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Your Complete Guide to Buying & Wearing Polka Dot Socks
Polka dot socks are a timeless look that can have a huge impact on the style of your outfit. Their playful patterns, designs, and colors make a bold fashion statement, speak to your personality, and add to the appeal of any get-up.
Sure, some people tend to shy away from peppy patterns, but polka dot socks are a bold look more people can pull off than they think. Whether you’re gearing up to wed the love of your life, having a meeting with a million-dollar client, or spending a warm Sunday morning playing golf, these playful socks can easily class up your outfit.
Polka dot socks come in a wide range of colors, sizes, and styles, which can make shopping for them a little challenging. Thankfully, the - look is incredibly easy to throw together, helping you get ready for any occasion without spending hours rifling through your wardrobe.
Want to jump onto the polka dot socks bandwagon but don’t know where to begin? Your journey begins here — we’re going to lay out everything you need to know about them. Read on for easy pairing, styling, and buying tips!
A brief history of polka dots
Much like stripes, polka dots go way back, and the origin of the pattern isn’t as glamorous and cheerful as we consider it today. The polka dot craze might have taken off in America in the 19th century, but the pattern can be traced back in Western Europe to the late 1700s - (although some scholars argue that the print was around in Medieval Europe).
The print is named after a Czechoslovakian peasant dance called “polka” that appeared - in the late 1840s and endures even today in various forms. Polka-based stuff also emerged from this dance craze, including polka suspenders, polka pudding, and even polka beverages. However, the polka dot print was the one that had the most powerful staying power.
Meanwhile, in non-Western cultures, the pattern has always been a symbol of vitality, fertility, and magic, especially amongst Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Africans.
So, how did the polka-dot pattern become one of the most cheerful, nostalgic, and fun print designs? The first use of the phrase “polka dots” is often credited to the magazine Godey's Lady's Book which mentioned it in its 1857 issue while referring to a scarf.
However, the polka-dot print revolution started taking shape in the early 20th century. In 1926, Norma Smallwood wore a polka-dotted swimsuit, helping her become the first indigenous woman winner of the Miss America “bathing beauty revue.” Disney premiered Minnie Mouse, with her polka dot patterned skirt and bow, a couple of years later.
The Czech-style polka dance made a comeback in the 1940s and brought with it the resurgence of the pattern. And who can forget Frank Sinatra’s debut hit song Polka Dots and Moonbeams?
Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe really took the polka-dot theme to the next level, helping polka dots become an integral part of the mod fashion revolution in the 1960s. The polka dot dress Marilyn Monroe wore in the blockbuster film Seven Year Itch looks as stylish today as it did then. A-list celebrities and personalities like Julia Roberts, Princess Diana, and Prince took the mantle and popularized the print in the 1980s and 1990s.
Why are polka dots such a popular pattern?
Today, polka dots have become a perennial fashion and design style that gravitates seamlessly from one season to the next. And there are several excellent reasons why this is such an attractive, popular, and evergreen pattern.
First of all, polka dots appeal to most people because they can pair with almost everything and you can wear it at any time for pretty much any occasion, from the swishiest of occasions to the most casual events. You could don a pair of purple polka dot socks with your tuxedo or wear a polka dot t-shirt with your sneakers and jeans. Or perhaps you can pair black pants with a polka dot blouse for work.
The options for accessorizing with polka dots are truly endless. You can throw together polka dot socks and a check blazer for your graduation and later hit the dance floor with the same attire. Whether you go for leather loafers, running shoes, or classic black shoes – you can always add pizzazz to your ensemble with a polka dot piece.
Unlike argyle or stripes which can be brutally bold, polka dots are mild, so the pattern style won’t be way out of the comfort zone for most people. You can tweak the color, number, and size of the dots to match your style, personality, and season. Indeed, you’ll find this elegant dotty print in almost every fashion, from fall to summer.
In addition, you can spend an absurd amount of time sampling polka dot designs, given that they come in many different shapes and sizes. You can choose from small dots, big dots, or a blend — and the dots can be crowded, middling, or sparsely-spaced.
As far as color goes, this is where polka dot patterns truly shine. You can pick a print with the same-colored or multicolored dots. Talking of color hues, they run the entire gamut, from neutral colors like gray, tan, brown, and beige, to bright, bold hues like yellow, orange, red, and green. There’s also a whole world of tints and shades to choose from.
The pattern itself can also vary. While many designers choose to play with the spacing between dots, you may also appreciate painted polka dots, coin polka dots, seamless polka dots, lace coins, or aligned polka dots. They can also be combined with a bunch of other cheerful patterns on the same print, including stripes, florals, animal prints, and more.
Can I wear polka dot socks to the office? To an interview?
That’s a resounding yes. If you feel that polka dot socks are what you need to accessorize your work outfit, go for it. They are a great way to add cheer and a fun twist to your work or interview ensemble, as well as showcase your fun and fun personality.
A pair of beautiful polka dot socks will certainly reflect your ability to take risks. It says you can get the job done without compromising your sense of style.
The kind of polka dot socks to wear is a decision that’ll almost always come down to the general vibe and atmosphere of your office. Some workplaces may enforce a strict dress code, which you must naturally follow. While no workplace or job interview will expressly exclude polka dot socks, you’ll want to think about your audience when selecting the right pair.
If your place of work exudes a formal vibe (perhaps you work in a corporate law firm), you might not have much breathing room when it comes to expressing yourself in your office outfit. Still, polka dot socks can be a superb way to add some charm and a touch of flair to an otherwise conservative ensemble.
A bold look tends to get more eyeballs, helping you gain the attention of people that matter – supervisors, managers, CEO, you name them. Showing a little excitement and extra initiative can paint you as an industrious, go-getter who’s not afraid to bring some warmth and positive vibes into the workplace. These are some positive attributes that polka-dot socks can help you project.
An easygoing or creative office can be more forgiving fashion-wise, allowing employees to go crazy on their outfits. In this case, bold sock patterns and colors can earn you points in a freethinking, artistic, laid-back office atmosphere. Polka dot socks can add a little spice to your ‘business casual’ look.
Even so, you don’t want to seem over-flashy during your interview or at work. After all, there’s a big difference between being outrageously brash and being graciously stylish. Taking a little risk in your outfit can go a long way – but going overboard can do more harm than good.
So, if you have opted for a bold look in your socks, try to be classy and subtle elsewhere. For instance, you can take your polka dot socks in a laid-back look and pair them with a gray or brown overcoat. To complete this cool Friday office look, try to wear a pair of black leather shoes, perhaps in the derby category. The relaxed yet cheery look of the socks will go with the rest of the outfit to offer a classic style.
Are polka socks a good wedding idea?
Yes, polka dot socks are a trend that has recently taken the wedding scene by storm, and it’s not difficult to see why. The polka dot pattern is going through some sort of a renaissance, and there’s no better place for a trend to show up than at weddings.
Most newly-engaged couples choose a themed wedding complete with a décor color. While it’s easy to incorporate the wedding color into the venue decorations, the cake, and other aspects of the big day, it’s usually tricky when it comes to the outfit, especially the groom’s and the groomsmen’s attire. There isn’t much you can do to dramatically personalize a black tuxedo or a suit.
Thankfully, that’s where semi-bold, playful sock patterns can be helpful. A polka dot sock is an effortlessly smart and stylish way to introduce the wedding color into the outfit without something too bold or risky.
It all comes down to complementing patterns and colors in your wedding outfit, which is an incredibly fun way to add interest and personality to your ensemble. White and black is a no-brainer starter palette, but you should go bold for the big day. Find patterns with similar colors in them, keeping it simple and stylish by blending same-tone colors.
For example, a jewel tone in your polka dot socks should go with jewel tones in either the bride’s gown or the overall wedding color. The same goes for pastels, but the rule of thumb is to coordinate the socks with the wedding’s theme colors.
If your pocket square has some purple somewhere in it, make sure all or some of the polka dots are of the same shade of purple. You can also use polka dot socks to mix patterns of different scales. In other words, team up a big print with a small pattern to create some size contrast.
Let’s consider an example where you’re trying to incorporate polka dots and stripes together into your outfit. If you’re planning to wear socks with small polka dots (which is basically neutral), ensure the stripes elsewhere in the ensemble are large and bold. The other way around can also work — try to wear socks with big, bold polka dots plus small, neutral stripes.
For added dimension, consider mixing textures, too. That’s not going to be big when choosing your wedding socks, though. In any case, your chosen shoes and polka dot socks should contrast to add a little interest to your wedding outfit.
When it comes down to brass tacks, it pays to stick to the wedding style. If it’s a semi-formal affair, you may go for a dressier sock style with fun polka dots in a more luxurious, thinner weave. At the same time, you don’t want to look cartoonish in them.
If it’s a strictly black-tie or white-tie affair, you can always class up the outfit with a gray or black-and-white polka dot sock. Just as you wouldn’t wear white cotton socks with your black tuxedo, stay away from too risky or too bold polka dot colors.
Is there anything I shouldn’t wear with polka dots?
Polka dot is a bold and playful pattern in and of itself, so other peppy patterns probably aren’t the greatest idea. For instance, you might not like the outcome of pairing a bright, bold pair of polka dot socks and striped pants. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb from the crowd.
Before we delve into what you shouldn’t wear, let’s talk a bit about what you can indeed wear with polka dots:
Contrasting colors, tones, and patterns: Sure, you want your polka socks to match with the outfit you have picked out, but a little contrast can go a long way. For instance, if you wear dark pants and shoes, brighten up the look with a bright-colored or light-colored pair of polka dot socks.
Use the color wheel to establish which colors do contrast. For a classic look like navy, you can never go wrong with a polka dot sock with a yellow or orange base
Solid hues: Patterned socks pair amazingly well with monochromatic outfits. A solid gray or navy-blue suit is a timeless classic. Try to team it up with polka dot socks, helping you look in-charge and confident.
Conservative shoes: It’s simple – you can never go wrong with a pair of classic shoes. Pairing them with playful polka dot socks will show the world that you’re anything but dull, even with loafers.
Toning accessories: Match the shade of your polka socks to your wristwatch strap, pocket square, earrings, necktie, bowtie … you name them. There’s nothing that brings an outfit together beautifully than drawing attention to small, matching details.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the don’ts of wearing polka dot socks:
Don’t pair with patterns of the same scale – This is a big one. Patterns pair well with solids and neutral tones, but not so much with other patterns. This can turn into an eyesore if you mix patterns of the same scale. For instance, you can’t wear socks with large, bold polka dots if you plan to pair them with something bearing big-printed stripes.
As a general fashion rule, you should avoid combining too many patterns that clash. This is particularly crucial when you pair your pants with your socks. If your socks have polka dots, you should skip a polka dot shirt or pocket square.
Don’t go outside the color palette – Before you assemble your outfit, you should pick a color palette and stick to it. That should be the case even if you’re planning to add color, so stick to just a few colors. More importantly, find patterns and accessories with the same hues in them – that’s pair jewel hues with jewel hues, or pastels with pastels, for instance.
Don’t wear too many polka dots in the same outfit – This is just to reiterate the fact that you shouldn’t incorporate too many patterns into your get-up. Even if you’re crazily into polka dots, don’t pair your polka socks with two other different polka dots.
Don’t wear them with the same size polka dots – If you have polka dots somewhere else, make sure the dots are of different sizes and possibly colors.
Don’t wear really bold shoes – Striking materials, colors, and shapes of shoes can make your outfit stand out. However, teaming up bold polka socks with bold shoes is just taking the fashion risk too far over the fence. If you’re going for a bright-colored pair of socks, stick to a more conservative shoe style, like black lace-ups or brown loafers.
What if you’re Considering Buying Polka Dot Socks as a Gift?
It’s no secret that we love to give socks as a gift. Polka dot socks check all the right boxes – they are playful, fun, practical, and this is one gift your loved one can still be thankful for many months later. It’s easy on your wallet, too.
So, what should you consider when giving polka socks as a gift? Remember, this allows you to hand-pick something your loved one will cherish forever and love you more for it.
First things first--you should make sure the person you’re buying for is game for a bold sock choice. As we’ve noted earlier, some people tend to avoid sock choices that scream “look at me!” Even if your giftee isn’t into bold styles, you can still pick polka dot socks in neutral patterns and colors (most experts recommend smaller dots in navy, gray, beige, etc. for this purpose).
Next up, have a sense of their size and style. When we talk of style, most often we think about the color, shade, or size of the polka dots. Again, small polka dots immersed in black, gray, navy, or other neutral hues will help dial down the peppy pattern for someone who likes to stay grounded and keep things old-school.
If you’re buying for someone who likes to take fashion risks and is not afraid to sail uncharted waters, you can always go for bright, bold colors like pink, orange, cyan, purple, or even blood red. Experiment with mix-and-match blends that bring together florals, stripes, argyle, animal prints, and of course, polka dots.
Socks are trendy yet timeless. While we sift quickly through a myriad of clothing trends from season to season, socks are a styling staple that sticks around. With socks, all you want to do is celebrate their individuality and style. For the fashionista in the house, consider on-trend styles and colors. Perhaps you should peek at this season’s runways for inspiration.
Don’t be afraid to splurge. Let’s be honest: the next meaningful item on the list would be the latest gizmo, which can set you back hundreds of dollars. Luckily, more brands like NoColdFeet are starting to make available polka dot socks made with top-notch materials and innovative features. Plus, they come in cool and fun colors, which make them such great gifts.
The polka dot pattern has come a long way from an ignominious beginning as a symbol of the peasantry, plague, and uncleanliness to something of a cult-favorite. There’s no better way to celebrate this cheery pattern than to buy polka dot socks and pair them with your favorite fashion items.
Polka socks go perfectly well with pants, shirts, overcoats, suits, and even not-too-formal attires. The trick is to pair this playful sock choice with contrasting colors, matching accessories, and conservative shoes.
Go ahead and make polka dot socks an integral part of your wardrobe. Heck, more people should wear them. Hooray!