According to my highly scientific Instagram Stories poll, at least one-third of people never style outfits with socks as intentional accessories. I got you if you just feel like there are already too many choices when it comes to accessorizing, but if you’re interested in the idea at all, you should definitely give it a go! There are so many ways that socks can enhance a look, a bunch of which I hope this post can inspire you to consider.
I found most of these images through Pinterest. For any that had obvious original sources or cited brands, I added those in the captions. Also, I know it would be most helpful to work more with full outfit photos rather than close ups, but there is a dearth of those compared to detail shots.
Starting off with some tips for the sock-challenged (for real though, I only wore no-show sport socks from multi-packs until after college, so a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have had any idea where to start if you told me to get some socks for the purpose of fashion): For a more regular-joe vibe, match the sock thickness and formality with the shoe’s. i.e. Thick wool socks with heavy boots or outdoorsy(-adjacent) shoes; trouser socks with mary janes, oxfords, or derby shoes; ribbed crew socks with sneakers; and mesh/lace/net tights with pumps. Deviating from this isn’t wrong unless you’re in a no-nonsense serious business/event dress code situation. It’s just socks, you can wear what tickles your fancy. But it’s something to keep in mind if you’re trying to emulate a particular look and your olive green athletic crew socks just isn’t producing the same effect as olive green dress socks.
If you wanna diversify from that but aren’t looking to make a statement statement with your footwear, things generally look more intentional if you pick a sock in the thinner direction, e.g. fishnet socks with loafers versus hiking socks with flats.
If you want even more of an eclectic/over the top look then you can go for a more unexpected combo by using a sock in the thicker direction.
If you’re trying to move your outfit more towards a particular aesthetic, socks are more real estate for you to include relevant details. A plain oxford or loafer or lace-up boot is versatile, but also not particularly evocative. But with a really extra sock, it can pull groovy or girly or gothy or whatever else.
Socks can extend the silhouette of your shoe if it’s the same color, which is handy if you need to play with outfit proportions. Easier on storage than having four shoes that are basically the same except for shaft height! This example is more on the statement side, but I see this used a lot with say, Dr Martens 1461s (the oxfords) to great effect.
With contrast, can add visual weight to the bottom of the outfit by adding another distinct shape.
This can be handy for balancing visual weight if your outfit is much louder or more voluminous than your shoes and they’re feeling a little anemic compared to the rest of it.
If you’ve got a bare-legged outfit with a heavier sweater or coat, socks can make the look feel more seasonally cohesive.
Even just as a simple pop of color thrown on without overthinking it, socks can quickly make even most pedestrian look a little fun.
Or they can ease a bit of pattern into a look if wide swaths of print isn’t your thing
Like an area rug, they can tie a look together. No cohesive elements anywhere? Unite the colors through socks!
Socks can add a little luxury or whimsy in your life. Not feeling extra enough for a whole embroidered tulle dress or a velvet blazer? Add a hint of embellishment through socks.
And despite all those tips, IMHO, fun socks are just such a common thing nowadays that except for in the most formal environments, they’re a great low-risk way to add something delightfully unexpected to any outfit. Even if it doesn’t become Your Thing, if you ever feel like it would be fun, go for it! I don’t have much of a sock collection, but I’ve seen the potential and am looking forward to trying more sock-centric outfits in the future.
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A few places that I’ve found fun socks other than just novelty print crew socks (feel free to share your favorite sock source in the comments!):
- Sock Dreams lots of basic and quirky styles, relatively size inclusive
- Free People there are a lot of non-house brands here, so if you see something where you like the vibe but it isn’t exactly right, you can likely find a lot more options by looking up the brand. It will likely be a dollar or a few cheaper directly from the brand site as well.
- ASOS for a more budget friendly trend sock option
- SHEIN even more budget-friendly trend sock option (definitely read the reviews here – it is super hit or miss).
- Solmate Socks loud patterned socks made of recycled fibers
- Big Bud Press (I haven’t tried these myself but I generally hear good things about BBP) retro-trendy, sweatshop-free
- You can find cute hand embroidered or hand knit socks on Etsy, but do research that it isn’t a dropshipped item (search the item on Aliexpress, Amazon, Shein, eBay and see if it comes up).
- For winter grade socks, check out outdoors gear sites like REI for a higher quality selection overall vs searching for chunky socks on Target or random Amazon brands.
- Be wary of Instagram ads for cute “handmade” “artisan” socks. Most of those are marked up Aliexpress socks that you can also just get on Amazon or eBay.
How often do you use socks as accessories? It doesn’t come to me naturally but I’m always pleased when I can put together a look with a coordinating sock.
I leave you with this mesmerizing video of a vintage sock-knitting machine in action.