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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 brown 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.
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.
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.
James Bond usually prefers mid-calf socks, 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 and look more casual because the bare ankle breaks up the line outfit.