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Learn How to Match Socks

Q: “When suiting up, should I match the color of my socks to my suit pants or shoes?” – Ken J. 

A: As you can see from the picture above, we’re not all too serious about matching your socks to either your pants or your shoes. If we really had to choose, we’d say match your socks to your pants, to avoid what Glenn O’Brien calls the “Bootee Effect” (looking like you’re wearing bootees by matching the color of your socks too closely to your shoes). Or put another way, you’d much rather have your legs look long rather than your shoes look tall. Does the color of your pants have to match your socks exactly? Of course not, just close, like we did in the pants/sock combo seen here.

But if you asked us for the real answer, we say, to hell with matching your socks with either. Instead, use your socks as a chance to flash some color.  Match it to your shirt, tie, pocket square, boutonniere and maintain the tone of the outfit like we recommend in our article on Stepping Up Your Sock Game. We interpret “tone” rather liberally. Sometimes that means wearing a contrast color. Pick up a pair of colorful, unconventional socks from a company like ZoraabHappy Socks or Sock it To Me and infuse a healthy dose of lighthearted personality to an otherwise serious outfit.

Just don’t take this concept over the top by pairing your white gym socks with your suited getup. Yes, it’s unconventional. Yes, it doesn’t match your loafers or your suit pants. And yes, it will look like a day past laundry day.

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39 thoughts on “Learn How to Match Socks”

  1. Antonymous says:

    I don’t personally like some of the flashiest contrasting color pairing, at least on me, but I appreciate it sometimes on others and if I were to interview I’d never not take one seriously based on that :). I think the so called bootie effect looks better and it’s not that present, it’s just a continuity with shoes instead of pants, which leaves the shoe a bit less outlined, but that’s less present if we match coordinated shades, like red, crimson, deep purple with brown shoes, darker shades of browns etc. I also love matching the dress shirts and cuffs, if the coat matches the pants :).

  2. Michelle Catapang says:

    Matching socks with your clothes is indeed a hard decision to make. You don’t know if your socks do really complement your style or not. Thank you for sharing techniques at whatnots about learning how to match socks with our outfit.

  3. Dillon says:

    I have my wedding coming up soon, and I’ve been going back and forth on what sock we should wear (myself and my groomsmen). Our tuxes will be all black. There’s nothing for us to really match on the tuxes, so I was maybe thinking about matching the bridesmaid dresses (color is Slate Blue), I came across these:

    Am I overthinking this, or should I just forget about the “fancy” socks and stick to black?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      When it comes to tuxedos, we don’t recommend the groom or the groomsmen to have too much fun with sock selection. If your wedding party was rocking blue suits, we’d say go for it, but Black Tie Rules are pretty strict. Stick with black socks just to be safe.

  4. forrest says:

    tricks to matching your pocket square.

    your thought on the long slim/ skinny tie tuck into pants.

    do you ever do sales on suits because i read all your post and love everything you have. i left the denim industry after ten years a month ago. not that i dont know style or how to put a suit together but i find everything you post awesome and helps me push my closet. because i hate recycling my look and wear a suit everyday now

    i have a midnight navy suit
    mid charcoal suit
    and a navy windowpane

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That’s a diverse range of questions, Forrest. We’ll tackle them one by one.

      1. We’ve always been wary of “tricks” for matching clothes and choose to focus, instead, on understanding how your clothes match you. We’ve got some articles in the works on wearing pocket squares that give some helpful hints on how to fold them as well as how to pair them with different outfits, so be sure to, if you haven’t already, subscribe to The Compass so you won’t miss any articles.
      2. The whole skinny tie fad is, most decidedly, over (thankfully). As for length, if it’s so long you have to tuck it into your pants, that’s a sign that you didn’t make the knot properly. If this is an issue you’ve run into in the past, it may be time you took a refresher course in tying the classic four-in-hand tie knot.

      3. We rarely do markdowns, but we do run promotions. Our best-known promotion is Black Lapel Friday when we usually do giveaways. That said, if you shop around, you’ll see that a custom suit, made-to-measure, with free alterations for $499 is a really good deal. With you’re mainly dark suit wardrobe, we recommend you consider the Light Charcoal Blue Custom Suit or Cool Gray Custom Suit for your next addition to your wardrobe.

  5. John says:

    I have a medium to dark gray suit with a very light pink almost white shirt, my tie is a deep purple with medium and light purple striping and the pocket square is very similar colors as the tie. Should I match the tie and and square or the shirt with my sock choice. I feel like pink sock might be a bit of a stretch.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      The pink socks are cool, but the top half of your outfit sounds too matchy-matchy. We’d recommend toning it down by wearing a simple white pocket square instead of the one you described. If you opt for a simple pocket square, the pink socks definitely won’t be a stretch.

  6. Daniyal says:

    I have blue suit wid white shirt n orange tie n pocket square orange so can i wear orange socks wid black shoes?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That’s a whole lot of contrast. Orange socks with black shoes will take you dangerously close to looking like you’re dressing for a Halloween party or you’re a backup infielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

      If it was us, we’d stick to blue socks. But you gotta do you. If you want the attention on your ankles, then we’re not going to stop you.

    2. Black Lapel says:

      Can we take a stab at guessing your favorite color? As for your question, be careful with matching all three if the orange you’re talking about is particularly bright. Since we can’t see it and know for certain, err on the side of caution and match 2/3 accessories. If it’s a dulled down, soft tone orange, match away!

  7. Catalin says:


    I have a plaid blue blazer, light blue shirt, mustard pants, brownish shoes and belt. Which color do you think is best fitted for socks? 🙂


    1. Black Lapel says:

      Any shade of blue would work, but we’d recommend a medium blue to be more specific. This will help tie together the top half of your outfit with the bottom half!

  8. fritz says:

    Can I match a red cotton socks with a light yellow shirt

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Surely…as long as the yellow shirt is as light as you say it is. While we’re all for socks giving your outfit a punch, you never want to resemble Ronald McDonald in any way.

  9. zorab says:

    I always confused about matching my socks you have given very good suggestion to match with pants. I have really really liked this wonderful idea.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Excellent! It could even add an extra inch to your appearance.

  10. Al says:

    You are never supposed to match shoes unless you are dressing all monochromatic.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We’re all about guidelines, not rules, so we rarely say never. Still, we’re with you, Al. We’d be hard pressed to think of a time when we’d suggest matching socks to your shoes.

  11. Scott says:

    I agree that it’s good to use some color, I use socks that are in the same spectrum as my pants but not an exact match.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Analogous pants and sock colors are a nice touch, Scott. A contrast can also be stylish for those who want to put a little pep in their sartorial steps. Just putting some thought into it will put you miles ahead of average, so kudos to you.

  12. Antome says:

    Hey, now you made me think of Blues Brother, other “dancing machine” with socks :). Well anyway I can picture them without hat and eyeglasses as a perfectly fine and passable outfit. Michael Jackson was cool too, but if you notice his white shirt is much different, more quirky and less “regular” especially the collar zone. But back in the sixties-fifties and maybe before I found out that white socks where strangely common. Imho, it works with gray pants too. But as I said it would be one of my many combos.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Good point, there is a historical element to this discussion. Who knows, maybe white socks are due for a comeback. If they do come back it’ll likely be in dress sock form. Only time will tell.

  13. Antome says:

    “Just don’t take this concept over the top by pairing your white gym socks with your suited getup.”
    I agree, in that I’d like to wear white dress socks, to match a white button shirt. It’s that i love how it mimics the sleeves peeking out. But it would not be the only color matching i’d do.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      White dress socks are a bold move. Michael Jackson famously wore them on the back of his hit Off the Wall album. Michael may have influenced by Gene Kelly, who rocked them with style back in the day.

      What do we make of all this? Clearly wearing white socks makes you a dancing machine!

  14. Ruben Bullon says:

    I’m a pastor and I decide to match my socks with my ties. So far so good. I’m feeling good about it and my congregation is having a lot of fun with my pink-yellow-red-purple socks. To do that you must be a very confident person or you will walk like a penguin!!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Good move, Ruben. Now that you’ve taken steps toward stylish sock pairings, be sure to check out our Guide to Stepping Up Your Sock Game.

  15. Joe says:

    Thank you Chris. Match socks with your pants.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Can’t go wrong there, Joe.

  16. April says:

    I love the super colorful socks with the suit. Great way to tell if a guy has some personality.

  17. AB says:

    The Tie Bar (http://www.thetiebar.com/categoryPages/Socks.asp) has some sweet colorful as well as traditional socks at some nice prices.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Great find! Thanks for sharing AB!

  18. Reed says:

    Totally agree, a shame no one understands out here in San Francisco… One of the biggest hipster capitals in the world…

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We’re surprised you guys even wear socks out there. 😉

  19. Andrew says:

    That blue with the solid red is beautiful – Looking for a strong suit in that color way

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That’s our Light Blue Herringbone Suit from our Spring Collection! Coming soon!

  20. I always say: match to your pants, or nothing (like above).

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We expect nothing less from you Chris! 😉

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