Men's Socks - The Ultimate Guide

Most of my clients come to me with a drawer full of white, mid-calf length socks, possibly some ankle socks thrown in there, and a ratty pair or two of dress socks they pull out from time to time. This is unacceptable and frankly… gross. 

Socks are one of the few items in menswear when it’s perfectly acceptable to go absolutely crazy without looking ridiculous. I’ve got clients who wear their favorite sports teams, crazy patterns, superheroes, etc. People will only really see them when you’re seated and they’re great conversation pieces, so I say go nuts with them!


Socks play a crucial role in completing a man's outfit and can make a significant impact on his overall look. Having the right pair of socks can elevate your outfit and create a conversation starter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best materials for men's socks?

Merino wool and cotton blends are the most popular and best because they’re hearty fabrics, very comfortable, and just the right thickness for year-round wear.

How do I properly care for and wash men's socks?

Start by checking the care label on the socks for specific instructions. In general, it is recommended to wash socks in warm water with mild detergent. Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals as they can damage the fabric. 

When should I replace my socks?

When they’re worn thin in certain areas (usually around the heel or toes) or when they’re faded, stretched out, or stained. Also, you should throw out your socks when they're severely pilled (covered in those weird little balls of fabric). Pilling is usually the start of them starting to get worn out in that area. If the pilling isn't visible, that's fine to wear until a hole is worn through.

Should socks be visible when sitting down?

Traditional fashion rules suggest that your socks should not be visible when sitting down, especially in formal or business settings. However, in more casual situations or visible socks can be seen as a stylish and trendy choice. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how you want to express your personal style and adhere to societal norms or fashion guidelines.

Should my ankles or skin be visible when sitting down?

When sitting down, I honestly think the skin of your ankles or calves should only be visible if you're wearing an outfit featuring no-show socks. If you're wearing long pants and calf-length socks then I should NOT be able to see any skin around your ankles when you're sitting down.

Socks Mistakes Most Men Make

So many guys make the following mistakes, so I want you to be aware of them:

  • Wearing white socks.
    They get dirty and dingy very quickly, regardless of how much you baby them. If you’re wearing all-white sneakers, you can wear white ones, but they'll get discolored quickly, so you'll have to buy them more often.

  • Wearing socks with holes or pilling (small balls of fabric).
    These need to be replaced!

  • Sticking to only neutral colors.
    Socks are one of the few items in menswear where it’s perfectly acceptable to go absolutely crazy with colors and patterns. Take advantage of this!

  • Wearing nude-colored tube socks.
    These just look plain wrong when worn by men. Basically, they look like you're wearing a pair of nylons or tights.

  • Pairing fabrics incorrectly.
    Wearing heavier socks with lighter items or lighter socks with heavier ones can throw off your whole look!

Want to see all the mistakes to avoid specifically for your age, height, body type, and skin tone? Check out my Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.

The Types of Socks To Own

Calf-Length Socks

These are going to be your go-to socks for wearing with any longer pant options like jeans, chinos, wool trousers, and suit pants (but never shorts).

Though it's important to invest in classic neutral shades (black, charcoal, and navy), you can also go a little bit wild with the colors and patterns.

As for material, stick with merino wool or cotton blends because they’re the most comfortable and can be worn with casual and dressy outfits.

Just beware: Thick cotton or wool socks look horrible with suits because they’re just too thick and informal. So if you need socks like that, wear them with casual outfits only.

No-Show Socks

As you can probably imagine, no-show socks are best worn when the weather is warm and sunny. It’s not as much a seasonal thing as it’s warm nearly year-round in places like Florida and California, but more of a temperature and outfit thing (more on that in a second).

The key thing to know about no-show socks is that you want to wear them any time you’re showing a bit of ankle. So if you’re wearing a shorter hem, cuffing your chinos or jeans, or wearing shorts, you want to wear the right pair of no-show socks. If you’re going with a standard hem length there’s no need to wear no-show socks, just stick to standard dress socks.

No-show socks look great will all outfits from shorts to suits so you can feel comfortable wearing them with whatever you’ve got on. They definitely add a bit of informality to the mix so be aware of that if you’re getting dressed up. Go for plain colors, as no one will see patterns but never wear nude-colored ones. If you’re wearing all-white sneakers, you can wear white ones, but they'll get discolored quickly, so you'll have to buy them more often.

Ankle or Gym Socks

These should be worn only when working out or doing strenuous activities and can be ankle or calf length depending on your choice

Stick with black or gray colors and grab some that are thicker or have some cushioning on the bottom and ankle area for added comfort.


Socks come in all sorts of fabrics/materials – wool, cotton, cashmere, silk, nylon, or blends of each.

In my experience, merino wool and cotton blends are best, because they’re more forgiving and comfortable than the other fabrics. They also look great and can be worn with both casual and dress outfits, and they’re just the right thickness.

Silk, silk-blended or nylon-blended socks can only be worn with suits and dress shoes and will wear out quicker than other fabrics.

How To Stop No-Show Socks From Slipping

I've met a lot of guys who don't like wearing no-show socks because they say that they won't stay up but luckily for you, I have a few tried-and-tested methods to keep them from slipping down. 

  1. Look at the shape of your shoes. Some no-show socks are designed specifically for certain shoe styles, such as loafers, so choose a pair that matches the shape of your shoes for a more comfortable fit. 

  2. Take into account the thickness of the socks. Thinner socks are often more suitable for dress shoes, while slightly thicker socks might be better for casual sneakers or athletic shoes.

  3. Make sure you are wearing the correct size of socks. No-show socks that are too big or too small can contribute to slippage.

  4. Pay attention to the grip and stay-up features of the socks. Look for socks with silicone grips in the heels that will ensure that they stay in place throughout the day.

  5. If your budget allows, consider investing in higher-quality socks that are designed specifically to stay in place during wear.

How To Match Socks To An Outfit

Standard Plain Colored Socks (Black, Navy, Charcoal)

  • Jeans or chinos and any color sneakers = any of the 3 standard colors.

  • Black suit (you better be wearing black shoes only!) = black socks

  • Navy suit (shoe color doesn’t matter) = navy or charcoal socks

  • Gray suit w/ black shoes = charcoal or black socks

  • Gray suit w/ brown shoes = charcoal socks

For more info on how best to match different articles of clothing, check out my Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.

Matching Examples

  • Black

    Pairs well with more formal outfits and/or match easily with your black accessories – i.e. your shoes or watch strap.

  • Brown

    Goes very well with navy or brown/tan clothing and brown shoes and accessories.

  • Gray

    Neutral and goes with everything.

  • Patterns or colored socks

    Should be matched to another item (shoes, pants, shirts, accessories, etc) that has a similar shade.

    • Example: If your tie or pocket square has a bit of blue in it, wear some socks with blue in them. Just don’t match your socks to your shirt color if it’s white. That won't look good - ever.

Comments or questions?

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