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What Your Socks Say About Your Nationality -UPDATE


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Friday, July 28, 2006

What Your Socks Say About Your Nationality -UPDATE

I knew I had a photo of a Brit with maroon socks - this photo was taken at the Paul Smith show in Paris. Could it get more Brit than that?

One of the most asked questions to style experts is "Should my socks match my shoes or my pants?" The answer you get may depend on where you live. The Americans (top photo) advice matching socks to your pants, The Italians (bottom photo) seem to contrast with both shoes and pants. The English , always the eccentrics, wear maroon socks with everything! I have a photo to defend this point but I will have to post it later due to problems with my laptop - stupid laptop!

Comments on "What Your Socks Say About Your Nationality -UPDATE"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:52 AM) : 

Hope your laptop feels better soon.

Thanks for the post. I'm sending this link to my husband because he still thinks that despite having beautiful suits and shoes, sport socks go with everything shy of his tuxedo.


Blogger MrWynn said ... (9:54 AM) : 

When I lived in England there used to be a saying that went around, having to do with socks and trainers. If you wore black socks with your trainers, you were European. White socks? American. Mismatched socks? Definitely Australian.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:01 AM) : 

In at least one thing italians are right: socks MUST be LONG enough not to show any piece of hairy skin under the pants, no matter how the guy moves, seats or cross his legs.
In Brazil, many guys insist in wearing white socks. Short ones. Believe me, when it comes to men's wardrobe, Brazil can be your worse nightmare.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:15 AM) : 

I grew up in London & it's news to me that brits wear maroon socks with everything ... I don't thinks so!


Blogger MARIA H said ... (10:26 AM) : 

I do dislike immensely white socks with suits. I agree about the "American" way: -matching socks with shoes-, but from my experience I've seen a disproportionate amount of "American" men wearing white socks with dark suits and shoes...beginning with Mr public figure David Letterman. I think you might be referring to the few men that have some sense of style, again I'm afraid there are not the majority.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:30 AM) : 

and when you are a brit they rather match nothing!


Blogger Alice Olive said ... (10:58 AM) : 

You forgot British male tourists who wear white socks with their sandals!!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:12 AM) : 

Hohoho apples arent all that perfect huh?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:26 AM) : 

gots to say I prefer the "American" look


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:35 AM) : 

Love the American's brown shoes. It is difficult to find good looking brown shoes for men in Chicago. Any brand suggestions?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:37 AM) : 

Love the American's handsome brown shoes. It is difficult to find a good pair of brown shoes for men in Chicago. Any suggestions on brands?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:42 AM) : 

The Italian option is definitely more sophisticated!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:42 AM) : 

I love that first man's shoes! Tres chic! And his socks go well with his whole look I feel, better than the second one. And his pink shirt! That man has style ;)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:07 PM) : 

This may be the only instance lately where the Americans have it right. The man in the top picture has made great choices, clothes-wise.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:32 PM) : 

ddI think your socks should be darker that your pants but lighter than your shoes. Unless your shoes are black, then go with black socks.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:15 PM) : 

I'm not American, Brittish or Italian of any kind, but I believe socks should match your shoes :)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:26 PM) : 

there is texture in the italian look. The american is too polished and uninteresting.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:53 PM) : 

I've heard that the color of your socks should be darker than the color of your shoes, but lighter than the color of your pants... When applied actually looks really stylish.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:08 PM) : 

Aren't we forgetting that socks are the perfect style complement? eg striped or argyle socks matching shirt or tie?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:17 PM) : 

My understanding is that the theoretical underpinnings behind the American sock style is the idea that the sock is to be seen as a seemless extension, colorwise, of your pantleg.

White athletic socks are for just that: athletics. A white suit, imo, is strictly a summer thing and as such demands no socks at all, unless you're Tom Wolfe, in which case you can do whatever you want.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:19 PM) : 

I think matching socks and pants is always a good, safe look. But, I have a lot of fun wearing colorful socks in solids or patterns that pick up another color of what I am wearing. Like pink socks and a pink shirt with khakis and suede bucks. You made a referrence a while back to "freelancing" with socks. Sometimes it just looks right to not have them match anything. But it should be a complimentery color to the rest of the outfit. A lot like wearing a scarf.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:11 PM) : 

Eh .. Alice -

It's not the british that wear white socks with sandals ... It's usually the Germans ... British don't wear white socks ... thats left to Americans ...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:21 PM) : 

I try to mix things up. Socks can sometimes be a nice accessory. For example, I'll wear orange socks with a pair of gray slacks to liven things up.

Of course, the option we have is go sockless with a nice pair of driving mocs.

-Roberto (Miami)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:25 PM) : 

my italian shoes??

always without socks

by the way, nice pics


Blogger Anastasia said ... (4:47 PM) : 

haha very funny!
worse thing is sport socks with anything but sport shoes!
for work my hubby always wears black socks with black shoes - the Italian men appear to have it right - interesting!


Blogger EMNH said ... (4:57 PM) : 

Never scold your Mac in'll get a complex. When the G 5 is on the fritz, I'm stern but no abusive language. Plus, it's Mercury in Retrograde...


Blogger Natalie said ... (5:17 PM) : 

I saw an old man wearing shorts and maroon socks. Maybe he was British. =)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:49 PM) : 

I like the way the Red Hot Chili Peppers wore their socks ;)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:47 PM) : 

Definitely leave the white sport socks for runners/tennis shoes. As for what color socks w/ dress shoes... I prefer matching my socks w/ my slacks... But if you can pull off anything else, by all means go for it. Showing your personal flair is always great.


Blogger Alex said ... (7:43 PM) : 

for a white suit (which is now extremely rare, I've only seen one a few times in my life) wouldn't the right thing be to wear extremely light-colored (but not white) socks?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:29 PM) : 

Sart, if you had to guess, who would you say is the designer of the American's shoes?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:46 PM) : 

Further reading: Austen McDonald's OCMF hosiery section.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:57 PM) : 

In the second pic, what were his choices? Light grey socks with grey pants? not great with the suede (?) shoes. Brown socks to match the shoes? Too much brown with rest. But blue to match the sport coat? Oh yeah - you look down and just feel right! He looks super! Maybe the new rule should be match your socks to your jacket?


Blogger urbanintllctl said ... (10:39 PM) : 

Fred Astaire would occasionally match his socks with his shirts.


Blogger COOP said ... (2:01 AM) : 

I match my socks with anything and everything EXCEPT my shoes or pants. When I wear a suit, i'm more likely to match my socks to my tie and/or pocket square.

My wife got me into the habit of wearing more "interesting" socks, and now I doubt I even own a pair of black OR white socks. I gotta say, women seem to really appreciate a man who can wear a pair of bubblegum pink socks with a nice suit!


Blogger William said ... (5:44 AM) : 

I'm a brit and i am not sure i have ever seen maroon socks, however I will say that my favourite quote from your site concerns "freelance socks". As far as i am concerned, it is a good way to express the kind of mood you were in when you dressed! (unless you have an important meeting etc...)


Blogger William said ... (5:45 AM) : 

BTW My dad always matches his socks to his shirt - this can become dangerous though...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:51 AM) : 

i love it when david letterman matches his white shirt with white socks. sometimes his tie and socks are matched. i love it. sometimes it's a good way of breaking your cycle. i usually match my socks with my shoes. and it really doesn't bother me if i match my socks with my pants.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:55 PM) : 

Prada makes great mens shoes and they're very comfortable and durable. Any Neiman's Saks or Nordstrom should have a solid selection. If you're in New York, Otto Tootsie Plowhound has good men's shoes and in Chicago try Niche.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:52 AM) : 

the idea behind matching the sock to the trousers is that it gives a longer line to the leg


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:57 AM) : 

the idea of matching the sock to the trouser is to give a longer line to the leg


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:12 PM) : 

I disagree.

Both men matched the socks to something above the foot, which is how well-dressed men (inc. Yanks) do it.

The American paired tan socks to a tan suit, and the Italian paired blue socks to the blue jacket. However, if the American were wearing a blue jacket, he may have picked blue socks.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:39 AM) : 

Sorry, "always match socks with shoes OR pants"? With that, do you mean the same colour? According to my book, colours can match in a number of ways. Just as long as you know what you're doing.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:05 PM) : 

How about loyalty as a rationale for personal style? I've heard that certain Bostonians wear Red Sox, regardless of their outfit...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:40 PM) : 

I'm a Brit and i have never worn maroon socks.I'm not at all sure where tis is coming from. My friends and I do tend to wear Paul Smith or Thomas Pink socks.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:39 AM) : 

Your maroon-stockinged Brit is a cheap shot and you know it. A 25 percent adjustment and he'd be Neopolitan. Not fair!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:54 AM) : 

I'll say this much. I'm not sure about just maroon socks but the English sartorialist will not normally not wear a sober pair of socks. The suit may be sober but there'll prob be a pair of light blue, or red or even pink (I own a pair of green and pink Richard James socks) to shock the observer...


Blogger Claire said ... (5:19 AM) : 

Okaaay...I have never ever seen a Brit wearing maroon socks and I'm British BUT I have seen plenty of British men wearing ribbed khaki socks with sandals - just so, so embarrassing on holiday when you spot them and you just KNOW they're Brits. Also those very thin silk socks Italian men always wear look like they got theirs mixed up with their girlfriends knee highs: not that Italian women would EVER wear knee highs. Who knew I'd have so much to say about socks?!


Blogger The Sartorialist said ... (7:55 AM) : 

I'm not making fun of Brits and maroon socks - it is a real thing.. I had a friend I use to work with at Valentino, he was a tailor in London and came to the US to run a MTM program among other things. He told me about this years ago and wore maroon socks himself a lot.

Since then I have seen many examples by until I started The Sartorialist I never really had a place to discuss it. Maybe it is a Savile Row thing - if you are a Brit go ask them.

Again I don't think it is bad I thing, I think it is charming and probably an interesting story why it has become a thing but just realize it really is a thing

Does anyone out there know the origin of why Brits where maroon socks?

I bet we find out is has something to do with soccer, i mean football


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:02 AM) : 

do not know if you know this one.
not quite an answer but interesting

and then the maroon socks... we are in the business and we sell extremely colorful socks as a very british thing in our shop in berlin:)... so at least i can say that odd sock colors are perceived (and sold) as very britsh - just as no sun tan in summer and sweaters with holes in winter.

let me tell you a short story: there was a time in germany when something changed about the political and cultural talk shows on tv. suddenly people were sitting in armchairs (not behind tables) surrounding an open space... and in the first years of that you could always see the white ankles of all the politicians, businessmen, authors and other power-folk.
after a while everybody addapted to the new circomstances and you hardly see any naked leg in on any occasion any more. (everybody now wears the italian style)
what i want to say is: wearing long socks is something you very much do for the audience. wearing socks in matching colors too.
we all know that britsh culture has a tradition in sublime neglect and provocation - aka individualism.
"when i put my socks on in the morning i do not think of tv cameras" it says.
go england, go!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:29 AM) : 

and one other little thing...

the traditional american way of matching suit and sock color gives a person more standing by enhancing visual gravity (it kind of nails you right into the ground)

the italian way elevates you - like a tree or a wine stock.. growing from the bottom - and at the same time a little more flexible...

and in the english way? you are simply cut off the ground. - like in britsh irony. - it says: do not take me seriously. (and if you do take an englishman seriously, it is on your own risk, after all you could have listend to his socks!!!)

see for yourself;)

and have a great weekend everyone.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:40 PM) : 

Fred Astaire, Fred Astaire, Fred Astaire!


Blogger Scott Lefaive said ... (6:06 AM) : 

vk nagrani makes really great socks. i wear socks that complement the outfit, sometimes matching a color with one in my tie or shirt, sometimes contrasting. pink socks with black trousers, red or orange socks with brown, lime with gray, you get the idea.


Blogger elena said ... (1:34 PM) : 

My two grandfathers wear maroon shocks and they are Spanish the both. In Spain the only the old men wear maroon shocks.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:43 AM) : 

Lived in London/England all my life. Observing people's dress all the time, everywhere I go. I'm not aware of ever seeing a male in maroon socks. I'm sure that there may be the odd one here or there, but to highlight it as somehow being a 'British look' is simply incorrect.

What I did see this last (sweltering hot) Saturday was a gentleman in a Petrol Blue suit, but the trousers were SHORTS. No, it wasn't a suit jacket worn with a random pair of shorts, they were of the same material, and appeared bespoke. He wore them with long pale blue socks and black shoes, a vivid pink tie and pocket square. He drew a lot of odd looks but I thought he looked great - wish I'd had my camera.


Blogger 'signorina' said ... (9:23 PM) : 

Briefly: Italian women may never wear knee-high socks, but I have more than a few Italian women who are overly fond of knee-high pantihose...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:06 AM) : 

SCott, you are of course right. If people tried to think a bit more about the concept you are trying to bring across, i.e., that among the (otherwise rather conservatively dressed) Brits you will find more men that wear rather brightly coloured, contrasting socks with suits (even more so with more informal wear, say, odd jacket combinations or tweed suits) than in any other country. I guess you only need to compare the socks in stock at a top American or German or French gentlemen's outfitter with what is on offer a, say, Cordings or New & Lingwood or Turnbull & Asser in London, and you will immediately spot the difference - plain, usually dark or pale beige / green / brown colours dominate outside Britain, while many reds, pinks, bright blues, even oranges and canary yellows can be found in Jermyn Street.
I guess you did not want to make the point that EVERY Brit ALWAYS wears MAROON socks, but that the number of men who actually do wear maroon (or any other rather bright and contrasting colour) socks will be relatively much greater in Britain than elsewhere.


Blogger brendan said ... (7:01 PM) : 

Camel and pink combo is AMAAAAZING, so chic!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:50 AM) : 

I'm Italian. I always thought socks MUST match shirts, but Italian men usually match (long of course) socks with either shirts or trousers. White socks (aww) are preferred by Germans. Once, I met an English teacher who wore mismatched socks (but he was so sexy you could forgive him!).

Your blog is great :)



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:48 PM) : 

A couple of comments -

1. Please make sure your socks are long enough in the first place. Unless you are Italian, wearing loafers without socks and don't have legs that would allow you to be confused with Wolverine.

2. What color - anything but white with suits first of all, unless you're wearing a white suit, but then I'd suggest the loafers with no socks! Match your shoe or trouser - sure, that's the play it safe mode.

Personally, I'm a vertical striped socks kind of guy. I love wearing them with pin/chalk stripes.

The dark red/maroon sock thing is quite cool as well. Do it, go on... match your socks to your tie or pocket square! Don't worry about conformity, just worry about white socks. :)

FYI - I'm an Aussie but with a Brit taste on suiting.

As to the comments on brown shoes.. all depends on $$$. Go to and start the discussion.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:29 AM) : 

Dear Sartorialist and loyal followers - What a sock dialogue indeed!
But HELP required on this case - What, as one may come across one day, would you do in this case?
Dark shoes [black or deep brown] with white trousers - Surely a white sock would look bizarre no? Does one swing to a black or dark sock in this case? Some would say this turns your sock/shoe combination into the proportion of a 'boot' not a shoe.
[Oh and was thinking in this case of white trousers, black sports jacket]


Blogger ale said ... (6:26 AM) : 

hi guys, this are real italian rules:
1. wear only LONG socks;
2. whit classical suits wear black, or blue socks;
3. anyway usally match your socks with shirt (sometimes with tie) but if the shirt is white, well, you must prefer blue, dark gray or black socks, most of all if you dress classic;
4.with coulored summer dress, never wear socks, or at least wear eccentric coloured socks;
5. even if you wear sneakers but you are not playing any sport don't wear white sport socks, you have to prefer the one which stay totally in the shoes;
6. whit sandals never ever wear socks!
7. during summer time, if you wera casula style, forget your socks.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:37 PM) : 

The pants are so short! Are they supposed to be like this? or is it me?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:45 PM) : 

I love stylish socks on a man! They are a sign of being confident and sexy. For him, I always buy socks. They last forever and have the coolest colours to go with everything from khakis to Kiton suits.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:36 PM) : 

what does "socks" mean?
i never wear anything like that?
i also never wear something called "boxers"...
i am greek:)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:07 PM) : 

Ah! The man with the maroon socks, his skin of his leg is showing ahhhh! "The line of being a man or a boy" appearances can be deceiving.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:27 PM) : 

This idea you have that Britsh men always wear maroon socks is not really correct. I have lived in London for 9 years and work in fashion. Trust me. One often sees contrasting socks against the trousers, but there is not one colour for this.


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