Three simple tips for pairing men’s patterned dress socks with a professional workday look
Photo by Pantherella Socks
You were flipping through the pages of GQ when a photo of a charcoal gray suit with a paisley tie and rose-colored socks caught your eye. And now, you’re seriously considering spicing up your own dress sock collection. Are we close? No? Well, maybe you should be rethinking the contents of your sock drawer. If we took a look right now, what colors would we see? Black, white, light gray, dark gray – um, did we say black already? If we’re wrong and your sock drawer is actually a model of diversity, then we applaud your sartorial style and fearlessness. But if we’re right, then maybe it’s time you took a few calculated risks.
The “crazy” sock phenomenon emerged (albeit with a few naysayers) alongside the trend toward shorter, more tapered pants, which expose a greater slice of the wearer’s ankles. Accessorizing with statement pieces has always been an effective way to express one’s personal style, and socks are an accessory every man needs. That’s why it’s surprising novelty socks haven’t made more inroads into men’s fashion. Truth be told though, dapper gents with striped and polka dotted socks may be at home on the pages of popular men’s fashion journals, but they are decidedly harder to find in the real world. Once in a while, you might spot a trendsetter whose funky hosiery is a pleasant contrast to his otherwise humdrum jeans or chinos. However, actually witnessing someone challenge conventional fashion norms in an office setting is much less common. In fact, daring to be different is almost akin to coloring outside the lines. “Clownish,” “silly,” and “adolescent” are just a few of the criticisms being leveled at the most intrepid risk takers.
Wait a minute, you might be thinking. Didn’t we just say rejuvenating your sock collection would be a good thing? You’re right. We did. You should shake things up a bit. But that doesn’t mean you have to go from 0 to 60 on your first test drive. Better to begin slowly and pick up speed over time. There are many stylish choices out there that fall safely in the middle zone, somewhere between “solid black” and “welcome to the circus!”
Start with classic patterns
Herringbone (far left)
Considered an example of a check pattern, Herringbone is a tightly packed woven design of broken zigzags. Easily identified by columns of reoccurring V-shapes, the overall effect resembles a fish skeleton (hence, the name Herringbone). Comprised of alternating light and dark threads, this is a handsome pattern that’s a reliable partner for any business suit.
Argyle (center left)
Overlapping diamond shapes give this woven or knit pattern a three-dimensional quality. More casual than either Herringbone or Houndstooth, Argyle socks date back to 17th century Scotland and have since become a trademark look associated with British royalty and PGA champions. Often described as “preppy,” Argyle is a great choice for a relaxed day at the office or for leisure activities outside of work.
Houndstooth (center right)
Houndstooth is another check pattern that has been traced back to early Scottish designs. Rows of four-pointed abstract shapes resembling a canine’s incisors form the basis for this busy, duotone micro-check. The pattern’s uniformity lends itself well to formal business settings.
Pin Check (far right)
The smallest of the check patterns, this discreet design lends itself well to dressier occasions. Thin, evenly spaced horizontal and vertical duotone lines form squares that are so small, they appear (from a distance) to be dark dots against a light background. If subtle sophistication is what you’re after, this is the pattern for you.
Granted, there are many, many more woven and printed textile patterns to choose from, including all the possible plaids, paisleys, and polka dot variations. The stripe family alone would take hours to describe, as it covers scores of options, broken into subcategories based on coloring, spacing, size, and arrangement. There are Pinstripes, Awning Stripes, Bengal Stripes, Chevron Stripes, Shadow Stripes, and Chalk Stripes – to name a few. And all are worth exploring further. But if you’re just beginning your foray into the world beyond solid, neutral colors, then the four patterns pictured above are your safest bet. All are tried, tested, and guaranteed to elevate your sock style to the next level, without raising eyebrows or jeopardizing your reputation as a smart dresser.
Match sock color to your ensemble and to the occasion
If you don’t want your ankles to be the first thing your colleagues and associates notice when you walk into a meeting, then save the big, bold primary colors for the weekend. Instead choose sock patterns that weave together warm, subdued colors: smoky gray and deep purple, navy and maroon, hunter green and gold, or dark brown and russet. These versatile colors are easy on the eyes and work well with most gray, blue or brown suits. In general, your socks should be a shade or two darker than your slacks, and if patterned, should play off another color you’re wearing that day – maybe the violet in your dress shirt, the dark blue in your pocket square, or the burgundy in your striped tie. If used correctly, color can be the cohesive force that brings all the elements of your attire together, even if you’re wearing a Windowpane checkered dress shirt, diagonally striped tie and monochromatic tonal Pin Dot socks. Mixing patterns with the help of a single unifying color is a common practice. Just be sure to choose patterns that are visibly different from one another and that vary in size, reserving the most prominent pattern for the garment you most want to emphasize.
Insist on quality materials and construction
It pays to have a “buyer beware” mentality when shopping for men’s socks, particularly when you’re venturing into new territory. While it’s easy to be tempted by the kaleidoscope of fun new colors and designs that are readily available online and on the shelves of many bargain retailers, think twice before reaching for those one-size-fits-all socks with the palm tree appliqués or zebra stripes. Earned or not, novelty socks (especially the more outlandish examples) have a reputation for dubious craftsmanship and are often thought of as disposable apparel, best reserved for holidays and theme parties.
You’ve made it a practice to insist on only the highest quality garments when choosing your suits, dress shirts and ties, and you should demand no less when selecting socks. A pair of true luxury socks for men from a top fashion label can add an air of class and sophistication to any business or casual ensemble. Not only will your fan base sit up and take notice, but your hardworking feet and calves will as well. Once you’ve slipped into a pair of socks made from the finest wool or cotton, you’ll never be satisfied with anything else. That’s why at Epic Mens, we have gone to such great lengths to curate an outstanding collection of mid-calf, over-the-calf, and invisible no-show men’s socks from well-known European labels, such as Marcoliani Milano, Pantherella, and Scott Nichol. Made from top-grade yarns, including two- and three-ply Peruvian Pima and Egyptian Cottons, extra-fine Merino Wools, and lustrous silk-cashmere knits, each weave is as soft as it is beautiful. And on a more practical note, the long staple fibers found in these premium woven fabrics are naturally absorbent, elastic, durable, and resistant to pilling and shrinkage. Add to this mix elasticized cuffs and virtually seamless hand-linked toes, and you have a recipe for unparalleled comfort.
Stepping up your sock game can pay big dividends, and it doesn’t have to be painful. When in doubt, fall back on proven traditional patterns in rich, earthy colors – and always choose quality over quantity. It’s a look that stands out for all the right reasons. Done correctly, it can convey class, taste and confidence. Visit Epic Mens today and let us help you get started. And when you’re ready to push the envelope even further with brighter colors and more contemporary patterns, we can help with that too – one foot at a time!