How to Wear Socks With Shorts

When cycling through your wardrobe in the summer, many folks get stuck on what types of socks they should be wearing with their shorts.

This is further complicated because there are so many variables at play, including the length of the shorts, the color of the socks, the type of socks, and the shoes that are being worn.

To help you out, here’s a foolproof guide that you can use to get the right look for your next summer outfit.

Outfits by sock lengths

Here’s how different sock lengths can be worn with shorts:

No-show (invisible) socks

These socks rest below the collar of a shoe and provide an uninterrupted line from the shoe to the bottom of the shorts. No-show socks keep your feet dry and odor-free, all while preventing blisters.

These socks are the most versatile style option that can be easily worked into any outfit. Always have at least one pair in your sock drawer.

For men, you can pair no-show socks with boat shoes, dress shoes, espadrilles, sneakers, and loafers. As far as shorts, consider wearing no-show socks with chino-style, terrycloth, and athleisure shorts.

Here’s a look at a few men wearing this look:

man with shorts and white sneakers
young man standing next to car with shorts and shoes on

For women, no-show socks look great with loafers, flats, sneakers, espadrilles, and low-cut dress shoes.

At the same time, we will share a few looks with shorts, particularly denim shorts, and no-show socks pair well with other items like skirts, dresses, and pants.

young woman wearing orange shorts with sneakers
woman wearing denim shorts and sneakers
young woman wearing denim shorts and shoes
woman leaning against wall

Tips for wearing crew socks with shorts

When wearing crew socks, you’ll need to be mindful of the color of the socks and the other items you are wearing. To play it safe, match the color of the socks to the shoes. Monochromatic looks, such as all-black or all-white between shorts, socks, and shoes, can also work.

Since crew socks are often associated with casual to athletic wear, pair them with gym shorts, denim shorts, or skater shorts. Footwear choices will vary and may include athletic sneakers like Converse, Vans, or Adidas.

Here are a few examples of men and women executing this look:

young man in denim shorts and white crew socks and sneakers
man wearing white shoes and crew socks with shorts
young woman wearing white sneakers and crew socks
young man with sneakers and crew socks along with baskeball shorts

Don’t forget the classic tube socks

Similar to the crew sock, tube socks are good for those folks that want a retro look to the outfit. First worn by soccer and basketball players in the 1960s, they still look great. All the rules outlined above for crew socks apply to tube socks – match with shoes, shorts, and other items in the outfit.

The only difference will be the color bands on the cuff. Use these colors to pull together other elements of your outfit.

Here are a few inspirational looks:

man wearing tube socks and canvas sneakers
black and white tube socks monochromatic outfit
woman jumping with tube socks on

Knee-high socks definitely have their place

For women, knee-high socks can be a great way to add some extra style and fun to your outfit. Knee-high socks can be expressive while also providing warmth in the spring and fall months. Pairing knee-high socks with dressy shorts and a nice pair of Chelsea boots or heels is a great way to stand out from the crowd.

Either black or white socks pair well with denim shorts. For solid-colored shorts, matching or complimentary colored socks can also work.

Here are some great ideas on how to wear knee-high socks with shorts:

grey knee high socks and denim shorts
woman with knee high socks and denim shorts

Getting the right color can be tricky

No matter the style of sock you are going with, color coordination in the outfit is one of the most important factors outside of the sock length. When wearing shorts, match the color of the shoe and the shorts. The blend of colors should look natural and effortless.

When in doubt, check the color wheel. Monochromatic and complementary colors work really well together. If you’re looking to go bold, look for contrasting colors that still match your outfit. Other color schemes like an analogous, split complement, and triadic can also provide some inspiration.

For further guidance, below we’ll go over some common sock colors and the shorts and sneakers that they pair well with.

White socks

When checking out influencers or celebrities, you’ll find that white socks look great with all kinds of shorts and sneakers. Crew socks, in particular, can provide a modern, sporty look.

Specifically, we think that matching these with white sneakers and shorts, or even blue denim shorts are a great way to go.

model wearing white socks and shoes

Black socks

Black crew socks are a bit tougher to wear as they draw attention to your legs. When wearing black crew socks, consider wearing black shoes and shorts for a monotone look. Black no-show socks work well when wearing black shoes.

Multi-colored socks

If your socks are making a statement themselves, then the rest of the outfit should be muted. Neutral colors like white, black, and gray will tone down the rest of the outfit while also allowing the socks to stand out.

Outfits by Shorts Length

Shorts can range anywhere from a few inches in length to being airy and draping well below the knee. Here’s how short length impacts sock length and footwear choices.

Short shorts or booty shorts

These shorts showcase the leg and are typically worn with no-show socks. This allows more skin to be on show, letting your legs take center stage.

woman wearing short shorts with sneakers

If longer socks are worn, this will detract from the desired look. The only exception to this would be knee-high socks, which can be worn to add a bit of playfulness and fun.

While we are only looking at footwear that is worn with socks, such as sneakers, flats, espadrilles, or slip-on, heeled shoes, sandals, and other types of footwear will work too.

Above-the-knee shorts

The most common and versatile short length, particularly for men. No-show or crew socks will be your best sock of choice. Just be sure to follow our advice on color selection.

Knee-length shorts

Shorts that extend down to the knee or longer are often best paired with no-show or crew socks depending on the intent. The only reason to consider crew socks in this scenario is for athletic wear. For example, crew with basketball shorts is a fairly classic look that is still worn today.

young man wearing white socks with green shoes

However, we only recommend this for taller folks, as any sock that is exposed and worn with shorts will make you appear shorter than you are.

On the other hand, shorter folks should opt for no-show socks paired with above-the-knee shorts. This helps elongate the appearance of the legs and makes the wearer appear taller.

Never wear ankle or quarter socks with shorts

No matter what short length you are wearing, always avoid ankle or quarter socks. These socks add a jarring contrast to the visual flow of your body.

model wearing shoes ankle socks and shorts
Source: Urban Outfitters. The white socks draw attention to themselves.

This contrast looks especially pronounced if you are wearing different colored socks.

The only exception to this would be hiking socks. They serve the functional purpose of protecting your lower ankles from bushes, insects, and other hazards. However, these socks are not meant to be worn with casual or dress shorts.

Theo Lawson

With a five-year background in men's fashion, Theo Lawson has shifted his focus to the world of socks. To him, socks are more than just a piece of clothing - they're a way to express yourself and make a statement.

To improve his knowledge, Theo consults with manufacturers and interviews industry leaders to stay up-to-date on the latest sock trends. His dedication to the field has earned him the trust of companies, celebrities, and sock enthusiasts, making him a true testament to the impact that one person can have when passionately pursuing their expertise.