No White Socks with Black Shoes

Inexcusable and disgusting While we are on the topic of clothing and appearance, this is a little pet peeve of mine.

Wearing white socks with black shoes is a style faux pas.

Why fuss over something trivial, you might ask. True, socks are less conspicuous than most other elements of your clothing. However, wearing an unaesthetic combination or, worse, the wrong kind of socks can attract attention. Remember that in matters of clothing and demeanor, the devil is in the details. When it comes to dressing for an important event, no element is trivial enough to overlook.

A few broad guidelines are in order.

  • Generally, match the color of your socks to that of your shoes.
  • White socks with black shoes is a style faux pas Avoid light-colored socks with dark shoes. In particular, avoid wearing white socks with black shoes. Men should also avoid pastel and flesh-toned socks.
  • Prefer darker socks. If you own an assortment of black, blue-black, and dark brown socks, be careful when matching socks into pairs. When you are indoors or under low light, you may inadvertently mismatch socks and wind up wearing one each of two different dark colors. (This happened to me when I was heading to an interview a few years ago. Luckily, I had enough time to stop at a store and buy a new pair of socks.)
  • For dress wear, your best bet is to own a collection of plain, black, vertically ribbed socks. Dress socks should be thinner than athletic socks. If you want to try patterned socks, let the patterns be simple and subtle.
  • Use white socks only with white athletic shoes, shorts, track pants and other active gear. Select darker socks with dark colored athletic shoes.
  • For casual wear, say while wearing khakis or jeans, white socks are acceptable if you are wearing white athletic shoes. Black socks are just as acceptable.
  • Holiday-themed socks for relaxed wear You may wear striped socks, holiday-themed socks or socks with your favorite cartoon or Disney characters only for relaxed occasions or when indoors.
  • Buy socks that are long enough to cover a good portion of your calves. When you sit down or cross legs, you should not display any skin between your socks and pants.
  • Wear ankle socks only with shorts.
  • Choose socks made of wool or cotton. These materials breathe well and absorb moisture better.
  • Do not wear socks with sandals or slippers.
  • After each wash, make sure that your socks are in good condition. Avoid the embarrassment of having to remove your shoes in front of others only to find that your socks have holes in them.

More on Etiquette and Clothing


  1. Antome says

    White socks don’t really look bad with black shoes and a suit. That’s the only situation in which I’d consider them, personally.

  2. Antome says

    I have to admit that matching socks with shoes is a more sure fire option if one day you don’t feel particularly creative, so I agree ;).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *