A good suit is a beautiful thing. But as anyone who lives in one will tell you, it’s all about the extras—those superfluous touches that add a bit of color to the gray flannel crowd, and remind the world that you know your way around a dress code. The pocket square, the tie…and the socks.

The basic rule is to choose socks in the same color family as your suit—gray with gray, blue with blue and so on, even if the exact color doesn’t match—but if you’re trying to liven up a work outfit, that rule goes out the window almost immediately. And while we wouldn’t advocate nostalgic white socks or anything in the Happy Sock continuum. (Save them for when you’re wearing jeans.)

Step one is the kind of eye-poppingly colorful socks you see on the Pitti Uomo crowd. As in most formal gear, Drake’s is hard to beat, but you can find similar pairs from Marcoliani. Our personal favorite is American Apparel’s cotton sock, which is better than it has any right to be. Just stick to wool and cotton; cashmere is rarely worth the trouble.

If that’s not loud enough for you, it’s time for a few soft patterns like pin-sized dots and thin stripes. Pantherella dominated these for years, but as their fabrics have gotten shakier, we’ve switched over to Muji. The best challenge comes from the socks above—arriving at Shipley & Halmos at the end of October—which might become our new favorite shortly thereafter. When you’re picking them out, look for an appropriate color match somewhere in the pattern. It shouldn’t be hard to find. In the case of these three pairs, it would be blue, brown and khaki. (A gray suit works with just about anything.) Unless, of course, you decide to throw caution to the wind entirely.

At which point, it may be time to take off that suit.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom