Going sockless is a classic casual look, especially in the summer. But can you wear Oxford shoes without socks?
It’s possible to wear Oxford shoes without socks, as long as the Oxford shoes look casual enough to fit with the sockless aesthetic. That’s why suede, brogue, and spectator Oxford shoes are good options when not wearing socks.
Although that’s the short answer, I wanted to dig deeper by giving you some tips you can use to make sure you don’t put a foot wrong (pun intended).
It definitely is possible to go wrong when wearing Oxford shoes without socks. Let’s make sure that fashion faux pas never comes your way.
1. Ensure It’s Appropriate
Going sockless with Oxford shoes would only really be suitable for smart-casual settings.
Let me explain.
Oxford shoes are considered the go-to formal dress shoe, frequently worn with business suits and even black-tie attire.
The sleek, closed lacing system lends itself so well to formal outfits.
The main problem that arises from wearing Oxford shoes without socks is that going sockless is casual in every sense of the word.
Because of this, you often get a conflict between the super formal Oxford shoe and the super casual sockless look.
Put simply, there will be certain dress codes and settings where you would just never go sockless when wearing Oxford shoes.
If you’re wearing a business suit and Oxford shoes, wear socks. Going sockless would just look awkward.
You may be wearing Oxford shoes as part of a business-casual dress code, pairing them with chinos and an OCBD shirt, for instance.
Even for business-casual dress codes, wear socks.
Business-casual will always lean more towards business than towards casual.
Going sockless with Oxford shoes becomes a possibility when you’re attending a smart-casual setting.
Examples include dates, garden parties, casual weddings, mid-level restaurants, and nights out.
It’s a notch less formal than business-casual, but not quite as casual as very casual (eg. sneakers, hooded sweatshirts, T-shirts, vests, etc).
But you also need to ensure that going sockless with Oxford shoes is appropriate for the weather. Avoid going for this look in the winter or even the autumn, as it’ll often look awkward and out of place.
It’s a look that only really works in warm weather.
2. Consider No-Show Socks
Going sockless with any style of dress shoe can be uncomfortable- even with dress shoes that lend themselves better to the sockless look (eg. loafers).
The closed lacing system of Oxford shoes isn’t usually very comfortable, to begin with. It doesn’t give your foot as much freedom as the open lacing system of Derby shoes, for instance.
Wearing Oxford shoes without socks can make things feel even worse as your foot rubs against the inner shoe.
Hygiene also becomes an issue, as sweat accumulates, especially during the warmer months.
No-show socks are definitely worth considering.
Sure, technically they’re still socks, but they’re invisible socks. In other words, you’ll be wearing socks but they won’t extend above your ankle.
When wearing Oxford shoes, the socks won’t be visible.
They give you the benefit of comfort and hygiene while still maintaining the sockless look.
They really are such a great invention.
Here’s an example of no-show socks on Amazon:
3. Cuffing Is Key
To “cuff” a pair of pants is to roll up the hem (i.e bottom edge of the pant legs). It’s once again a pretty casual feature.
The reason it works well when wearing Oxford shoes without socks is that it makes it look intentional.
The last thing you want is for the pants to ride up as you sit down, suddenly revealing a bare ankle above those Oxford shoes, making it look like you simply forgot to wear a pair of socks.
This is definitely a possibility when wearing Oxford shoes, as going sockless is nowhere near as common as wearing socks.
You want to make it clear right from the onset that not wearing socks was an intentional style decision you made and not just an accident.
Cuffing the pants is a great way to do this, as it’ll ensure your ankle and the lowest part of your leg is visible at all times and that’s exactly what you wanted all along.
4. Chinos Work Well
Chinos are a good choice when wearing Oxford shoes without socks.
The reason for this is that they’re a classic example of smart-casual attire. While it’s possible to wear Oxford shoes with jeans, it can often look awkward because of the clash between formal and casual.
Chinos are a lot more versatile – they look formal enough to combine with Oxford shoes without turning too many heads.
They’re also breathable enough to be worn in the summer without too much trouble.
As I mentioned earlier, cuffing the chinos is a great way to make the sockless look appear intentional.
If you’re interested in learning how to cuff chinos in the best way possible, I’ve written an article on it.
5. Suede Over Leather
Given that the main risk with wearing Oxford shoes without socks is that the Oxford shoes simply look too formal to pull it off, do what you can to make the Oxford shoes look less formal.
One of the main ways of doing this would be to choose the right material and the right color.
Common grains of leather you’ll find Oxford shoes in are shinier grains like calfskin or cowhide, as well as napped ones like suede.
Suede will always look more casual because of its lack of sheen. It looks rugged, which is why it looks so great in casual outfits.
When choosing a pair of Oxford shoes to go sockless in, consider going for suede instead of shinier grains of leather.
While those types of leather can work too, suede just works better.
The reason for this is that suede Oxford shoes look more casual and it’s less likely to look awkward with the very casual sockless aesthetic.
The color of the Oxford shoes you choose is important.
Avoid black Oxford shoes, as these should really only ever be reserved for formal attire – business suits, black-tie, etc.
Brown is a very versatile color, but don’t be afraid to go a little wilder with it. Going sockless with Oxford shoes can be a pretty eccentric look.
Choosing a pair of Oxfords in a bolder or brighter color can actually make quite a lot of sense because of this.
6. Go For Brogues Or Spectators
Choosing brogue Oxford shoes is another great way to make them look casual enough to fit with the sockless aesthetic.
“Brogue” is a term you could apply to any dress shoe with stylized, decorative perforations (i.e tiny holes).
While technically any shoe could be brogue, you’ll most often find brogue Oxford shoes and Derby shoes.
In increasing order of the extent of the decoration, you can get quarter brogue, semi brogue, and full brogue Oxfords.
Full brogue Oxfords (i.e wingtip Oxfords) have perforations lining the edge of the W-shaped toe cap, as well as the edges of the side panels.
You’ll also have a spiraling pattern on the toe cap itself – the “medallion”.
While any amount of brogue-ing would be a great way to make the Oxford shoes look more casual, wingtips are a fantastic choice.
Even with the closed lacing system, wingtip Oxfords will look a lot more casual than plain Oxfords.
Here’s an example of wingtip Oxford shoes on Amazon:
Choosing spectator Oxford shoes is another great way to make them look more casual. Spectator shoes are ones where the heel cap and toe cap are usually a completely different color to the main body of the shoe.
You’re left with a shoe that has two or even three different colors. It’s eye-catching, attention-grabbing, and a very casual feature.
That’s why it works well when you’re thinking of not wearing socks.
7. Change The Laces
Switching up the laces of those Oxford shoes is a fantastic way to make them look more casual. What’s great is that you don’t need to splash out on a whole new set of shoes to do it.
You could take an otherwise formal pair of Oxford shoes and simply switch the laces to something a little more eye-catching.
For example, a dark brown pair of Oxford shoes with bright red or yellow laces.
It may sound over the top, but that’s sort of the point.
You want it to stand out and look a little unusual because not wearing socks with Oxford shoes is already a little unusual – that’s why it works.
It’s a great way to make the decision to not wear socks appear even more intentional.
While it may sound like a time-intensive way of doing this, it gets a lot quicker with practice. Plus, it’s fun. You could potentially have a whole bunch of different colors you could experiment with.
But consider this just one of several tips and tricks you could use to make the look work.
Ultimately, the key is to make the Oxford shoes look casual enough to fit well with the sockless look.
If you can do that, there’s no reason why it can’t work.