How to Wear Colorful Socks without a Fashion Faux Pas

Colorful socks! They’re fun! They’re crazy! And anyone can pull them off!

Ha. Well, actually, anyone can pull them on as well. What makes colorful socks so much fun is that they are appropriate for most occasions. You had to know that sooner or later, your sock drawer was going to require an extreme makeover--because plain ol’ solid black and grey socks are only fitting in certain situations. Colorful socks truly rock.

Plus, colorful socks cross many different demographics. You don’t have to be the coolest person around to wear them, either. For example, George H. W. Bush knows how to wear colorful socks. This goes to show you that not only are US Presidents hip to the wonders of bright, colorful footwear, but some of them happen to be cool. Even if you didn’t vote for them.

The Main Rule: If You Like It, Go for It

There aren’t a ton of super-rigid guidelines when it comes to donning a pair of bright orange polka-dot or otherwise colorful socks, so have fun with them and, in most cases (more on that later), whatever makes you happy will be fine.

Maybe today, you feel like snazzy purple stripey socks will get you through your day.

That’s a good call, because sometimes, it’s mind over matter that makes the difference. IOr, i vibrant green socks pick up your mood, then go for it.

There is thankfully no such thing as the sock police so essentially, anything goes, with a few exceptions (again, more on that in a bit), you can grab whatever pair of colorful socks catch your eye at that moment and get away with wearing them for the rest of the day.

You can even wear colorful socks to bed to keep your feet warm at night and it doesn’t matter if they match or not. In fact, who really has the power to stop you if you elect to wear one pink one that looks as sweet as bubble gum, and one of another color? They can’t arrest you for it.

Anyway, if you’re feeling a bit color-blind, here are a few helpful tips for choosing cheery socks.

How to Match Snappy Socks to an Outfit

If you are trying to figure out how to wear colorful socks with a specific outfit, there are a few general rules of thumb that will help you get it right. Remember, these are just general tips but you can always improvise if that feels better for you in the long run. Or the long walk. Whatever.

Tip 1 – The Clash

We’re not talking punk rock (punk sock?) here at all. But we are pointing out that sometimes, clashing designs are sort of like a television test pattern – it gets distracting after a while. So, for example, if you are wearing clothes that have a checkered pattern, don’t wear striped socks as they will clash.

But on the other hand (or foot), as we said earlier, you can mix and match colors if you are deliberately trying to cause a stir.

Tip 2 – Adjust the Contrast

For a suit or outfit that is primarily muted tones (translation: dull and boring), you can get away with wearing some of the more outrageous colorful socks in your collection. The contrast will end up bringing life to your entire outfit and you only require colorful socks to get you there.

Think about how a pair of happy yellow socks will make your colleagues smile.

Tip 3 – What To Match

Probably the easiest thing to do with colorful socks is to aim for a simple match. This means matching either your tie or the pocket square you slip into your jacket pocket. You won’t be able to make an exact match, but if both are dark blue, then opt for a shade of dark blue socks.

Tip 4 – Turn Down The Volume

One of the most important tips for wearing colorful socks successfully in a conservative setting is to try not to make the socks the focal point of your outfit. Sure, crazy socks are fun and can funk up any daywear, but the idea is to liven up that outfit, not overpower it to the point where no one notices your suit or even cares what you’re saying!

Tip 5 – White is Right

Sure, it may sound like a cop-out of sorts. However, if you are having a great deal of difficulty making the match that works for you, just wear white socks if you’re in a casual setting (though plain white’s a faux pas if you’re in the boardroom! In that case, choose a traditional Argyle pair with a white and gray base. Okay, they’re not colorful but they are cheerful and classical.

For what it’s worth, white also happens to contain every color of the rainbow.

Tip 6 – It’s a Shoe Thing

One way to narrow down your sock choices is to consider the footwear you intend to have as part of your outfit. It is a good idea to have a basic understanding of what colors will match well with your brown, black or whatever shoes. Sneakers are a whole different matter altogether.

Now, when we say ‘what will match well’, it’s an error to think brown shoes mean dull socks. Brown shoes could well sport yellow socks, while black shoes can carry off just about any brights, especially a funky, fiery red-based pair of socks.

Tip 7 – Working From Home

Entrepreneurs who work from home have a whole different set of sock rules to adhere to. Okay, they aren’t that strict. If you work from a home office all day, you can wear whatever colorful socks you wish and they don’t have to match.

Although, on the other hand, you might argue that jazzy socks are wasted on just your lonesome… so why not save them for a special occasion?

Should You Match Socks to Pants?

Sometimes! It depends on what look you are going for.

If the pants are colorful to begin with, colorful socks could act as amplifying that look. If you are wearing jeans, you could end up with a more subdued look. This creates a smooth transition from pant to shoe, thanks to the socks.

But how much sock should you show? Unless you are wearing Bermuda shorts and your socks are in sandals (don’t get us started on the problems with that outfit!) your pant length has to be correct. Too short and you are wearing what has been called “flood pants.” Don’t be that guy.

What Are Some Colorful Sock No-Nos?

Although we have been emphasizing the importance of doing your own things with colorful socks there are a few (very few) things you should never do when learning how to wear colorful socks. Here is a quick rundown of what those no-nos are.

The Flippant Funeral Feet

Sure, you have a great collection of socks ranging from serious to fun. It’s great to have a wide selection because you want to be able to set the tone and show some creativity – but only in places where your creativity will be appreciated.

For example, on a normal day in the office or out on a dinner date or at a friend’s wedding reception, your special socks will be welcomed even if they are spotted purple ones.

Places where you should never wear colorful socks under any circumstances, include a business meeting where you will be in close quarters with upper management--or to a funeral.

Even if Aunt Cheryl was the life of the party with a wicked sense of humor, colorful socks are not going to win you any points. The goal is to fit in and be respectful. This does not mean you cannot wear patterned socks with a black outfit, but they should be a classic design such as Argyles, which have a very old-school, respectful feel even when the color is bright or vivid.

The Wandering Sock Sneak-Off

Have you ever experienced this? It’s laundry day and you load up the washing machine--or the row of washing machines at the laundromat--with all of your dirty clothes.

Maybe you separate colors and maybe you don’t. The point here is that invariably, when you get all your wet laundry into the dryers, something happens to your socks. It seems to be a case of beam me up, Spotty when your perfect polka-dot socks disappear.

Usually, just one from a pair goes missing. It wanders off, and if you lose it at the laundromat, you can bet it’ll turn up in some stranger’s bra. Every laundromat has some odd socks hanging around waiting to be claimed.

We can only speculate as to what the fate of all of those unmatched socks could be, but if you know how to wear colorful socks and want to keep doing so, change up your laundry habit.

We recommend washing wandering socks by hand in a basin. They can’t sneak off right under your nose.

The Clashing Combo

We told you a few paragraphs ago that clashing is not entirely a bad thing when it’s socks versus the rest of your clothing, or even a mix-it-up approach to different colored socks.

But, you know, it’s all about the context. There’s a big difference between mixing it up at a fun event and looking like a complete idiot at a formal corporate event.

The Black Tie Affair with Yellow Socks

This one should fall as a subcategory of the tip related to business meetings and funerals. A black-tie event is called “black tie” for a reason.

It is a secret guy code for “formal”, and regardless of how much you may think your bright yellow socks may fit it to such an event, they won’t. They don’t. And they can’t.

So, you mustn’t. Just NO. This event is for black socks only.

… And Back to Our Original Thoughts

Although we’ve laid out several seemingly important and crucial guidelines to help you learn how to wear colorful socks, we still lean toward our original thoughts on the subject.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing the brightest, loudest and wackiest socks you own to any function or event. However, you don’t always want to be the main attraction.

Sometimes, you have to let the bride and groom or the birthday girl get some of the focus.

And at a memorial service, the attendees’ eyes should be filled with tears over the dearly departed, and not twitching askance and appalled at your mismatched, psychedelic, multicolored socks.


Colorful socks are fun; they let you display your personality and allow you to be creative. Some pretty important people in today’s world have been known to slip on a pair of outlandishly colorful and bright socks to set them apart from the crowd.

The bottom line is that your sock drawer doesn’t have to be boring with all the same subdued, sad shades filling it up. Breathe new life into the sock drawer with colorful socks of all description

From bright colors to funky patterns, socks are sort of like ties for your feet as they allow you to add something unique to otherwise dull daywear. As long as you consider the context, colorful socks give you an edge, make you feel good about yourself and help you to put your best feet forward.

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