5 Classic Sock Patterns and When to Wear Them

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There’s a surprising number of implicit rules involved in men’s fashion. For example, it’s best to pair a solid-colored tie with a printed shirt or a printed tie with a solid-colored shirt. Another sagely piece of advice is that you should always let your pants rest comfortably on your hip bone and never let them sag below that. But the men’s style bible also goes beyond essential apparel like shirts and pants, as it also has some rules pertaining to socks.

Though they aren’t always the most noticeable part of a man’s outfit, the right sock colors, textures, and patterns can totally transform the whole ensemble. Sock patterns, in particular, are worth paying attention to. If you know how to use them as either complements or accents to other pieces of clothing, you can really up the game for your whole outfit!

What classic sock patterns should every man have in their wardrobe, and what are the best occasions to use them for? To answer those questions, here’s a brief feature on the best patterns for men’s casual socks, formal socks, sports socks, or outdoor socks.

Ribbed Socks

The more conservatively styled gentleman may want to stick with plain solid-colored socks, and that’s A-OK. After all, their simplicity makes these socks the most versatile kind to wear. But if you want to add a little more panache to the bottom half of your outfit, you can opt not to change the color, but the texture of your socks. This is where ribbed socks come in.

As their name implies, ribbed socks are socks with protruding vertical ridges, also called wales. The raised pattern gives them a tactile look that stands out just a little more than plain solid socks. If you want something a touch dressier for shoes like boots, loafers, or monk strap brogues, try wearing ribbed crew socks with them. These socks can definitely serve as an effortless hack for smart casual and business casual outfits.

Striped Socks

There’s good news about the socks you may have worn to gym class or music shows: they’re back in style! Striped socks—particularly the kind with two or three horizontal stripes in the crew section—evoke the sporty, old-school feel that many men like to emulate.

If you want to add some retro appeal to a streetwear ensemble, pair some striped crew socks with a pair of statement high-top basketball shoes or skateboarding shoes. You’ve got a lot of freedom when choosing socks for more casual outfits, and old-school-inspired striped socks will suit this freedom very well.

Argyle Socks

For the intellectual gentleman or the schoolboy at heart, there’s also the option to wear argyle socks. The argyle pattern, which consists of diamond shapes and diagonal lines, is best associated with smart or preppy looks.

Don’t rule out argyle socks for everything but school uniforms. These socks can help you look sharp at top corporate events or special occasions like weddings. You can also pair them with boat shoes or moccasins for outdoor gatherings.

Geometric Print Socks

Geometric and modular designs are also seeing something of a heyday in men’s fashion. This is especially apparent in sportswear. The dynamic look of these geometric shapes and lines adds visual appeal to otherwise plain-looking athletic clothing. If you want to incorporate some interesting contrast in your next gym outfit, you can try pairing your workout sneakers with geometric print socks.

The gym isn’t the only place where you can rock these socks. Try making them an accent for the athleisure clothing that you wear to the coffee shop or the mall. You can choose from patterns like herringbone, cubes, or colored grids.

Novelty Socks

Lastly, you have the choice to buy novelty socks and sport some out-of-the-ordinary sock prints with your shoes. Wacky and offbeat prints are now widely available in shops, and some styles have become classic in their own right. You can buy socks with prints that reference pop culture or your favorite movies or TV shows.

When is the right time to wear these socks? Honestly, it’s up to you to decide. But they make great additions to otherwise formal outfits, especially if you’ve got something to celebrate. For example, if you’re a groomsman at a wedding, you can wear novelty socks that reference an inside joke with the groom and the rest of your friend group. If you’re a dog lover and are due to attend a pet-related event with your best boy, you can wear socks with dog-related motifs for the occasion.

Indeed, there are some implicit rules to making your socks work for your outfit. But once you’ve gotten the hang of choosing suitable patterns, dressing up with your socks will be a lot more fun. See what comes out of following the rules, but don’t be afraid to get creative with sock-and-shoe combinations!


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Written by Lola McQuenzie

Lola is one of our busiest writer. She has worked for Catwalk Yourself since 2007. Lola started working with us after she graduating from Central St Martins

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