Complete Guide to Pairing Socks With Shoes

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Choosing the right pair of socks can be a surprisingly formidable task. Should they match your shoes? What about your pants? Are SpongeBob socks appropriate for the workplace? Is it ever OK to pair socks with Birkenstock sandals? Here are six tips to keep in mind as you peer into your sock drawer.

Don’t Match Your Socks to Your Shoes

At least not exactly. If you pair your bright red shoes with bright red socks, they blend together into an amorphous blob of crimson cotton and leather. The result? Nobody notices your stylish kicks.

That’s not to say that your socks and shoes can’t be in the same color family. Socks that are a few shades darker or a few shades lighter than your footwear are fine. The key is some level of differentiation between where your socks end and your shoes begin.

Save Your White Socks for the Gym

It’s all too easy to grab a pair of white crew, ankle or knee socks from the drawer and call it a day. Unless you’re about to put some miles on your Puma shoes, however, you should opt for a colored sock. Even a simple black, brown or navy hue is an improvement over wearing basic white socks 24/7.

Embrace Moderation

Socks come in an endless array of playful patterns, from stars and stripes to skateboarding pizzas. If you want to your socks to vibe with the rest of your ensemble, remember this: The bolder your sock design, the more restrained your shoes’ style should be. Combine too many colors, graphics, prints or patterns and your socks aren’t making a fun statement; they’re fighting for attention.

Don’t Forget About Your Pants

It’s important to pair your socks with your shoes, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your pants out of the equation. In fact, the easiest way to ensure that your socks match your shoes is to match your socks with your pants first. When you do, your socks essentially act as extensions of your pants. While you never want your socks and shoes to blend together, doing so with your socks and pants is perfectly fine. Your shoes will still stand out.

Speaking of shoes that stand out…

Pair Bold Shoes With Subdued Socks

If you pick out your shoes before your socks, that choice should influence which socks you put on. For example, if you’re rocking a modern, colorful pair of ASICS sneakers, you should keep your socks relatively simple. That doesn’t mean you have to go with boring white crew socks, but it does mean you should probably save those polychromatic hiking socks depicting the moon landing for another day. Generally speaking, bold socks pair best with smart shoes that embrace simple lines.

Recognize When It’s OK To Wear Socks With Sandals

There are two times when it’s appropriate to wear socks with sandals:

  • When you’re leaving the gym and you don’t want to get your indoor sneakers dirty on the trek to your car, public transportation or nearby home
  • When you’re over 80 years old and therefore have the sartorial license to do virtually anything you want

Matching your socks to your shoes isn’t rocket science, but doing it well does involve forethought. Choose socks that reflect your personality and don’t steal the spotlight from your footwear.


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