Wearing Shoes Without Socks: Should You? Here’s the Truth

Wearing shoes without socks is a common summer approach that’s made its way into every dress code. Here are the actual do’s and don’ts.

As a coastal guy, I tend to wear shoes without socks whenever I can. I also spend much of my summer on a boat. Going sockless with boat shoes isn’t particularly controversial, though.

Ironically, the general sockless look is still pretty debated. If you don’t think so, ask your grandfather what he thinks of it. This is why it’s so fascinating and, so far, still an evergreen topic. It’s common. Most people do it. If you don’t, you’ve seen people do it.

Even more, men wear shoes without socks in every single dress code these days. Yes, even with a tuxedo.

Should you, though? I’m here to settle this once and for all. Or, perhaps just once and for now, since fashion constantly changes.

Can You Wear Shoes Without Socks?

Yes, fashion always changes, but I’m coming at this from a classic perspective. Has the sockless look gone in and out of style enough that non-trendy and neutral guys can do it? So what’s the answer for both the fashion-forward and the classic guy?

Yes, you can wear shoes without socks in casual dress codes. Some might argue there’s a place for it in every dress code, with conditions. But you probably shouldn’t most of the time. And by this, I mean you should at least wear no-show socks.

Socks are meant to protect your feet from rubbing, to regulate temperature, and to control moisture. By providing this barrier, especially in the toe area where temperature, moisture, and consequential rubbing happen most, you also protect your shoes.

Even boat shoes, which are designed for occasional splashes, would technically last longer if you wore them with socks. At least, the interior would. Still, if the sole wears down, you’d still need a new pair, even if the interior hasn’t. That’s the main reason why it’s okay to wear boat shoes without socks.

If you’re worried about odor and moisture, and if you aren’t on a boat, I’d still opt for socks, though.
Even the most performance-forward dress shoes won’t be as breathable and comfortable when you wear them without socks.

And athletic shoes, which are built to be airy and supportive, are best worn with socks.

Best no show socksBest no show socks

Going sockless can lead to chafing and blisters on top of odors.

Okay, but What About When It Comes to Style?

Alright, now that we’ve gotten the fact that no-shows are better than no socks out of the way, let’s talk aesthetics. Is it okay for men to go for a bare-ankled look?

The quick answer is “yes,” in casual situations, especially in spring and summer.

Remember when I mentioned that for a look to be classic, it needs to go in and out of style several times? Well, the sockless look has been around since the aughts, which was 20 years ago.

Boardroom Socks no show driving mocsBoardroom Socks no show driving mocs

The recession did a lot to change fashion, for better or for worse. For example, fast fashion became a go-to thing for urban professionals. Speaking of urban professionals, it was on the ankles of trendy Manhattanites that socklessness started its journey into normalcy.

So yes, depending on your choice of shoes, it’s perfectly acceptable to go sockless. 

Best Shoes To Wear Without Socks

From a practical perspective, house slippers are the best shoes to go sockless in. So, outdoor shoes that are adjacent to the slipper are also the best shoes to go sockless in. Moccasins, for example. Of course, I also mentioned boat shoes, especially if they’re made of canvas.

But again, when you can, at least go for no-show socks.

Here’s a list of shoes you can always go bare-ankled in:

  • Low-profile sneakers
  • Sandals. It’s arguably preferable to go sockless with sandals. But you’re welcome to subvert this expectation with the following controversial models.
  • Boat shoes
  • Moccasins — especially fleece lined ones
  • Canvas slip-ons (think Tom’s)
  • Canvas espadrilles 
  • Anything toeless
  • Modern “sock shoes.” I mean this from a practical perspective. Since these designs are pretty modern, there’s no real way to style them classically.

Here’s a list of shoes you can sometimes go bare-ankled in:

  • Loafers
  • Certain dress slippers

And here’s a list of shoes you can almost never go bare-ankled in:

  • Any tie-up dress shoe
  • High-top sneakers. What’s the point?
  • Opera pumps
  • Boots. Ouch. Don’t do it. And again, aesthetically, what’s the point?

How To Wear Shoes Without Socks

When it comes to casual outfits, if you’re going sockless, then you want to show your ankles. Otherwise, why are you doing it? You can wear low-profile sneakers, espadrilles, and boat shoes with a nice pair of shorts or even cuffed chinos.

Going bare-ankled can be controversial when you’re mixing it with formal attire. However, you can pull it off in the summer with an intentional high-low mix. A good example is a cream linen suit jacket, a knit polo, cuffed linen pants, and driving shoes.

Blue tee green shortsBlue tee green shorts

In fact, in the right context, you can even replace the pants with shorts. Just go for something sleek and clean-lined like bermudas or chino shorts. No one would bat an eye if you wore this combo at a resort or by the beach.

For a livelier, preppy vibe, you can even go for madras and boat shoes (a more Northeastern Ivy approach) or seersuckers and boat shoes (for a Charleston country club look).

You can even go sockless in certain smart casual situations. A dress shirt, khakis, and loafers in the middle of July at a beach party? Go for it.

What About Tailoring?

If you’re going to a traditional event, say a church wedding, then don’t try to wear your suit and dress shoes without socks.

Taft footwearTaft footwear

If you’re attending an event that requires a suit, but it’s more lenient, there are ways to do it. You’ll want to wear suit pants with a slightly higher hem. It’s a look that Thom Browne popularized in the late aughts, and it never went away, really.

Just keep in mind that this isn’t a “classic look.” It’s been around long enough that it’s graduated from the trendy category. However, it isn’t a purist’s approach.

And finally, can you go sockless with a tuxedo? The answer is 99% no. However, anything can be pulled off with intention and confidence. It might work on the red carpet but don’t try this at some highly formal banquet, though. 


Here are some commonly asked questions regarding wearing shoes without socks!

Is Wearing Shoes Without Socks Bad for You?

It’s best to wear shoes with socks, even if they’re no-show socks. Socks protect your feet from rubbing while also regulating temperature and moisture.

Can You Wear Shoes Without Socks in the Spring?

Yes, you can always go for a bare-ankled look in casual situations in spring.

Can You Wear Shoes Without Socks in the Summer?

Yes, during the warm seasons, especially in the summer, you can wear shoes without socks or with no-shows. In fact, wearing shorts with low-profile sneakers or boat shoes looks more natural without socks,

Conclusion: It’s All About Context and Intention

The important thing is to be respectful. Dress codes are pretty flexible these days, but you never want to offend the host of an event.

If you want to play it safe, just avoid socklessness in formal situations and save them for the warm seasons. Shorts with no-shows and white minimalist sneakers are a staple, after all.

Do you like the sockless look? What are your favorite shoes to go sockless in? Let me know in the comments!

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