Sometimes rules are meant to be broken, but there are a few cardinal rules when it comes to socks. Bending and outright breaking of rules will take you into your own personal style when it comes to colors and patterns, but it's never acceptable to wear socks that are anything less than in perfect condition. Those foot coverings need to be checked and replaced regularly to ensure your footwear is as fresh and elegant as the rest of your attire.
At least every six months you should be restocking your sock drawer, adding a few new patterns and colors, and discarding anything that is less than best. In this period of use the socks will start to wear out, losing elasticity as well as possibly developing small holes. Socks with no elasticity will be badly fitting and constantly bag around your ankles, leaving you looking unkempt. If your socks don’t remain pulled up to their full extent, they should be tossed out.
RULE 1 – KEEP IT TIDY
So, you might not think it will ever happen, but just as your mother warned you when you were a little boy, someone might see your socks.
Common practice in some countries is to remove shoes before entering a room. Even though you might not be doing business in those countries, you could still find yourself in that situation. You stand there, sharply dressed, looking like the ultimate professional and you realize you have to remove your shoes. At the same time as this, you realize you are wearing socks that have worn thin / have a great big hole where your big toe is sticking out / that were retrieved from the floor in a hurry. Now you will be presenting your best self to your client or boss and you know it's a fail before you start.
Wash socks after every use. Even at its worst, you should have sufficient socks to see you through at least two weeks – this will cover you for work days, social nights and weekends and allow time to do a load of sock laundry once a week.
Socks come in pairs. Allow them to live and die together, like the couple they were meant to be. The moment you wear two different socks, it will be noticed, so unless you are looking for that kind of attention, stick to matching socks.
Pull those socks up. Don't roll or fold your socks for any reason. It looks messy and bulky, detracting from your overall look.
Socks with holes get thrown away. The days of darning and mending are gone. Socks are easily affordable – and please buy the best socks you can afford – and can be replaced without too much effort, especially with online shopping at the tips of your fingers (try www.Baronsocks.com). As soon as your socks start to get thin, plan to replace them.
RULE 2 – THE CASUAL APPROACH
It's a lovely warm summer day and you've decided to take it outside. A casual stroll through the local market, lunch at the park, hanging out with friends and keeping cool in the heat. It's definitely a day for shorts.
Pairing a neat chino short and plain tee with a suede shoe does not mean no socks. It means low cut, or invisible, socks. Shorts that are at your knee or below mean a sock that is at the top of your shoe or below. The shorter your shorts, the longer your socks can be.
There is room to have fun with this. You could be wearing white shorts and shoes, with a black and white tee and mix it up with a black and white patterned sock. Don't try to go too matchy matchy though otherwise you risk looking like the entire outfit came off a shop mannequin.
Just because it is casual daytime wear, doesn't mean the entire ensemble should be dismissed. Dressing well for work as well as for play reflects in the way you carry yourself. Always remember to pay attention to the sock section of the outfit to pull a look together.
A good rule of thumb to remember, casual shoes will want sport socks or low cut socks. You should be pairing your black athletic shoes with a low cut black sock (and white with white) so that it looks like a deliberate style choice. Black is always a preference for a sports sock as it hides dust and dirt well and remains looking fresh for longer.
Boat shoes, suede shoes and desert boots will all look great with shorts (matching your shorts to your footwear is a whole other conversation!) if paired correctly. The bare ankle look does not mean no socks however. It means your socks aren't visible.
Don't attempt to wear your closed shoes without at least a pair of low cut socks that aren't showing. You will end up with sweaty feet and ruined shoes. The recommended low cut sock will have either a high cotton content or be made with a fabric that wicks away sweat, allowing you to remain comfortable.
RULE 3 – DRESS IT UP
Dressier shoes will need dress socks. Not necessarily for work wear or a suit, but even a nice pair of narrow dark blue jeans will look fabulous with smart dress shoes. Cuff the leg of your jeans and elevate your look to a style with an eye-catching pair of socks in a bright color or pattern that picks up the color in your shirt or blazer.
Experiment and be bold. Make a statement. Show your fun side but keep a balance. Too much of a good thing is going to be bad.
Proceed with some restraint when adding bold patterns and colors to avoid looking garish so keep the rest of your outfit muted if you are going to add bright color. A beautifully cut charcoal suit with a pair of purple socks will add flair to your outfit.
Feel the fun and add a small pocket square in a matching color. Or wear a tie to match. Don't overdo the color matching though, unless you make balloon animals in the park for a living. Two matching items will show that you are aware of what you are doing and know when to stop. More than that will start looking overdone and silly.
And by matching, I mean picking up the main color. If you are wearing patterned red socks, don't attempt to find a tie with the exact same pattern – unless it's a uniform and you cannot escape it. Pick up the red from your socks and match it with a plain red tie. You now look stylish and elegantly put together, ready to conquer.
Whatever you do, if you plan to match something, don't match your socks to your shoes. The overall impression will be that you are wearing booties as there will be no definitive break between your shoes and your socks.
RULE 4 – NO SOCKS WITH OPEN SHOES
Don't do it. It's not nice for you and it's not nice for us. The only time this rule can only be broken is . . . no, it can't. Ever. No exceptions. If you want to wear socks, wear closed shoes. If you want to wear sandals or slides or open shoes, then you leave the socks behind. There is nothing more to say about this. Don't break this rule.
RULE 5 – WHITE SOCKS
Michael Jackson iconically did it. It was his signature look, and he was well known for it. You are not him, you cannot pull it off unless it's your fancy dress costume, or you do a Michael Jackson tribute act.
As a rule though, white socks are reserved for athletic shoes and sport. Tennis players and runners can wear white socks easily. They match well with tracksuit pants and running shoes and serve an important function for the sportsman.
Being constructed of a thicker, more absorbent fabric, they are designed to absorb moisture and keep the sportsman's feet dry. They cushion the feet within the shoes to a degree. This is what they were created for, not to be worn with business attire or formal wear.
Seeing a well-dressed businessman in a tailored dark charcoal suit is impressive. If he sits down, crosses his legs and flashes two inches of white sock, it ruins the whole impression. It looks sloppy and shoddy and shows that details are not important to him.
The same applies to black athletic socks. Athletic socks are thicker than dress socks and will look bulky and cumbersome with dress shoes, again leaving an impression of thick ankles, untidiness and carelessness.
In conclusion, some rules can be broken and some just shouldn't be. Keep your outfit sharp and unfussy. Remember that your brightly colored socks will attract attention and anything that is not on point will end up looking scruffy and unattractive. Above all, don't forget that you have a personal style that you enjoy, and it's personal to you. Do it with flair and carry it off with confidence.