Depending on your upbringing, your first exposure to striped socks may have been on the feet of your soccer heroes, or on the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East. You may not, however, have expected to see them on your own feet.
Striped socks will always be statement pieces. Whereas so many people choose plain white or black socks, striped socks demand attention. They can provide just the right pop of personality … or they can tip the scales of an outfit into gauche.
This is no reason to be afraid of striped socks, a pattern so classic that anyone can pull them off with a little bit of fashion savvy. If you don’t know how to integrate striped socks into your wardrobe, or are considering giving striped socks as gifts, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to run rings around the fashion world with your striped socks!
Afraid to stand out with striped socks? Throughout history you would have been in good company. There was a time that no respectable person would be caught dead in stripes.
In medieval times, stripes were the apparel of jesters, jokers, prostitutes, and the crippled. 14th-Century French archives report that a cobbler was condemned to death for having the temerity to wear stripes. Talk about a fashion victim.
This stigma against stripes survives today in the reputation of stripes as a pattern worn by convicts. This association mainly survives in “jailbird” Halloween costumes, but some jurisdictions still dress their prisoners in visually-striking striped outfits.
The reputation of stripes started to turn in the 18th Century. Stripes were a symbol of the well-regarded American Revolution, as well as the more ignominious French Revolution. Horizontal stripes became a popular theme of naval uniforms. Aristocrats would tend to wear vertical stripes to distinguish themselves from these rough, maritime types. Horizontal stripes became a working-class staple, vertical stripes a fashion of the elite.
Queen Victoria of England gave stripes their biggest PR boost. In the 19th Century she dressed her son Albert in striped sailor outfits for yacht parties. This iconic outfit became associated with the playful spirit of youth everywhere in the Western world.
Stripes became popular in bathing dresses. Solid colors dominated the ‘70s and ‘80s, but stripes roared back, establishing themselves on suits, button-down shirts, dresses, and (our favorite) socks as a mainstay of forward fashion.
Certain striped-apparel terminology applies to striped socks, the same as it does to other striped garments:
Striped socks come in several different varieties. Some refer to the spacing and/or direction of the stripes. Others refer to the color scheme of the sock. Regardless, the type of striped sock can play a key role in whether or not the sock is appropriate for different circumstances.
You might be more familiar with pinstripes on a suit or sports jacket, where they provide a massive dose of flair to an already-classic silhouette.
Pinstripes aren’t limited to suits, however. Consider pinstriped socks to dress up an otherwise drab outfit. Or better yet, pair them with a fly preppie ensemble.
Classic pinstripe socks are made out of woven cotton, the one-stitch-wide stripe made from a single stitch of fabric. Ranging from narrowly to broadly spaced, these pinstripes can run either vertically or horizontally. The socks can either be calf-high or knee-high.
Knit socks do not offer the opportunity for a classic stitched pinstripe. However, screen printing can provide the illusion of a pinstripe on an otherwise solid knit sock.
Knee-high candy-stripe socks are a mainstay for players of professional soccer (ahem, “football”). Also appropriate for sports like softball or rugby.
Candy-striped socks feature broad horizontal stripes of equal widths, all up the foot and calf. Picture the red-and-white horizontal stripes of a classic candy cane. Most of them are knit and cushioned for athletic performance.
Red and white aren’t the only color scheme available for your candy-striped socks. You can find just about any combination of two or even three colors imaginable. This is one reason why they are so popular among athletic teams—it’s an easy way to incorporate team colors into an outfit. Some of our favorite colors include blue, pink, purple, green and orange.
If you want to go full-Christmastime, you can select socks with diagonal candy stripes, like a classic candy cane or a barber pole. Beware, though—this look can be risque, and requires a lot of swagger to pull off.
Whereas pinstriped socks feature thin stripes one thread width and broadly spaced, and candy-striped socks feature broad evenly spaced horizontal or vertical stripes, hairline striped socks feature narrow stripes placed narrowly and equidistant.
Frequently used in shirts, hairline stripes add a lot of personality. You can find hairline striped socks in two colors or a rainbow of colors, both woven and knit, wool and cotton, ankle-length or knee-length.
The pattern gets its name from the notion that the stripes should be a hair’s-width wide, but those would be some very thin stripes in practice. Usually they are about 1/16-inch wide.
Pencil stripes resemble pinstripes, but they tend to be a little bit wider, available in vertical or horizontal, in any material or sock length.
Chalk stripes resemble pencil stripes, but they are even wider. The stripe width tends to be smaller than candy stripes.
“Roman” stripes do not refer to a shape of stripe so much as to a color scheme. Roman stripes feature a rainbow array of colors running in the warp (vertical) direction.
Multicolor striped socks of various lengths and widths, with stripes running in any direction, can be found.
The short answer is yes. Whatever the atmosphere of your workplace, there’s a striped sock that could work for that environment. That said, different offices have different dress codes and protocols. Almost no office dress codes will specifically exclude striped socks, but consider your audience when picking your sock.
If your office is formal, you may not feel like you have a whole lot of leeway to express yourself in your office attire. Striped socks could be a great choice to add distinctive flair to an otherwise conservative repertoire.
Socks tend to get noticed by the people you want to notice. Managers and supervisors looking for a little extra initiative and excitement will appreciate the choice of striped socks on a go-getter employee.
That said, a conservative office won’t reward a sock choice that is too outside the box. You might get pegged as a clown or a troublemaker. Therefore, in a more conservative office environment, consider pinstripes, pencil stripes, hairline stripes, or chalk stripes in earth tones, muted tones, or monochromatic palettes.
More creative and freewheeling offices may be more forgiving or even encouraging of dramatic sock choices. Bold colors are the perfect choice for an artistic, tech-forward, or iconoclastic office.
Even if “business casual” is the order of the day, the “casual” is something you can run with. Striped socks mean “business,” but don’t deny yourself the fun of boldly-colored socks in a casual environment. Business casual can have a tendency to be comfy, but boring. Cool socks add spice.
The same considerations about office attire apply to a job interview. Consider the attire appropriate to the position you are applying for. Still, striped socks are a great choice for a job interview. The hiring manager will be looking for any sign of personality and initiative they can find. The confidence to wear striped socks speaks volumes without saying a word.
Striped socks can absolutely kill at a wedding, as long as you keep in mind the appropriateness of the sock for the setting.
First, let’s talk about color. Weddings often have color themes. You should be able to find out about that palette and plan ahead to wear socks that match it. Striped, colored socks that match the stripes to a two-colored wedding theme show care, consideration, and a willingness to get into the spirit of the wedding—in other words, a vote of confidence for the happy couple.
This applies doubly to the groom’s party. Matching socks that correlate with the wedding’s themed colors will make the groomsmen party attire look tight as a drum, especially when you match the socks to the groomsmens’ ties and pocket squares. Irresistible.
That said, striped socks run the gamut from casual to formal. Check the attire level of the wedding before you commit to a sock. If the wedding is semi-formal, you might want to consider a dressier sock like pinstripes or hairline stripes in a thinner, more luxurious weave. Knit rugby-style candy-striped knee socks are probably not the way to go. Your socks will stick out like a sore thumb beneath the cuffs of your suit pants.
If a wedding calls for formal attire, “black tie” or “white tie,” you can sometimes get away with a black-and-white striped sock. However, pinstripes are more “semi-formal” than they are formal, even in dress cuts. It is risky to try and match a tuxedo and patent leather shoes with anything other than silk men’s hosiery.
Striped socks pair excellently with solid colors, like bluejeans or a monochromatic suit. A solid navy blue or charcoal suit never goes out of style. Pairing it with striped socks will make you look confident and in-control.
You want your striped socks to go with the outfit you have chosen, but a little contrast with the shoes and the pants goes a long way. If you plan to wear dark shoes and pants, break up the look with light- or bright-colored striped socks to call attention to this cheeky choice.
Match the color of your striped socks to your necktie, pocket square, wrist watch strap … anything you like. Nothing makes an outfit look put together by drawing attention to small, matching details.
Classic shoes are never the wrong choice. Pairing them with a fun striped sock will make it clear that you are anything but boring, even with meat-and-potatoes shoes.
As a general rule, you should avoid wearing too many patterns that clash together. This is especially important when pairing your socks with your pants. If your pants have a warp pattern, skip the warp socks. If your pants have a weft pattern, skip the weft socks.
Typically, you want to avoid a pattern of sock that too closely patches another pattern you are wearing. Color matches are great, but the exact same width of stripe on your socks and your shirt will look weird.
If you’re wearing polka dots, argyle, checkers, or really any other pattern, striped socks are risky. You’re already standing out enough with the other pattern; maybe consider a more relaxed, solid-color sock choice.
This falls under the definition of “too much of a good thing.” Trying to pair a pinstripe suit with pinstripe socks will make you look like a pitchman for pinstripes as a whole. Pinstripes normally kill it, but you don’t want them to define you.
Striking colors or shapes of shoes can really make your outfit shine. However, pairing bold shoes with bold socks could take you too far over the edge. If you’re married to a striped sock, consider a more conservative shoe choice such as brown loafers or black lace-ups.
Both green socks and red shoes are a startling, confident, fashion-forward choice. However, under no circumstances should they be paired together. With this combination, there is simply no way to not look like the Wicked Witch of the East pinned under a house.
Socks have a long and distinguished history as a gift item. They can be an opportunity for Mom and Dad to give the kids the boring “essentials” that they’ll thank them for later … or they can be an opportunity to give someone a beloved gift they will cherish forever.
When considering buying striped socks as a gift, ask yourself if this is a gift the recipient would buy for himself. You want to consider most seriously gift ideas he wouldn’t think of … or treat himself to.
If the recipient is fashionable and confident, distinctive and colorful striped socks will make a welcome gift.
If the recipient is more conservative and reserved in his dress, striped socks are still a good option. Consider more muted or conservative colors, monochromatic and maybe a little darker. That said, don’t be afraid to give his fashion sense a kick in the butt! Suggest a direction he might take his outfits with a bold sock choice.
Many people don’t regularly treat themselves to luxurious socks. They just go with whatever is most economical online. Giving a person a gift is a good time to pamper his/her feet with an extra high-quality pair of socks. Quality socks will last longer too, surviving multiple washings and many miles.
We usually suggest picking one high-quality pair of socks, rather than a variety pack. One high-quality pair is affordable and gives you a chance to tailor the perfect pair of socks to the recipient.
You can learn the recipient’s favorite colors by stalking his/her social media in order to get a sense of what colors and styles your recipient prefers to wear (or at least be photographed in!)
Striped socks have ascended from an ignominious reputation to status as a genuine classic. From the rugby pitch to the boardroom to the ballroom, stripes make an impression with their texture, color, and personality.
Choosing a fashion-forward sock easily upgrades an outfit. Striped socks can give your ensemble the kick it needs, especially if it features solid, conservative, timeless colors. The extra fun and pizazz of the stripes shows that you can be serious, but still know how to cut loose.
Experiment with different colors, patterns, and constructions of striped socks. See which ones work with your jeans, your shorts, your formal attire. Try them with sneakers, loafers, moccasins, boots, and any other shoes you think might be appropriate.
Just remember, your ankles could make no impression at all ... or they could say all the right things. Once you learn a few basic style rules and adhere to them (or know when to break them), you can make priceless impressions with your ankle attire.
Go ahead—make like a soccer player and kick it up a notch! Give yourself or your loved one the gift of striped socks.