Socks for Dress Shoes: How To Style Socks With Dress Shoes

Do you ever feel confused or frustrated not knowing what socks to wear with your dress shoes? As someone who used to have to wear a suit to work everyday, I know this very special type of pain personally. I remember each morning having to think about what looked good not just with my shoes, but also with my outfit as a whole. Add in the whole quandary of whether you should even wear dress socks to begin with over some other type of sock, or just forgo socks all together, and you can see how mornings can become even more difficult. I’ve even heard stories of people only owning 20 of just one color/pattern of sock so they don’t have to waste time making any decisions.

Many people have questions regarding if they should wear socks with dress shoes, and if so, how to style them. What colors go well together? What patterns complement what outfits? In this blog, we’ll provide some guidance on these issues so that you can be confident in the choices you make for your feet before putting on a dressier outfit.

Should You Wear Socks With Dress Shoes?

Before we discuss styling your socks with dress shoes, we need to address a frequently asked question we receive: is it even worth it to wear socks with dress shoes? Many places will tell you that you have to wear socks with your dress shoes; as a sock company, we can understand if you’re skeptical if we say you HAVE to wear socks with dress shoes. Having said that, we believe that in most instances, it is beneficial to wear socks with dress shoes. 

We’ve previously discussed the benefits of wearing socks in general; you should wear socks when appropriate in order to provide comfort and cushioning, control natural foot odor, prevent blisters, and stop the growth of foot fungi and bacteria. This especially holds true for dress shoes, which are traditionally stiffer but more fragile than say an everyday sneaker. This makes dress shoes more susceptible to damage from improper wear; if moisture and microbes build up in dress shoes, odors can become difficult to manage and materials such as leather can degrade quickly. 

While it can occasionally be a style choice to not wear socks with dress shoes, for instance with rolled up or shorter pant cuffs, we do not recommend this practice on a long-term basis for the reasons mentioned above. If you are looking for a more hygienic option to not wearing socks, perhaps you should try some no-show socks - you’d get the same great comfort of your dress socks in a minimal form factor that only you know you’d have one. They’re perfect for pairing with lower cut dress shoes, like more casual loafers or driving mocs. 

How to Wear Socks With Dress Shoes

By now we hope you are convinced that socks are important to wear with dress shoes. Now comes the all-important decision of picking which socks to wear. What are some other factors that influence how you wear socks with dress shoes?

socks with dress shoes

Color Scheme

We’ve previously touched on color coordinating socks with your suit and shoes. While there’s no hard and fast rules on how to pair the color of your socks with your clothes and shoes, there are some guidelines you can follow:

  • For a classic and simple look, the color of your socks should match that of your suit, and contrast your shoes
  • When wearing brown shoes, avoid black or brown socks which would be a muddy or mismatched look. Instead look for solid or patterned navy socks to pair with brown shoes
  • Black is best for the monochromatic look; it is simple and elegant to wear black socks with black shoes when wearing a dark suit
  • NEVER EVER wear plain white socks with dress shoes - it is an ugly look

Type of Shoe

The next thing you need to consider when picking out the socks you wear with dress shoes is the type of the shoe itself. As it pertains to the construction of the shoe, the specs you need to keep in mind are the following:

  • Material - leather is a classic material for a dress shoe and pair nicely with classic, elegant looks; more modern materials, including suede, canvas, and synthetic fabrics, can pair with more modern or novelty styles
  • Height of the Topline - the higher up the ankle the shoe rides, the greater need for length from your socks. Additionally, the height the shoe rides, the less space there is for patterns and designs on the socks to show; with higher shoes the patterns and colors don’t matter as much as they do with lower-cut shoes
  • Design - styles such as oxfords, wing tips, and monk straps are classic designs that pair best with classic and elegant socks; more modern styles such as “dress sneakers” or driving mocs leave more room for creative sock lengths and designs

Length of Pants

Finally, you need to consider how far down your ankle your pants will cover. While there are exceptions, you can refer to the inverse length rule: the higher the pants, the more acceptable it is to wear lower cut socks. If your pants have a lower crop, it will look unsightly for there to be just a little skin showing with a low-cut or no-show sock. However, with higher-cropped pants, more skin is acceptable for showing with lower-cut socks. Additionally, higher-cropped pants leave lots of room for colorful designs and fun patterns such as novelty socks.

Common Dress Sock Patterns

Certain styles of dress socks are timeless and easy to pair with a variety of dress shoes and outfits. A nice crosshatching plaid, stripe, polka dot, paisley, or houndstooth go great with suits, khakis, jeans, and slacks. Designer socks, such as swirls, geometric patterns, and dots can be versatile options with a variety of outfits. 

Novelty socks can also be a fun addition to your outfit depending on the occasion; beers or bourbons for happy hours, golf socks for a day at the country club, or musical notes when seeing a show or concert are all great examples of novelty socks enhancing your presence at an event.

FAQs: Socks for Dress Shoes

Why Are Socks for Dress Shoes So Thin?

Socks for dress shoes tend to run thinner because dress shoes are usually a little stiffer and thicker than casual/everyday shoes. However, socks for dress shoes aren’t always and don’t need to be so thin. Look for dress socks with extra cushioning for a more comfortable all-day wear.

Can You Wear Thick Socks with Dress Shoes?

While we can’t stop you from wearing thicker socks, such as cabin socks or ski socks with dress shoes in colder weather, we don’t recommend them as everyday dress socks. Thicker socks look weird when paired with elegant or sleek dress shoes. If you must wear thicker socks, look for dress boots to match the rigidness of the socks.

Can You Wear Athletic Socks with Dress Shoes?

While you could wear a darker athletic sock with dress shoes, athletic socks are usually colored incorrectly for dress wear. They can also feature logos and thickness that would be ugly to look at with dress shoes. This especially holds true for plain white athletic socks.

What Material Are Dress Socks Made Of?

Dress socks can be made of a variety of materials, including cotton, polyester, silk, bamboo, wool, and nylon. Socks can also be made of a blend of some of these previously mentioned fabrics and other materials as well. We have previously written on the best materials for socks on this blog, and we recommend you check that out for more information.

Get a Reliable Pair of Socks for Dress Shoes

Made from premium fabrics, Tall Order Socks are the best socks for wearing with dress shoes, no matter your size. Our New Arrivals bring great style and, with extra cushioning and moisture control, will have you feeling your most comfortable all day. We have crew length Extra Cushioned socks for suits and jeans alike, as well as no-show socks for that stylish look to show off your skin.