Menswear – Sartorial Socks

posted in: Style advice | 8
Blair with short socks
Have you seen the socks?

This interesting picture tells us something very important about mens’ style. Tony Blair, then PM of Britain, is sitting next to the most powerful man in the world, Bill Clinton, President of the USA. Tony would love to be more like Bill. He is wearing a similar dark suit, an identical shirt style, a matching spotted tie and the same black, shiny brogues. His cuffs have links too, and they are showing. He is even mirroring Clinton’s body posture and inclining in, towards him.

But what has he forgotten? OMG – it’s the socks!

Mr Clinton knows, for the best sartorial look, one needs to wear socks that come up to one’s knee. Who knew? Well not the Brits, but ask the Italians. They know.

My husband flew to Venice, and the airline lost his luggage. Receiving compensation he walked into the nearest Menswear shop and set about replacing his business wear. All went well until he asked for short socks. The shop keeper, aghast, told him that a gentleman would not wear short socks with a business suit, and proudly added that he did not stock them. My husband bought the knee-high socks and learnt his lesson.

Colourful socks, making a statement, are not the best choice for the most formal occasions. But if you are in a more creative industry, and are tall with long legs, they can be OK.

Jon Snow with pink socks and tie
Jon Snow, with socks

I do know a successful man in the world of property development who never wears socks. Everyone mentions this unique quirk, and I don’t think it has ever prevented him from doing some of the biggest deals. Nigel also Chairs the Royal Shakespeare Company – it is well-known that Royalty and Actors embrace eccentricity.  But if  you not yet at the pinnacle of your career it is not something I would recommend. It is, after all, a bit chilly and you must combine bare feet with leather soled shoes. Of course sock-less is de rigueur with summer footwear  – but not for work.

Nigel Hugill
Nigel Hugill

The sock rules are therefore rather simple

  • choose cotton or wool and wash daily
  • long socks with business wear to avoid calf exposure
  • sober colours to tone with suits and shoes
  • coloured socks for creative types with long legs
  • never white, or sports,  at work
  • never, ever, wear comedy socks
  • never socks with sandals (and never sandals at work)

8 Responses

  1. TheSohoMod

    Kate, this is the most “instructional” and definite of all your blogs that I have read but deservedly so. Sock rules are inflexible and you have nailed them! Joe

  2. Juliet

    I have one extra: consistent sock thickness with elegant shoes (Church for example) since thick socks can alter a man’s shoe size! Learnt once again when my husband’s office suffered from “Cold Monday” syndrome. He had different (and almost as smart) shoes to wear with the thicker socks!

  3. Caroline

    I agree. Short socks -yuk. But I think it’s also worth spending a bit extra and not just going for the multi pack from M and S. In the photo of Bill and Tony not only are Tony’s socks short but they also look baggy and as if they have been washed once too often, whereas Bill’s are smooth, elegant and very dark. Or maybe he just has more shapely ankles!

  4. Stephanie

    Something I have never thought about! Too funny. You know I love the Italians but sometimes they are too rules-based for me. A few years ago I saw a dress in the window of a shop in Florence that I wanted. It was butter yellow in colour. Gianni and I went in and the two convinced me to buy the same dress in navy blue, stating that “No Italian would buy this style of dress in the yellow. That is for (tasteless) tourists. Ever since then though I have wished I had bought the yellow one rather than the blue one. That said, the story is irrelevant in this case. I can see the point about long socks. 🙂

    • fabrickated

      For business men are going to wear black shoes on the whole, so I would say black socks. But it would be OK to wear dark navy or dark grey to tone with a suit, in my opinion!

  5. anelisen

    This post made me crack up! Who knew there were such strict rules on sock etiquette. I guess I should be thankful that I don’t have to deal with the particulars of menswear socks!

  6. the coatcheck tales

    Cool post! I most definitely agree with the no socks and sandals and no sandals at all! I can’t stand any kind of open shoes in men! Maybe I should talk about it next time with my shrink? xoxo

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