Ask Esquire: Funky Socks—Yes or No

There is a golden rule to follow when wearing socks.

Did you know that the song “Funkytown” was from the album Mouth to Mouth by this disco group called Lipps Inc.? Isn't that wow? 

Won't you take me to... Funkytown...

We are invoking this throwback ditty, because Mozartsghost144, through social media, asks this question: “Hey Esquire, what do you think of my funky socks?” 

Won't you take me to... Funkytown...

Is the song now stuck in your head?  

To Sock Or Not To Sock

Why don't we answer this by doing a Westworld and going in circles? First, we'd like to commend Mozartsghost144 for choosing to wear socks, because, in a roundtable discussion about men's style, we became aware of the horrible fact that there are men who prefer to do without them and just go bare down there.

Preferences boiled down to perceived comfort. Those who nixed socks consider them as leg chokers that trap swampy heat in the region below the knees. Those who put on socks compare them to soft blankets, personal carpets, or extra cushions of happiness against the hardness of the world.

Also, the sock wearers just don't like grinding their bare skin against germy insoles. Yuck. We should all wear socks.  

The One Rule To Follow

Now, we have to bring up the Golden Rule of Socks, which says, “Match the color of your socks to your pants.” Note that it doesn't say, “Match the color of your socks to your shoes.” That means: Navy trousers, navy socks. Gray pants, gray socks. Your footwear doesn't matter to the socks. Got it? 


Now, we have to bring up an addendum: “Forget this rule when wearing jeans or khakis.” When in jeans, socks may follow the color of your shoes. When in khakis, socks should stay within the vicinity of brown. Okay? 

Style gods deem that you match your socks to your shoes only when wearing jeans.

When You Go To 'Funkytown'

“Hey, what about my funky socks of many colors?” you ask. “Today, I am wearing a pair with an amazing pattern of strips of fried bacon. It has the color of butter-fried meat, burnt fat, and pink bits. It's so funny! I am laughing right now.”

Are the people around you laughing, too?

There was a moment—we'll call it 2005 or 2004 or simply the past—when funky or novelty socks were the height of coolness. They were an easy way for men to dip their toes into style, which unfortunately, at that time, involved flashing strangers with a strip of vomit colors and cartoon shapes like, say, baby ducks in neon pink. 

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After a while, the novelty wore off, and men returned to standard colors and sober patterns. To our bacon-wearing men, I am sorry to say that your funky socks feel outdated right now. Do not wear.

You Can Do A Statement Sock

Just as we were finishing this piece, the good folks at released a story on how it's all about statement socks today: “They're not 'quirky' or 'silly'—they're just plain cool.” 

The difference: There are no patterns of little bacons or flamingos or pineapples, but select flourishes such as well-placed stripes in the style of crew socks, which have been experiencing a moment lately; a tone-on-tone herringbone pattern, which from afar appears solid; or the silhouette of a dinosaur (in a Paul Smith pair that we're still on the fence about). These are all easy ways to update your look.

How do you feel about statement socks (which are not to be confused with funky socks)?

Stay Safe With Colored Socks

But maybe there should be a ceiling age for any and all look-at-me socks? Maybe your late 20s? Past this point, you'd rather people know you for intelligence, wit, or elegance than your choice of processed meat.


If an itch to go beyond the basic Bs (blue, black, brown) remains, we suggest socks in solid colors made of beautiful textiles like silk or cashmere. Cotton is fine, too.

A few suggestions:

1| Muted selections are  more wearable, but stay away from pastels. We have a pair in lavender (bought on sale) that is crying under a pile of socks because it has yet to be worn. 

2| Bright colors like true blue, orange, and red will add a quickening to every step. Weirdly, these are not offensive even though they shout. These pair well with lace-ups and white sneakers. 

3| Speaking of white: Thanks to fashion's love affair with everything old, the color is cool again. Forget horrid memories of school, and wear once more with sneakers or, if you are a fashion ninja, black leather lace-ups or loafers. 

4| Actually, wearing colored socks with penny loafers look fresh, too.  

A flash of solid color worn with a classic loafer is the style swerve to try now.

Breaking All The Damn Rules

Of course, we don't live in a world of absolutes. Once in a while, we find ourselves reaching for a pair of socks with a smattering of yellow flowers on it. The little buds are scattered across a field of black with a baby pink top band and a blue toe cap. Whenever we spy our feet, the flowers, which are set off by DB monkstraps, make us feel happy.


Happiness trumps rules. 

We know, we know. We just confused the hell out of you. If your mind craves order, refer to this study about what is chic, according to brains: Following the Goldilocks Principle (we like to call it the Just Right Rule), an outfit appears fashionable when colors match moderately.

In other words, the eye percieves a matchy-matchy look of all blues or a crazy look in a prism of colors as not stylish, but when you wear a set with just a few pieces in a highlight color, then you're aces.

How about a colored sock?

The Ones To Get If You Can Afford It

Sensitive Ercolano Men Socks by Falke, more styles available at Van Laack

The Ones To Get For Every Day And All Colors


Colofrul50 Socks by Uniqlo

The Ones To Get When Making A Statement 

Stretch Wool Socks With Bee, Gucci

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Clifford Olanday
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