How to Pair Socks With Suits Like James Bond

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James Bond keeps it simple when it comes to pairing his hosiery with his suits. Though some people like to draw attention to their ankles by wearing boldly coloured or patterned socks—or these days not wearing socks at all—James Bond downplays his ankles when wearing a suit by matching his socks to his suits, to his shoes or to a midway point between the two.

Matching socks to a suit

The standard method of pairing socks with an outfit is to match the colour of one’s socks with the colour of one’s suit or trousers. Doing so increases the visual length of the leg by extending the colour of the trousers to the shoes, especially when the trouser hems ride up when seated. It also downplays trousers that are too short. Additionally, this method helps the shoes to stand out, especially when the colour of the shoes contrasts with the colour of the trousers and socks.

Sean Connery pairs dark brown socks with his dark brown suit in Thunderball

When matching socks to one’s suit or trousers the shade of socks should be the same. If an exact match is not possible, a shade towards that of the shoes is preferable to help ease the transition to the shoes. Shoes are traditionally darker than a suit, so a sock shade that is slightly darker than the suit would be preferable to a sock shade that is slightly lighter.

Ian Fleming dressed James Bond in the Moonraker novel in this method, with dark blue serge suit trousers and dark blue socks:

“Ten minutes later, in a heavy white silk shirt, dark blue trousers of Navy serge, dark blue socks, and well-polished black moccasin shoes, he was sitting at his desk with a pack of cards in one hand and Scarne’s wonderful guide to cheating open in front of him.” (Moonraker, Chapter 3, 1955)

Roger Moore matches tan socks to his tan gabardine suit in Octopussy

Throughout the films, James Bond often matches his socks to his suits, and it is particularly noticeable when he does so with lighter-coloured suits and his usual dark shoes. Even with darker suits, the subtle effect of pairing his socks to his suits looks elegant.

Matching socks to shoes

Matching the sock colour to the shoe colour is the simplest option, but it has downsides in comparison to matching socks with the suit. It is not wrong to match socks and shoes, but it is never the most flattering, most stylish or most adventurous pairing. Trousers that are too short are emphasised by matching socks to the shoes instead of to the suit. It can also create a boot-effect, which may or may not be desirable. With boots it actually can be a good look to extend the line of the boot up rather than the line of the suit down.

Daniel Craig matches black socks to his black shoes in Spectre

Matching socks to the shoes, especially if the shoes are black, has a place. If a navy or charcoal suit is so dark that it may read as black, black socks are a good choice instead of pairing socks that are a lighter tint of the the suit’s colour. This provides a smooth transition from the suit to the shoes.

Another good reason to wear socks that match the shoes instead of other parts of the outfit is that it easier. Packing for a trip can be simplified by only packing socks the colour of one’s shoes. James Bond can justify packing black socks to wear with all of his suits on his trips for this reason.

Pierce Brosnan matches dark brown socks to his chestnut brown shoes in The World Is Not Enough

When wearing a black suit or a dinner suit, black socks that match both the suit and the necessary pairing of black shoes are a must because anything else will not match the formality of the outfit and will have a jarring contrast.

Matching the socks to neither the suit nor the shoes

There’s no rule that says socks must match either one’s suit or one’s shoes. Many stylish men match their socks to other parts of their outfits, such as a tie or shirt, but this is not something that James Bond does. It is too dandy for a man who dresses in more subdued manners. Socks can also be chosen to complement the outfit without matching any other part of it.

It is important that socks harmonise with the outfit, particularly with the suit and shoes. With a light-coloured suit and light-coloured shoes, socks should also be light. With a dark-coloured suit and dark-coloured shoes, socks should also be dark or saturated in colour. The key is to not have too much contrast, such as a dark suit with pale socks, since that can look jarring. Socks can be fun and bold, but they need to balance with the rest of the outfit and should never be the focal point of an outfit.

Daniel Craig connects his light grey suit and brown suede shoes with tan socks

Socks can also act as a transition between a suit and shoes that have a high contrast. In Casino Royale, James Bond effectively bridges the gap between his light grey suit and dark brown suede shoes with tan socks. Sean Connery does the same in Goldfinger when he pairs dark grey socks to connect his light grey suit with his black shoes (pictured top).

Roger Moore wears black socks with his tan suit and burgundy shoes in A View to a Kill

In A View to a Kill Bond makes a poor choice when he wears black socks with with grey stripes combined with a tan suit and burgundy shoes. Black and grey may be neutral colours, but the socks looks mismatched when surrounding by brown tones and gives too much weight to the feet.

No socks

This is not an option; socks are mandatory with suits! No socks with suits—even with dressy double-breasted worsted wool suits—is currently a fashionable look, especially among those online who overuse the word “classy” and misuse the word “classic”. Warm-weather odd jackets and trousers are the most formal one should dress without socks, though going sock-less should be left to warm-weather casual wear. A worsted wool suit is too dressy to wear without socks and is incomplete without them. The casual look of bare ankles is jarring with the formality of a suit. A man simply does not look elegant in a suit without socks!

Most leather shoes are designed to be worn with socks, with the exception of unlined shoes like unlined suede loafers. These are usually made in casual styles that do not pair well with suits. Unlined shoes better absorb sweat from the feet than lined shoes do, which is why they can be worn without socks. If one chooses to wear no socks with lined shoes, no-show socks are a must.

Though James Bond may currently be into the fashionably tight look, he always wears socks with his suits. Or rather at least he does in the films. In the original novels, however, Ian Fleming dresses Bond in a suit with sandals, presumably and hopefully without socks, for the tropics in Thunderball:

“He was wearing a very dark blue lightweight single-breasted suit over a cream silk shirt and a black knitted silk tie. Despite the heat, he looked cool and clean, and his only concession to the tropics appeared to be the black saddle-stitched sandals on his bare feet.” (Thunderball, Chapter 11, 1961)

Fleming did not always dress himself or Bond in the best taste; unlined casual shoes without socks would have been a better choice, but still not an ideal choice.

Sock Height

Over-the-calf socks, which sit just below the knee, are the most formal type of sock. These socks stay up well without slipping down and ensure that bare leg never shows when walking or sitting.

Daniel Craig wearing mid-calf socks in Skyfall

James Bond usually prefers mid-calf, also known as crew, socks with his suits, but they tend to slip down and may show the calves when seated. They wear cooler than over-the-calf socks.

No-show socks, also known as loafer-liners, invisible socks or footie socks, give the sock-less look while still protecting the shoes. These are not appropriate with a suit.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. “Roger Moore wears black socks with his tan suit and burgundy shoes in A View to a Kill”.
    Something tells me it’s not actually 57-year-old Roger delivering that kick to the face 🙂

    • I think you’re into something…

      In all seriousness, I think you could make a drinking game out of “see how many times you spot Roger Moore’s stunt double”!

      • Jay, there are a lot of Roger Moore drinking games on the internet. Often quite hilarious. Like have a shot everytime Roger says something cheesy or raises an eyebrow ! You should check them out.

  2. In line with this article Matt, how do you feel about matching your socks to your tie? In my opinion, it could be a fun combo to try out.

    • It can work well in many situations. If you’re wearing a burgundy tie with a dark grey or dark blue suit, it’s great because everything is dark. If you’re wearing a light tie—such as light blue—with dark blue or dark grey suit, light socks will be too light to harmonise with the dark suit and a proper pairing of dark shoes. In this case you could bring light blue into the socks in a pattern, such as matching the ground of the socks to the suit and wearing socks with light blue stripes or polka dots.

  3. Alas, I always attempt to match my socks with my trousers, but it does become somewhat difficult with only so many shades available in a store where I can see them in person. Buying online doesn’t appeal to me because I like to see the socks’ true color. Particularly with tan or stone trousers, as the color is so light it’s quite easy to see if the socks are a little different in tone.

  4. I have a question:
    How much British men dressed as Bond in 60s?
    I have see a lot of British bespoke suits of 60s in many sites and almost none resembled to Bond’s suits.
    For the most are three buttons ,three piece,with moderate size lapels,pleated trousers (two pleats or one) and not so minimalistic in patterns as the Bond’s suits are.
    We have a lot of pinstripes,chalk stripes, tweeds,houndstooth,and thin windowpane.
    We have many double breasteds too.
    Only the dinner jackets seems very similiar to the Bond’s dinner jacket: single ( or double) breasted with shawl collar .
    So my question is,the James Bond’s style was representative to the Bristish style in 60s or was a his own style?

    • Carmelo, these gentlemen could be wearing suits made in the mid or late 1950s. After all this is bespoke so it lasts decades. Remember the suit Q wore in FRWL. Likely his own and it definitely had a 50s flair to it !
      Just my two cents !

      • Carmelo is talking about vintage bespoke suits for sale that are dated on the labels. British tailors have always been an old-fashioned bunch and slow to change. The button three suit was still the dominating style amongst tailors in the UK in the 1960s.

      • Yes, i talk about a lot of British vintage bespoke suits with labels dating from 1961 to 1968.
        Bond not seems perfectly fit in the British style of his age.
        Is more a international take about British Style.
        UK ready to wear suits (as Daks or Ausin Reed) are close for size of lapels and widht of trousers,but are almost all three buttons.
        Bespoke suits seem different; more timeless of that Bond was wearing in 60s.

  5. Personnaly I like the habit of wearing socks matching the trousers but by being a shade lighter. It looks less severe and more interesting. See Cary Grant in North by Northwest as a perfect example 🙂

  6. @Carmelo Pugliatti
    “Bespoke suits seem different; more timeless of that Bond was wearing in 60s.”

    -I find that interesting – could you perhaps show us some examples?

      • Yes, but I am in doubt if in comparison it really is more timeless than Bond’s suit (IMO it’s rather vice versa). That’s what I wanted to see some examples for.

      • The style of Q’s suit goes back to the 1930s. Most English tailors only started moving away from this as the standard in the 1970s. In comparison to the new style (as of the late 1950s) that Bond was wearing, Q’s suit was more timeless for the 1960s and was not following the latest fashion trends.

      • Yes,this is a good example.
        Very classic and wearable yesterday as today.
        Connery/Bond style can seems “modern” only because the penultimate trends in ready to wear looked to 60s (in distorted way..but this is another matter).
        But suits as that of Q is never out of fashion..is a classic.

      • What would be the difference between a typical 1950s bespoke suit then, Matt ? Wider trouser leg, more padded shoulders ? A slightly longer jacket maybe ? I wonder if the differences will be so striking.

      • There’s not any noticeable difference between what Q wears and a typical 1950s English bespoke suit. Few English tailors cared about fashion trends.

  7. “Q’s suit was more timeless for the 1960s”
    -Well, that’s a bit contradictory, but I know what you mean. “Timelessness” is rather tricky, something of which everybody has his own definition.
    Which of both suits is more “timeless” from today’s perspective – difficult. It is rather a question of individual taste and can’t be measured objectively. I would say it’s Connery’s suit style, but both styles could be worn today without problems (I wish they would be!)
    Actually, they share a lot of similarities (natural shoulders, cut with a fairly amount of drape, slightly nipped waist etc.). Clearly visible differences are the the three- vs. two-button style, and the width of both lapel and trousers (the latter ones adding mostly to the different appearences, wide trousers make for a more “classic” look, so does Q’s waistcoat). In a nutshell, Connery’s suit is cut in a more “military” way, it appears more “dashing”, whereas Q’s is more “civilian”. But on the whole I wouldn’t say that differences are particularly striking.

  8. Q’s suit is not timeless for the 1960s.
    Is timeless in every decade from 1920s to 2020s.
    His silhouette coincides with the mainstream fashion in some decades and departs slightly in some others, but is never dated and out of fashion as can be a fashionable trendy suit of 60s,70s, 80s…or 2010s.
    Is classic.

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