I’ve never lived in the US for long enough to know whether this rules applies there, or indeed anywhere else in the world, but in the City of London it is infallible: if you want to know whether a man gives a damn about his clothes, look at his socks.
You see, the vast majority of men wear very dark blue or very dark grey suits. They shouldn’t, they should wear brighter shades, but that’s been covered in a previous post. Here, I need to point out that one effect of these guys only wearing very dark suits is that they can get away with wearing black socks all the time. As 99% of them wear black shoes to work every day, it fits in even better. No one bats an eyelid, no one cares, except me.
Because as all good sartorial gentlemen will tell you, the starting point for all socks worn with a suit is that they should go with the trousers they are worn under. Not with the shoes. And not one uniform colour just for convenience and the few seconds saved by not having to create pairs in your sock draw. So black is wrong, unless you wear a black suit. Which of course you don’t, because that would be even worse than just navy and charcoal. Though according to commenters on my blog, it’s rather common in France. C’est la vie.
A man wearing a navy suit should be wearing, at the least, if no more effort is intended and all he wants is the minimum standard, plain navy socks. If he is wearing a charcoal suit, he should be wearing charcoal socks. If you’re not sure of the quality of a man’s tie (it looks really thick and full, but is that just cheap interlining or is it a multi-fold?) or his shoes (those are nice looking Oxfords,but are they well polished or just new?), I guarantee you that the colour of his socks will give the game away.
If they match the trousers, he has put significantly more effort into assembling a wardrobe. More than twice the effort of just having black socks. Having more than one colour requires matching pairs, as mentioned, making sure a sufficient number of each is clean and ready for use, and replacing both equally as they wear out. It’s triple the effort of plain black for a pretty tiny difference. So he obviously cares.
The next steps, assuming this man doesn’t want to venture into colours or patterns, are to have socks that are calf-length rather than half calf (if you don’t know the difference, yours are half calf) and to have half a dozen pairs of cotton, half a dozen of merino wool – for hotter and cooler days. It’s easy to tell if a man is wearing full-calf socks – half calfs are never taut, never . It’s a lot harder to tell whether he has both cotton and merino.