Whether it’s in the workplace, at a formal event, or just out and about every day, everyone should know what color socks to wear with brown shoes. You might think that any color socks can go with any color shoes, but you’d be wrong!
While brown shoes are rather simple to match with things, there are specific unwritten dress rules that you should follow. When matching these shoes with a pair of socks, there are a few colors to avoid, for example. In this guide, we’ll teach you all about what color socks to wear with brown shoes.
Match Your Pants
For men (and, sometimes, for women), the safest rule of thumb that’s been followed for centuries is to match your socks to the color of your pants. This way, the cuffs of your pants will match your socks, and the two will appear to blend when you’re sitting or stretching. This elongates the leg and the entire profile in the process.
However, when this fails, there are a few other rules you can fall back on. What would you wear with khaki pants, for example? Most people don’t own a pair of khaki socks, and too many shades of tan and brown would start to look ugly anyway.
In this situation, instead of matching your socks to the color of your pants, you should choose a color and pattern that looks good with them. A pair of subtle, sage green socks, for example, pairs excellently with khaki pants and brown shoes.
The White Sock Problem
Never wear white socks with dress shoes and slacks! White socks are only appropriate to wear with shorts, jeans, or casual outfits, regardless of whether your shoes are brown or not. If you’re looking to dress up your look and follow these unspoken sock fashion rules, never wear white socks to work or formal events, no matter how unlikely they are to show.
An excellent option to wear with solid-colored pants or slacks is patterned socks. Patterned socks provide a flash of flair and outfit coherence when they show, and they bring brown shoes together with many different colors of pants. However, when choosing a patterned sock, make sure to choose something that’s not too colorful or busy for your event or destination.
If you need help deciding whether a pattern or color is okay for work, consider this: if the design was on a tie, would you wear it to work? If the answer is no, then don’t wear it on socks, either! As a general rule, though, the following patterns are generally safe and tasteful:
- Unobtrusive patterns, such as diamonds or dots (with discretion)
Other designs may be appropriate, depending on where and when you’re wearing your socks and shoes. However, always be sure to take your venue or workplace dress rules into account before choosing a bold or patterned sock.
Sock shades are a bit difficult to work with. If you can’t find the same shade of black as your black slacks, then don’t wear the socks! It’s much better to choose socks that are an entirely different color than your pants than it is to wear socks that are just one or two shades off. Keep this in mind when choosing what color socks to wear with brown shoes.
One other thing to avoid in sock shades is socks that are the same brown as your brown shoes. Typically, black shoes blend well with black stockings, but the same is not valid for brown shoes! If you’re going to wear brown shoes with brown socks, make sure the shades are noticeably different or choose socks that also incorporate another complementary color.
While brown shoes can go with many different colors of socks, there are a few options that stand out from the rest. Blue and navy socks, for example, contrast beautifully with warm brown socks.
However, you can contrast your socks with your pants, too, or even another aspect of your outfit. If you’re feeling adventurous, try picking a color that complements any of these:
- Your tie
- Your shirt
- A vest or jacket
- Another accessory, such as a purse, hat, or hair decoration
Before we get into complimenting your socks, though, we need to explain what we mean by “complementing.” If you’ve seen a color wheel, you probably know what complementary colors are. We’ve already mentioned that blue is complementary to brown, but you can work with other colors in your outfit, too.
For example, if you’re wearing a plum tie, try wearing some sage or apple green socks for an eye-catching combination. Keep in mind that, when working with a color wheel, you don’t need to work with pure, bold hues; you can work with shades, lightness, darkness, and in-between hues, too.
When choosing what color socks to wear with brown shoes, you can’t just stop at color! Believe it or not, sock length plays a huge role in the appropriateness of your footwear, too. Fortunately, though, the suitability of sock length is a bit more clear-cut than the color tends to be.
For the workplace, over-the-calf or mid-calf socks are always the most appropriate. For women, pantyhose or thigh-high hose paired with a skirt may even be better, depending on the outfit and the circumstances. Ankle socks and no-show socks are generally not compatible with business attire.
However, for formal events, the choice of sock length can be a bit more open to interpretation, especially if we’re looking at a party or creative venue where you can exercise your style. While men don’t traditionally wear no-show socks with dress shoes, the trend has started to become more socially acceptable. Ankle-length socks can work under certain circumstances, too.
For casual outings, vacations, or trips to the gym, you’ll generally want to stick with low socks. Recently, most women have preferred to rock the low-cut or no-show sock look with casual outfits, especially in the summertime, but men can pull off the look, too. White ankle-height socks are typically appropriate for any casual outing or activity, especially for men.
Don’t Be Afraid of Color
While navy, blue, or black is the safest place to go with your socked outfits, this doesn’t mean you should be afraid of incorporating color into your wardrobe. Of course, depending on whether you’re somewhere with an enforced dress code or not, your options may be limited, but there are many ways to make colorful, upbeat-looking socks look professional and modern.
Socks are an excellent way to express yourself through color because they’re inexpensive, they don’t always need to show, and they can adapt to hundreds of different outfits. They’re far less expensive than purses and ties, but if you do it right, a good pair of colorful socks can bring the same level of accessorization to an outfit as either of them.
There are hundreds of different reasons to change up the socks in your wardrobe, and doing so can instantly refresh or update one of your favorite outfits or fashions. Consider some of these options:
- Changing the thickness and coziness of your socks depending on the season
- Matching your wardrobe colors to your mood
- Exploring color combinations and developing your style in a subtle, unobtrusive way
- Changing sock color or feel depending on where you are traveling to
- Planning your outfits around a specific event or holiday patterns
The material of the socks that you pair with your brown shoes makes a difference, too. Some socks don’t work with some footwear, for example. Thin silk or cashmere socks are meant for formal or work environments and are entirely unnecessary and out-of-place in a casual outfit. However, in the same way, plain white cotton socks seem overly bright and ugly when paired with formal attire.
Knowing when and where to wear each kind of sock is a critical skill to learn, both to match your brown shoes properly and to ensure you’re properly dressed for wherever you’re going. Consider woven wool socks, for example. While woolen socks are attractive and warm, they may be too thick and obtrusive during summer months. On the other hand, they might be an excellent choice during the winter and fall.
In the same way, thin, formal socks would be very non-functional during the wintertime but might give your feet a welcome reprieve from the heat during the summer and spring.
Cotton, wool, polyester, and nylon are some of the most common materials for socks (and hose), and each element has its strengths and weaknesses.
- Cotton socks are convenient, comfortable, and affordable. They absorb moisture readily, but they don’t tend to wick moisture well, and they stay wet longer, too. They may not be the best choice for perpetually-sweaty feet.
- Wool socks are breathable in addition to being warm, but they also don’t wick moisture well. They’re a poor choice for hot workplaces or warm summer months.
- Polyester and nylon socks and hose are excellent for warm, sweaty environments because of their moisture-wicking properties, but they’re also thin. As such, they’re paradoxically inappropriate for exercise and any high-impact activities.
When to Wear Colorful Socks
Knowing what color socks to wear with brown shoes begins with considering where you’ll be going with your outfit! If you’re going on an important business trip with valuable clients, you will likely want to be very careful with your sock choices. However, if you’re visiting a lighthearted mixer or business party, you might want to get a bit creative!
While a situation might not always be clear in whether it calls for colorful socks or not, it’s a bit easier to define when you do want to wear them! The following situations are exceptionally friendly to colorful socks:
- When you need to bring some cheer and color to a dull or tired outfit. For working people, especially, it can sometimes feel like you’ve gone through all of your suits multiple times and have nothing new to wear. However, a pair of colorful or patterned socks can perk up one of these outfits immediately and make it feel brand-new!
- When you know you’ll have your shoes off for an extended period. If you’ll be showing your stocking feet, it’s great to make sure your socks are cheerful and fun! In certain Asian countries, people are expected to take their shoes off when entering the house or eating food. Another place you might be shoeless for a while would be on a work retreat or at a spa.
- When you want to color-coordinate. If you’re going to wear your favorite yellow tie with your business casual, think about wearing some socks that will complement or play up that yellow color. Just be careful not to coordinate patterns, as this can seem contrived and stuffy.
Other Sock Rules
Besides styling your socks to match your brown shoes, there are several other things you need to remember when picking them out. Keep these rules of thumb in mind whenever you’re picking out socks for your outfits!
- Black is the safest sock color to wear with jeans, especially when dressing them up.
- A good pair of socks should be moisture-wicking, rather than weighed down with sweat.
- Never wear socks that sag or don’t fit well.
- Always double-check that your socks match in both thickness and color.
- Your socks should cushion your feet enough to prevent the formation of blisters.
- Never wear socks with holes or threadbare spots.
- If you’re unsure of which sock color to wear with your outfit, always default to black.
- Avoid wearing brown shoes with black socks and black sweats. Choose black shoes with this ensemble instead.
- Don’t wear thin, formal socks with sport or athletic shoes.
- Never wear plain white socks with a suit!
- Always try to match your socks with your trousers if you’re wearing a suit.
Matching Brown Shoes with Other Clothing
While matching your brown shoes with your socks is all well and good, your brown shoes need to match with other aspects of your outfit, too! After all, while brown shoes are incredibly versatile, they don’t go with every outfit. Like we said before, brown shoes shouldn’t go with black slacks and black socks, for example. While black shoes can match with almost anything, that’s not true for brown shoes!
However, brown shoes, especially dress shoes, are more versatile and accommodating than black shoes. This is because brown shoes can be both dressed up and dressed down. Black footwear, on the other hand, tends to look rather formal regardless of the rest of your outfit. However, there are a few tricks to keep in mind that help to match brown shoes with the rest of the gear you’re wearing.
First, try wearing two-toned socks that match your shoes and your pants. This one is a fool-proof trick of the trade! Whenever you’re not sure how to match your brown shoes with your pants, pick a sock that ties your shoes and pants together. However, take caution with certain color combinations! Brown and black socks, if too bright, can leave you looking like you’re preparing for Halloween, for example.
Second, wear a belt that’s the same shade as your brown shoes, if possible. A brown belt in the same tone (and material, if possible) as your brown shoes will tie the look into just about any outfit, even if it looked questionable initially. If you’re feeling adventurous, follow this up with a leather bracelet or bolo necktie to really tie things together.
Secrets to Wearing Brown Shoes
In many social circles, black dress shoes are genuinely considered the be-all and the end-all of dress shoes. As such, it’s imperative to know when you’re expected to wear black shoes. If you wear brown shoes to an event or interview where you were supposed to wear black, it could affect your performance or how you come off to others.
Knowing when to wear black and brown (and any other color) shoes is a skill learned through situational awareness and context. As a general rule, stick to your black dress shoes for the following:
- Black and white tie events
- White-collar jobs
That being said, there are a few areas where brown shoes excel, too! Smart, tailored jeans, for example, especially dark ones, go particularly well with light brown dress shoes. Brown shoes also tend to be a bit more outdoorsy and sunny, and they work well for outside events and receptions.
The next most important thing is a bit more personal: confidence. If you can rock the brown shoes and look smart doing it, then wear them!
In the end, brown shoes can be a bit difficult to style with socks, especially if you haven’t done it before. However, once you learn the ropes for them a bit, they can be fun, smart, and even sexy! There are some clear style rules you’ll need to follow, but as long as you take both your confidence and your environment into account, you should be rocking your favorite brown shoes and colorful socks in no time.