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What Kind of Socks Go with Every Kind of Pants?

The only thing I’m sure of is that the suit with bare ankles look isn’t for me

“I’ve struggled with socks my whole life,” a subscriber to the Male Fashion Advice (MFA) subreddit admitted last week. He maintained that in middle school, he felt like he couldn’t wear tube socks for fear of being called a nerd. “In high school, your sock couldn’t be showing or you’d be uncool — so much so you had to fold them down into your shoes to keep them from showing,” he explained. “Dress socks and printed socks — too thin. So uncomfortable. I just want to wear thick crew socks — can I?”

You’re probably thinking to yourself: “What’s the problem? As long as my socks match, everything is fine, right?” And if that works for you, cool. But if you find yourself spiraling when attempting to pair your socks with your pants, a la the redditor above, here are some tips that will keep your feet firmly on the ground — in, of course, the exact right socks… 

When Wearing Denim

If you have to live and die by a single sock, make them black. And make sure they’re at least calf-high. “In terms of pants-socks combos, the main goal is to avoid showing ankle or leg skin unintentionally,” says menswear YouTuber Brock McGoff.

Black socks are especially great with dark jeans, but that said — and I know this might sound confusing — white tube socks work, too. “Today, there’s a white-sock revival, led by the likes of Tyler, the Creator and men who spend too long looking at old photographs of Axl Rose on stage,” GQ reported in 2019 — in I might add, the most GQ-y way ever (just wait for it). “Let’s face it, it’s undeniable how good white sports socks look with a fresh pair of Gucci loafer mules — part Supreme street team, part Slam City Skates employee of the month.”

When Wearing Chinos

Per one MFA devotee, you generally want to wear dark socks with dark pants and light socks with light pants. “You don’t have to have socks that are the exact shade or anything, but you want to avoid high contrast between your socks and your pant legs when you’re sitting,” he explains. 

Another MFA subscriber tells me that tan socks are always a safe bet with chinos of any color. You just want to avoid wearing stark white socks, because the aforementioned high contrast between socks and slacks isn’t a great look, particularly when you sit down and your socks take center stage. 

Chinos also lend themselves to no-show socks. “If you want to wear no-show socks with no-break chinos and loafers, that’s totally fine,” McGoff approves.

When Wearing Joggers

Speaking of no-show socks, they’re best here. “Joggers are casual pants,” says a different MFA subscriber. “No-show socks highlight the casual nature of the look.” But if you’re opting for socks that don’t hide underneath your shoes, low-contrast rules apply once more — i.e., steer clear of blaring white socks with more colorful joggers. 

When Wearing Suits

Let’s set aside the trend of wearing a tailored suit with bare ankles. For no other reason than I like wearing socks when in a suit — not to mention, the whole point of this exercise is socks, not bare feet. In such cases then, the best rule of thumb (toe?) is the longer the socks, the better. That way, when you hike one leg over the other when seated, you’re less likely to run into the now familiar issue of showing off some skin. 

Thickness (or lack thereof) is important, too. Dress shoes have snugger fits; thus, a thinner sock helps ensure that your foot will fit comfortably into all of that leather. You could try to size up your shoes if you still prefer thicker socks, but as one final MFA subscriber points out, you might give yourself that “clown shoe look” in the process.

I know all of this might sound trivial to you. But you know what they say, you can’t truly understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their socks.