How to Wear Socks & Boots

The socks + boots trend puts a fashion girl spin on a basic style practice.

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How to wear socks and boots - guide to wearing socks and boots together
Photo: Free People

Every college girl I know has at least one pair of fabulous, go-to leather boots in her closet. A seemingly all-weather favorite for the twenty-something set, these boots, often heavily broken in, appear on stylish feet season after season. While the majority of us wouldn’t take a second thought to wearing socks with our boots, the socks + boots trend has taken the common-sense practice and turned it into a bona-fide fashion phenomenon.

Letting your hosiery peek over the tops of your boots has become a go-to way to create styles that are free-spirited, slouchy, and bohemian. Alternatively, socks and boots can look edgy — think combat boots and sheer socks.

Ideal for cool climates, the trend does two of our favorite things at once: it keeps you warm and dry and looks super cute. You just can’t go wrong when fashion and function are combined!

Related post: The Cutest & Most Comfortable Socks We’re Loving RN

Top 3 Tips to Consider When Wearing Socks with Boots

1. Boot height vs. sock height.

As always, mind the proportions of your outfit. Structured ankle boots tend to shorten the leg on their own, and the addition of a bunchy sock can add unwanted volume to the lower leg. Loose, slouchy styles, however, may be just right for a relaxed look. Mid-calf to knee-high boots tend to be the most universally flattering rises for pairing boots and socks, but over-the-knee and thigh high styles can look equally chic – especially on taller girls.

As you’ve probably imagined, if you want your socks to show, you’ll need to invest in a few new pairs that are designed to hit slightly higher than the rise of your boots: Knee-high socks for mid-calf boots, over-the-knee socks for knee-high boots, and extra high thigh-high socks for OTK boots.

Once you’ve got the pieces down, you can focus on styling logistics. Scrunchy sock styles imply an effortless, cool look while peek-a-boo socks that barely graze the top of boots can offer a sweet, flirtatious vibe.

2. Styles of footwear.

Determining the perfect sock and boot combination involves more than simply selecting the right heights for both pieces. Stylish students must also mind the styles of both the socks and boots they plan to combine.

For a look that is low-maintenance and campus-friendly, boots that are less chunky, flat (or close to flat), and with classic lines are best for wearing with showy socks. This is the ideal time to pull out the riding boots hiding in the back of your closet! On the other hand, chunky, buckle-embellished, or grungy styles look great when paired with neutral black, gray, or taupe socks. This would be a great way to wear your combat boots or motorcycle boots. Overall, it’s all about creating balance.

As you can see, the key to pulling off this trend is to consider your socks as an accessory when picking your footwear. You should also take into consideration the thickness of your socks: thinner varieties may be better for boot-grazing styles, while thicker pairs offer more substance to scrunch. Put a little thought into it and you’ll have a ‘gram-worthy look in no time.

3. Layering up!

Socks have been huge both on and off the runways. One of the best parts about this trend is that the look gets better when you add even more layers.

Perfect for awkward, in-between climates, the tights + socks + boots combination is a fun way to add warmth and style to an outfit. The same goes for leggings! Though the look is adorable with bare legs, take full advantage of cool weather to pile on the layers. This being said, take it from Jill Wallace – on warm days you can still dress up a pair of boots with socks.

How to Wear Socks & Boots – Outfit Inspiration

Chic But Fierce

Outfit set with cut out boots, white sweater, black pants, polka dot socks and snake earrings.

Products: Sweater – River Island, Pants – Everlane, Boots – Nasty Gal, Socks – Urban Outfitters, Earrings – Urban Outfitters

Rainy Day

Outfit set with blue jeans, red wrap top, white socks, black boots and gold necklace.

Products: Jeans – Missguided, Top – Missguided, Socks – Urban Outfitters, Boots – DSW, Necklace – Revolve

Edgy Look

Outfit set with plaid pants, Burgundy cami, Doc Martens, sheer tights and gold rings.

Products: Pants – Nordstrom, Boots – Dr. Martens, Socks – Bloomingdales, Top – Madewell, Rings – Madewell

Real Girl Style Inspiration

It’s always easier to emulate a look when you have great models for real-life inspiration! Above, ever-stylish Alyssainthecity on Instagram shows off a beautifully paired brown turtleneck with a plaid skirt and a heavy purple coat. She adds extra interest to her look with thick gray socks and boots.

Even just a peek of a white sock can elevate a whole outfit, as seen on kerifay above. Just between the jean flare at the end and the sock, she still has room to show some leg, creating visual interest.

The effortlessly fashionable Bella Hadid matched stiletto boots with sheer socks that go almost to the knee. The black goes along with the black details in the boot creating this overall grungy look.

First of all, this is amazing Halloween costume inspiration! Second, it’s a super cute look.

Above, Maddie Ziegler rocks thick white socks peeking out of Doc Martens. Now Docs are a bit pricey for some people but as you see in most of these examples, Docs are a complete essential for any closet as you can create any type of outfit.

Now even if you don’t own Doc Martens, any black platform boot can work styled with a thick sock peeking out. These shoes are the center of the outfit, and they look great with basic jeans and a casual top. Sometimes all you need are some staple boots!

What do you think of our guide to how to wear socks with boots?

Would you wear the boots and socks combo? Is this look popular on your campus? What kinds of boots will you be wearing this semester? Share your feelings with a comment!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2011; it was completely updated and revamped in 2019 with new photos and information.

6 thoughts on “How to Wear Socks & Boots”

    • Hey Ramona, this post was completely updated this year, it’s noted at the bottom of the post. It was originally published in 2011, hence the old comments.

  1. Great post! I love the socks and boots combo. I’m short and have big thighs though so I wasn’t sure if it would look good on me. What style of the combos do u recommend I try? Thanks! (:

  2. I have bad news for you 🙁 a Turkish blogger have exactly copy pasted your post, I think you should at least tell her that you are aware of what she did. here is here her website


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