How to wear colourful socks: Hosiery Harmony

Men's socks Bresciani and Philippe Perzi Vienna

If I were a betting man, I’d say that if I were to rifle through your sock drawer, I’d probably find an assortment of dark, solid coloured socks that may or may not be in a matching pair. Am I right?

If you’re European, odds are that navy socks would make up the main contingent of your sock collection, whereas if you’re from the other side of the Atlantic, you’re probably more likely to prefer black.

One thing you’d probably all have in common however, is that colourful socks, or patterned socks, probably wouldn’t feature prominently…unless you happen to be British or Italian that is.

Colourful socks shouldn’t be overlooked; whilst we can agree that a good half of your sock collection should be navy or black, few accessories provide such an opportunity to stylishly add a splash of colour to an otherwise neutral outfit.

While colourful socks have regained some prominence over recent years, not everyone knows how to make the most of their ‘fancy hose.’ So here’s a little bit of advice on how to wear colourful socks or patterned socks like a boss:

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Above: A perfectly coordinated purple pair of colourful socks teamed with a mauve hairline striped shirt, available in the Vienna store.

Patterned or colourful socks: the sartorial syntax connecting the north and south

Just as your shirt collar, tie and lapels of your jacket create a triangle to draw attention to your visage, another holy trinity south of your belt buckle work together to form another focal point: the trouser, sock and shoe.

One way for a gentleman to really show some sartorial savoir-faire is to ensure that the colour and pattern of his socks reiterate a colour or pattern found near the face, say in the tie or shirt. This way, the silhouette’s upper and lower zones form a nexus, which means when someone looks at you, they’ll take in the whole package.

This tip is pretty simple, but overlooked by many. For example, as pictured below, if you’re wearing an orange tie such as Marguns, why not try wearing orange socks such as Mandarin. Or, if wearing a Spitalfield tie with a pink pattern through it such as Lure, try a pair of Fuchsia socks. It’s not about a perfect match – but casual co-ordination.

Another way to put it: Think of your ties and colourful socks as the left and right parentheses to your ensemble, setting you apart from the rest of the white noise out there; subtlety and stylishly making you all big and bold. 

wearing coloured socks

Above photo clockwise: Lure tie, Fuchsia socks, close-up of Lure tie, Mandarin socks, Margins tie, close-up of Marguns tie. Available online

Coordinate patterned or colorful socks with your shirt or sports jacket

During the 1930s, motifs commonly found on neckties such as polka dots, stripes and Spitalfields (a woven all-over pattern in 2-4 colours) started appearing in sock designs, and so it was during this period that men began to take full advantage of the sock’s potential to enhance an entire outfit.

By the end of the 1940s, patterned or colourful socks or ‘fancy hose’ as they are sometimes called, accounted for just under two thirds of all men’s sock purchases; a stark contrast to today’s navy and black stayers. However, the sock’s role had expanded beyond coordinating with just the tie; the 1940s man about town began wearing patterned or colourful socks that co-starred with his dress shirt or his sports jacket and there’s no reason why today’s modern gent shouldn’t take a leaf of this style file.

Take for instance the smart casual shirts pictured below: Niki Louder Marrone would be set off perfectly by our Nocciola socks. Similarly, you would definitely cut a rakish figure in La Stalla shirt paired with Engadin socks.wearing colourful socks

Above photo clockwise: Engadin socks, Niki Louder Marrone shirt, Nocciola socks, La Stalla shirt. Available online

Hosiery harmony: contrast and scale

Each item in your ensemble should have a degree of sympathy with the other. This isn’t to say that you need to match the colour of your socks exactly to your shirt or tie, nor find the exact patterned sock to match your sports jacket. In fact, contrasting colours can harmonise more effectively than matching ones by setting each other off. Check out our blog on colour coordinating for some hints on what colours work together with each other well.

A similar philosophy for mixing shirt and tie patterns applies to how to wear patterned or colorful socks; if your shirt or tie is striped, ensure the stripes on your socks are of a different scale. If you’re wearing a checked shirt, ensure the check or argyle pattern on your socks is different in size.

wearing colourful socks

Men who know a thing of two about this dressing caper, realise that accessories such as patterned or colourful socks are consorts along life’s path to sartorial enlightenment. Yes, socks are utilitarian, but they are also capable of making a bold statement and a harmoniser of apparel.

So if you didn’t know how to make the most of your fancy hose, now you know. Now get your feet into some fancy Philippe Perzi Vienna socks, indulge your peacock tendencies and let your ankles do the talking.