man, those will always be in style and some occasions just call for them, such as a black tie event. A tuxedo will generally not work well with your wonderfully trendy bright socks.
The original reasons for socks still exist to a large degree, although we've come a long way from animal skin. Warmth and protection were the first reasons for the creation of socks, protecting the wearer from the rough ground, and keeping feet dry. Back then the protection was primary as something as small as a cut on your foot could end in your death. Keeping feet dry and warm was also about keeping alive rather than looking great.
The newer reason now for wearing socks is style.
Wearing a pair of funky printed socks that coordinate with your ensemble will add a certain quirky twist to your overall look. Just because you are wearing your serious businessy suit to your serious businessy meeting, does not mean that you have to hide your playful side. You could easily be wearing a pair of fun novelty socks with a cute pattern on them, or showing which team you support.
A certain unnamed prime minister of a certain unnamed country to the north of America is proof of this. He never misses an opportunity to wear his socks with pride and shows them off whenever he can. Often sporting a Star Wars theme, he has also been spotted flashing a pair of bright red socks with maple leaves on them and occasionally wears a pair of purple socks with a green skull and crossbones pattern. He approaches his sock wearing with fun and flair, daring to buck the old school trend of neutrals. It's become an iconic trademark for him, showing his quirky side while he takes care of serious business.
Once upon a time, you would have been taught to match your socks to your trousers. So navy pants called for navy socks. The reason for this was to ensure a smooth visual transition between your shoes and the rest of your clothing. When sitting, the sock would be revealed and being of the same colour, wouldn't be distracting or eye-catching. A discreet slither of sock wouldn't be noticed if it blended neutrally with the pants.
There are two golden rules for sock wearers. One, the socks must match – each other, that is. Two, under no circumstance should the socks have holes in them.
Taking the time on laundry day to fold your socks together, in matching pairs, will ensure that you always have a perfect pair. Imagine preparing for weeks for your sales pitch to a potential client. You do your pitch and confidently cross your legs. You glance down and notice you are wearing one black sock and one navy sock. You now have to ignore your socks, pretend you know nothing about them and bring your focus back to your client who has also just noticed your socks don’t match. Cringe.
Neatly folded socks will be easier to sort through when dressing and prevent last minute laundry basket diving and hoping for the best. When folding the sock pairs, you will also be able to pick out which need replacing, making sure that socks that no longer fit well or any with holes are removed. You never know when you may need to remove your shoes in a public place or meeting and having to try and discreetly camouflage the hole over your big toe will take more effort than it's worth. Keeping your clothing in good repair and replacing worn items is an important part of dressing well.
When it comes to socks, men now have the choice of silk, cotton, wool, and synthetics like nylon, rayon and Lycra when they select their socks. Natural fabrics are always the best choice especially for health benefits. Nobody likes sweaty feet. Ever. Able to wick away any moisture, they keep the feet dry and safe from blisters as well as protect the shoe from damage.
Knowing which kind of sock to wear with which kinds of shoes or pants is important. Wearing no-show socks with dress shoes will leave you uncomfortable and sporting blisters for a long while. These socks should be avoided for boots, sandals and high-tops. They belong in loafers or certain kinds of sneakers. Pair them with shorts for the best look.
Ankle socks, slightly higher than the no-shows, are athletic wear. These socks will be visible and come to just below the ankle. Any physical activity that might call for your trainers or athletic shoes, will warrant these socks. Black, in this case, is always a good choice as they will remain clean looking for longer as well as being inconspicuous. These are not really statement makers, and they will generally be cotton or a more advanced blend of wicking fabric. They are high enough to prevent blisters.
Your staple sock is the mid-calf sock. These are perfect for boots, sneakers, loafers as well as dress shoes – never sandals. In fact, if you are thinking of wearing any kind of socks with your sandals, rule three applies to you. Rule Three says "Never ever wear socks with sandals".
Wear your mid-calf socks with your everyday work wear, whether a suit or more casual slacks, as well as with casual wear such as jeans. It's advisable to keep these socks for long trousers and avoid wearing them with shorts. It will probably be a weird look, but if that's what you are aiming for, then go ahead with the blessing of sock lovers everywhere.
You are now left to choose your patterns and colours, whether you want to be uniquely funky or traditional in the sock department. This is always a matter of personal style and you should feel free to head in whichever direction puts a smile on your face. Don't allow old-fashioned corporate rules stifle your spirit and creativity. Express yourself by dressing your feet in whatever takes your fancy.