Style Basics

Wearing shoes without socks, what you need to know

By on April 27th, 2016

There’s a bit of a stigma around wearing shoes without socks, isn’t there?

Ever since you were a little kid, you were always taught to match your socks and put them on before finding your shoes. Consequently, it probably feels a little funny when you don’t wear them, just like when you don’t buckle your seat belt in your car.

Something feels like it’s missing.

So, when we see someone wearing shoes without socks, they tend to stand out. And when those shoes are something more than mere sandals or running shoes, we always notice. A well dressed man at the office who left his socks in his drawer at home will earn all sorts of reputations.

If you’re considering skipping the shoes this summer, but haven’t mustered up the courage yet, this blog post is for you.

I want to make sure your reputation leans more towards “John is one sharp dressed man, such an Italian style!” as opposed to “Why do I always smell feet when John walks in the room?”

Wearing shoes without socks can be liberating and downright stylish

Wearing shoes without socks is very freeing.

It’s such a small change in your wardrobe, but can make a huge difference in how you feel.

Personally, I find it part European, part Steve McQueen, and part “I just don’t care.” No one will take you too seriously, but at the same time – and assuming you’re wearing tailored pants and the right shoes – you’ll carry an air of sophistication. It is this tricky juxtaposition that I think is so special, and one that doesn’t happen often in the world of men’s style.

I also think that not wearing socks is just plain simplistic. It’s less laundry and two fewer pieces of clothing. That’s something we can all get behind.


Here’s what you need to know to pull it off

First off, you’re going to need comfortable shoes to make this work. Wearing shoes without socks may help you to cultivate a new level of understanding for why you paid what you did for your shoes. Without a thin layer of cotton or wool to buffer the shoe from your skin, you’re going to very quickly find out just how soft that leather is.

Also, your feet may stink. This is probably the single biggest concern you have when you think about skipping the socks, isn’t it?

It’s certainly a valid concern.

Without socks to help control odor and mitigate dryness, you may end up cultivating a bit of a bacteria colony in your oxfords. Nobody wants that.

Fortunately, there are two things you can do:

  1. Use a powder like talc or something similar to act as a desiccant and control dryness.
  2. Find some of the “half socks” that don’t rise above the top of your shoe. This is Brett’s preferred method, and yes, it does raise the rather philosophical question of whether or not you’re really not wearing socks.
  3. Be sure to use a cedar shoe tree which will help to pull moisture out of your shoes when you take them off.

Personally, I don’t like either method, but I’m not really one to speak as I don’t have feet that are prone to sweating.

wearing shoes without socks and using low hidden socks

But I think you’ll know relatively quickly if you need to use either one of the techniques above. Your feet feeling wet or your coworkers giving you extra space in the office are two key indicators.

Personally, I really only wear socks for warmth these days. Over the past 5 years or so, sock habit has diminished more and more. I’ve really come to love the look of going sockless. During the warm months of summer, I’ve noticed that I’ve stayed considerably cooler and more comfortable during the day.

Speaking of warmer months, when the mercury really starts to rise, you may need to make the switch from leather to canvas shoes.

Something else to keep in mind is that with repeated wearing of shoes without socks your feet may develop some calluses in the areas prone to friction. In my experience, this isn’t anything to worry about, but you may notice your feet growing a little rougher in some spots. Then the discussion turns to moisturizing your feet, proper foot care, pedicures (gasp!), and so on.

When you still need to wear socks

Formal occasions are still formal occasions, and therefore I wouldn’t recommend skipping the socks in an attempt to boost your style at something like a wedding or other formal event.

Wearing shoes without socks will inherently be a more casual look. In the summer, when menswear adopts a more relaxed vibe, the sans-socks look is the perfect complement.

Regardless, each situation and event is unique and you’ll need to use your best judgment when skipping the socks.

Temperature is also an important consideration. When it’s 22 deg F outside and you’re not wearing any socks, it’ll look more like you forgot your socks altogether!

Wrap up

Some years ago, I was walking down 15th street in Denver and one of the men shining shoes on the street – who is particularly adept at making witty comments at the drop of a hat – saw me walk by without socks and said something that roughly equated my choice to not wear socks to the qualities of a skunk!

[I was wearing suede shoes that day, so I don’t think he saw me as a customer.]

Not everyone will understand why you aren’t wearing socks. Some conservatives may think it’s too flashy or too European (is that a thing?).

But who cares.

Do what makes you feel happy.


I hope this blog post will help to push you over the edge and help you to look at wearing shoes without socks in a more positive way.

This summer, I think you should try something new and leave the socks in your drawer! Free your ankles, stay cool, and stand apart.

See you out there.