Dressing for a formal setting can often be frustrating. There are definitely certain “rules” out there worth sticking to prevent a potential faux pas. So, can you wear white socks with a suit?
White socks shouldn’t be worn with a suit as they’d produce too much contrast. In addition, the casual and athletic nature of the white socks would conflict with the formal nature of the suit.
That’s the short answer, but there’s more to it.
After going through a few reasons why you usually shouldn’t do it, I’ll run through a few exceptions where it may not be all that bad.
Let’s get to it.
3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Usually Wear White Socks With A Suit
These reasons should be enough to persuade you not to do it. Be sure to read through all of them before making your decision.
Too Much Contrast With Dark Suits
Wearing white socks with most formal suits will lead to too much contrast.
Most formal suits are going to be a dark color. The common ones include black, charcoal grey, and navy blue.
In addition, these suits are often going to be worn with dark-colored dress shoes – either black or dark brown.
Picture a pair of white socks peeking out from in between a pair of dark suit pants and black dress shoes.
It’s hard to call it anything other than distracting, confusing, and attention-grabbing.
In fact, it leads to so much contrast that most people will assume it was either a rushed morning mistake, or you simply ran out of more appropriate dress socks.
Assuming your suit pants are well-fitting, there’s no way you’d be able to hide a pair of white socks throughout the course of a day either.
As you sit down, those suit pants will ride up, exposing the white socks as they do so.
While wearing a lighter-colored suit with white socks wouldn’t lead to as much contrast, it would usually lead to enough contrast to be considered inappropriate.
Creates A Formality Mismatch
Wearing white socks with a suit will lead to a formality mismatch.
In other words, the casual nature of the white socks will conflict with the formal nature of the suit.
White socks have a traditionally athletic look and feel to them. It’s tough to look at a pair of white socks and think of anything other than sportswear.
Unfortunately, sportswear and formal suits simply don’t mix.
When they do, the results are often awkward at best and comical at worst.
So, even if you were wearing a suit that’s light enough in color to prevent excessive contrast with the white socks, you’d still be left with a formality mismatch that’s hard to ignore.
Socks Should Generally Match The Suit Pants
When wearing a suit, your socks should generally match the pants.
This is actually a pretty common mistake.
People often try to match their socks to their dress shoes or something else entirely.
But, in general, it’s best to match your socks to your suit pants.
So, if you were wearing a black suit, go for black socks.
If you were wearing a grey suit, go for socks in a similar shade of grey. It doesn’t have to be the exact same shade, but the closer the better.
It’s hard to think of a scenario where white socks would comply with this “rule”.
The only one that comes to mind would be if you were wearing a white or an off-white colored suit.
But how many situations can you think of where a suit like this would be worn in the first place? Probably not many.
To sum that up, white socks would rarely ever be appropriate to wear with a suit, simply because they’re so unlikely to actually match the suit pants.
3 Exceptions Where White Socks Might Be OK With A Suit
Don’t get me wrong – even with these exceptions, a pair of white socks isn’t going to be your best option.
However, it’s unlikely to look as awkward if your situation falls into one of the following three.
1. Very Casual Setting
You may be wearing a suit in a very casual setting. There aren’t many examples where a 2-piece suit would be appropriate in a casual setting.
However, there’s such a wide range of potential occasions you could be dressing for that it wouldn’t be wise to make any assumptions.
If you were wearing a casual-looking suit (eg. linen or corduroy) to a casual or smart-casual setting, you could potentially get away with a pair of white socks.
It just wouldn’t look quite as bad as it would if you were to wear it in a formal setting such as a corporate office environment or a formal dinner.
But once again, it’s very unlikely those white socks would be the best option for you.
Remember, even when wearing casual suits in casual settings, it’s still best to match the socks to the pants.
2. Very Light-Colored Suit
The less contrast you’ve got between the white socks and the color of the suit, the more likely it is to work.
In other words, the lighter the suit color, the better.
The closer your suit is to white, the more appropriate those white socks are going to look.
As I mentioned earlier, there aren’t many situations where a suit this light would be worn.
Light grey suits are pretty common, but a pair of grey socks would be a lot more suitable than a pair of white ones.
However, if you were going to wear white socks with a light grey suit, it wouldn’t look quite as bad as it would with a charcoal grey suit.
3. You’re Wearing Sneakers
The suit and sneakers combination is incredibly tricky. You’ll need a suit that’s casual enough to make it work, as well as a setting where it won’t come across as too pretentious.
In addition, you do need at least a bit of a fashion-forward persona to really pull it off.
But people do it.
If you were going to attempt to do it too, there’s really not much of a problem with wearing white socks.
The formality mismatch between the suit and the sneakers is already pretty huge. Adding a pair of casual-looking white socks into the mix isn’t going to draw any additional attention.
In fact, it would kind of make sense. The athletic look and feel of white socks would actually go hand-in-hand with the sneakers.
How To Wear White Socks With A Suit (If You Had To)
If you haven’t been put off from doing it yet, here are some tips to help you wear white socks with a suit in a way that doesn’t look too awful.
Over-the-calf (OTC) socks a,re the longest type of socks you’ll find. They cover the calf and end just beneath the knee.
They’re ideal for wearing with formal outfits such as suits and tuxedos because they won’t fall down and bunch up as you go about your day.
If you were going to wear white socks with a suit, try to wear white OTC socks such as these ones on Amazon:
Avoid socks with patterns when wearing a suit. White socks are already going to look ultra-casual.
Adding a pattern into the mix is just going to make it look even more casual and draw even more attention.
Stick to white socks with no patterns or a pattern that simply wouldn’t be visible at all even when you’re sitting down.
Consider Suede Shoes
Finally, consider suede shoes when wearing white socks with a suit.
Suede has a napped texture that will always look more casual than a shinier grain of leather.
This tip does depend on wearing a suit casual enough to make suede dress shoes work in the first place.
They shouldn’t be worn with a fine worsted wool 2-piece suit, for example. It would lead to a formality mismatch in itself.
However, if you were wearing a casual linen suit instead, it could definitely work.
Those white socks are going to look less awkward with a smart-casual pair of suede shoes than a pair of shinier dress shoes.
If you think suede could work, try it out.
White socks shouldn’t be worn with a suit in the vast majority of settings. It would usually lead to a formality mismatch due to the casual-looking white socks clashing with the suit.
While we’ve gone through a few examples where it may not be that bad, it still wouldn’t usually be worth attempting.