How To Match Socks: Should Socks Match Shoes or Pants?

by Barron Cuadro  |  in Style Tips

Should you know how to match socks with your shoes, your pants, or your entire outfit? Is there a right or wrong answer for all situations? The short answer: Maybe. (haha) Read on to learn more.

So here are some questions you may have:

  • Do I match my socks to my shoes or my pants?
  • What about my shirt, can I match my socks to that?
  • Should my socks match my underwear?
  • Since my belt and shoes match, should I match my socks to those?

Okay, I was exaggerating a little (hopefully none of you are going out of your way to match your underwear), but some of those questions are valid, and you may find yourself asking them once in a while.

(Side note, I despise the idea of “matching” your socks to anything, and you’ll see what I mean by the end of this article.)

How To Match Your Socks And Shoes: A Visual Guide

Take a look at this visual guide I put together. The yellow square represents standard ankle-height athletic socks, and the magenta triangle is every other type of sock, dress or “smart casual”.

Looking for the full-sized version? (right click, Open in New Tab)

Here’s a quick summary of how to match your socks

  • Athletic socks (white and black no-show socks, first sock column) for athletic shoes / casual sneakers only
  • “Dress socks” (everything from the second sock column, on) for every shoe other than athletic shoes
  • No thin / fine dress socks for athletic shoes
  • No white / black athletic socks for dress shoes

Side note: You may also be interested in how to match your belt to your shoes. If so, check out this video:

A few more color / fabric sock tips:

  • color tip: Be bold! Don’t worry about matching pants to socks
  • color tip: Pair socks with colors in your outfit, be a little experimental
  • fabric tip: Cotton and cotton blend striped and patterned socks for casual sneakers, casual or dressier leather shoes
  • fabric tip: Thicker cotton and wool varieties for casual leather shoes
  • fabric tip: Fine wool blend and cashmere dress socks for leather dress shoes

See what I did there?

There’s absolutely no matching involved between socks and shoes. It’s about pairing socks with colors complementary to the rest of your outfit.

The “Match your pants to your socks” Rule

“But, B, isn’t there a rule that says you should always match (ugh) your socks to your pants? Black pants, black socks? Navy pants, navy socks? Brown pants, brown socks?”

Yes. That rule exists because when you match your socks to your pants, it visually elongates your legs. Long legs look good.

However, this is mostly applicable for formalwear, or whenever you’re wearing trousers. For jeans and chinos, you don’t have to follow this rule.

Boardroom Socks

From the yarns they use to their meticulous design, Boardroom Socks' commitment to quality traces all the way through the production process. Each pair of socks is hand-inspected before being shipped to your door.

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In the past, I’ve been a big fan of colorful, fun, vibrant socks, but I’ve dialed it back a lot over the years, and I now suggest to readers that they do the same.

I prefer socks in menswear neutral colors. If any pattern is involved, it’s small and subtle. Check out the socks from one of my favorite brands, Boardroom Socks. Their use of color, texture, and pattern is very elegant and, in my opinion, much better than going in-your-face colorful and vibrant.

How do I pair my socks with my clothes?

If you stick to menswear neutral colors, it’s really hard to mismatch your socks to your outfit. That’s because menswear neutrals naturally match each other, and every other color out there.

Menswear neutral-friendly wool socks on the left, vs. a bold yellow and navy stripe sock on the right. The socks on the left will go with many more outfits. The socks on the right are eye-catching and not easy to wear well.

I’m encouraging you to use color judiciously. Stick with menswear neutrals, and if you want a bit of color and pattern in your socks, that’s totally fine, but keep it subtle.

Looking for color pairing inspiration? Check out our Pinterest boards for great color inspiration.

socks: Boardroom Socks, Hanes, Corgi, Happy Socks, J.Crew // shoes: Nike, Keds, Sperry, Tod’s, Clarks, LL Bean, Alden // credit: photo, photo