by Editorial Staff February 08, 2023

Despite its association as the color of kings, purple takes kind of a backseat in menswear to the much-heralded blue, brown, and grey. Here at Boardroom Socks, we think that’s a crying shame. The color purple-and purple socks in particular- should absolutely have a place in your wardrobe for both work and play. We’ll cover how to wear them in a variety of situations.

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What is Purple, Anyway?

Other than being quite difficult to create rhymes with, the color ‘purple’, in general, is any association with a broad range of hues combining the primary colors red and blue. These can be lighter or darker shades, yes, but when we call something ‘purple’ we tend to refer to shades with more red than blue. Conversely, shades with more blue than red are called violet.

Purple and the Color Wheel

On a traditional Newtonian color wheel, purple sits between red and blue. On this wheel, greens, yellows, and oranges sit across from true purple. In theory, most of the colors in this range, as well as neutrals, will complement purple as a color.

purple socks and the color wheel for men's fashion

While purple, yellow, and orange do, indeed, complement each other, it can be a very bold combination in real life! Perhaps it’s why this combination is used in corporate or athletic logos. An exception that wouldn't look overly bold is pairing purple dress socks with orange-brown shoes such as the combination shown below.

purple dress socks with light brown dress shoes

In menswear, we look for ways to maximize versatility.

The Purple Sock in Business and Business Casual Settings

As with any dress sock, the natural starting place should be the trouser. But, since few men aside from the Joker own purple trousers, it’s a little difficult to get an exact match! However, returning to the color wheel, we find nearly endless pairing possibilities.

Purple socks are an accent to full suiting. Try it with most any shade of grey to lighten up an otherwise sober business meeting. Anything from a dark charcoal, to medium grey birdseye, to lighter grey sharkskin, can benefit from the addition of this kind of accessory. Larger patterns (like a bold Prince of Wales, for example) command much more attention and a purple sock will inevitably draw quite a bit by itself, so do be mindful when attempting a combination like this.

For the most understated, work in some colored dots. For a bolder look, go for stripes.

understated grey dress socks with lavender dots

Purple socks and full navy suits can work, but are difficult to pull off well. While purple is a derivative of blue, in large doses they tend to cancel each other out. Both the sock and the outfit benefit from something in-between.

Where purple really shines, then, is in the business casual spectrum. Spice up the ‘menswear uniform’ of a navy jacket and grey flannel trousers by adding in a purple sock. Dark brown or shell cordovan loafers, or suede Oxford or Derby shoes make for a winning combination.

Or, consider casual suiting. In winter, milk chocolate, deep brown, or (especially) olive green corduroy suiting looks wonderful with purple merino wool hosiery. In spring, sage green, medium tan, or even a solaro suit looks fresh and lively with purple socks in either wool or cotton. In the summer, linen in pretty much any brown, tan, or green is beautifully complemented. Or, try it with grey linen or seersucker.

Purple Dress Socks in Casual Settings

Purple socks are suitable for a range of casual situations. First, take chinos or linen trousers in a tobacco-brown colorway. Then, a navy polo in a breathable cotton or-if you can find it-silk/cotton weave. Add the tassel or penny loafers from our earlier look and you’ve got the makings of an outfit for a casual evening with friends.

If a collared shirt isn’t quite required for the occasion, try swapping the top half of the outfit for a white crew neck T. If going this route, though, some form of light outerwear is preferable. This could be a field jacket or zippered, Harrington-style jacket. Olive, drab, or something in green would be excellent- but navy would be just fine as well. It’s a more dressed-down version of our blazer.

man crossing legs wearing purple dress socks with jeans and brown penny loafers

Now, consider jeans, which is the default for many in casual situations. Inky, dark blues are okay with a purple sock, but perhaps not ideal given our earlier references. Medium washed and slightly faded raw denim help the sock to shine a little more, particularly when paired with the olive field jacket. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous (and pasta with tomato sauce isn’t on the menu that day), matching a purple sock to off-white denim can show you really know what you’re doing without going over the top.

A Note on Purple Socks and Formalwear

True formalwear is perhaps the most prescriptive of dress codes. White tie=black tailcoat, white dinner shirt, white tie. Black tie=black tuxedo, black trousers, black tie. And, despite what the ‘fun sock’ dress codes of many of today’s weddings may tell you, black socks.

As dress codes have relaxed in recent decades, the door has been left ajar for more creativity in this department. Purple, with the subtle but rich depth it carries, pairs nicely with black. Bogart’s Rick Blaine would nod approvingly to a cream dinner jacket, black trousers, and a purple sock with velvet evening slippers or opera pumps. Here’s looking at you, kid.

Or, as a variation on the ‘purple and green’ theme we’ve touched on quite frequently now, an emerald velvet jacket and purple hosiery would be very nice indeed. A darker gold velvet jacket with the same combination, while not entirely outlandish, would admittedly be a stretch.

If there’s any recurring narrative here it’s that menswear should be fun. Wear what you enjoy- not because some fashion plate or someone on the Internet says it’s ‘hip’ now or what’s coming next.

A purple sock, in solid, striped, or patterned signifies a certain sophistication and understanding of style. You’re next level. Confident. Regal. Purple is the color of kings, after all.

Thanks for Reading.

Yours in Style,

Tony Gorga
Boardroom Socks Editorial Staff

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Other Helpful Articles on Sock Style:
How to match socks, shoes and pants.
How to wear colorful dress socks.
What are the best dress socks?

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Our editorial staff is comprised of menswear experts dedicated to providing you with helpful information. Sharing everything from style tips to sock care instructions, these gentlemen are a wealth of knowledge for both our customers and the Boardroom Socks team.

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