It seems as if the over-the-knee-sock (OTK) is coming back in style yet again.  We have memories of this quintessentially, iconic, Catholic-girl essential from movies like "Clueless", 1995, from Britney Spears' famous video, "Baby One More Time", 1998; and Ariana Grande donned high-knee socks with a plaid skirt at a 2014 concert. I find it interesting that a sock can make such an impact on fashion, but apparently it can. An article from Huffington Post examines how pop culture changed the course of the school uniform.  The uniform has evolved from schools to the runway to pop culture phenomenon along with the over-the-knee-sock.

But can women wear an over-the-knee-sock to work?  And, is there an age where it is not appropriate to wear this now trendy item?

Best OTKS

To me it's clear. Most women should NOT wear over-the-knee socks to work. The only exception (perhaps) would be in the entertainment industry or an artsy environment.  However, even in these circumstances, I would cap the age at 25.  Any older and it just gets tacky looking. I like to tell my clients that how you dress is your calling card.  You are saying to the world this is me, this is what you get. So be careful, impressions matter.

So, if you do find yourself drawn to this look ask yourself:

  • What is my industry dress code standard?

  • Why do I want to wear them?

  • Is there a particular look I want to achieve?

  • Can this look be replaced with an outfit more suitable?


One of the most important points here is that you need to adhere to your industry standard for what is an acceptable dress code. The financial industry expects a classic, conservative attire. Whereas the technology industry has a more relaxed dress code. Still, within these guidelines, you need to maintain a suitable look.  Women should not be wearing their date night/out-on-the-town outfits to work. Nor go to work in old sweatpants or worn out jeans. It is not appropriate and will send the wrong message to upper management. Remember how you dress is your calling card!  You are always on, and you only get one first impression, and management is always accessing you. So put your best fashion look forward.

You may be wearing OTK socks for functionality, let's say because you are cold? Or is it because you want to feel/look sexy?  There are other ways to achieve both of these without seemingly poor taste. Choose a different shoe. There are beautifully made knee-high boots that can be worn with a skirt/dress or with skinny pants or a wide trouser. They will certainly keep you warm. Some are even waterproof and have good insulation.  Another great option is an opaque tight (esp. for winter), style with a kitten heel or regular pump and a pencil skirt or a dress. This look is not only classic and on trend, but can also look " appropriately" sexy. 

Best OTKS

I know it's not easy finding clothes that are modern, appropriate for work, make you feel amazing and confident, and that fit!   The clothes are out there...Just make sure the clothes you purchase speak to you.  They should make you feel incredible, and you should love the way you look and feel in them.  As you do continue to shop for work attire, keep in mind the image you want to portray. 

Over the knee socks do have a place for women in an evening event or a weekend night out.  This setting feels more appropriate, and there are more styling options. I would still suggest that the rest of the outfit should stay classic and almost understated.  The socks have sex appeal all by themselves, so one should keep the rest of her look more refined.

So what can you style with the OTK socks?  Consider a midi-dress with pumps; a pair of skinny jeans with a mid-calf boot, or a skirt (no higher than just above the knee) with a shoe boot.  

Remember, you are always making a statement about yourself with how you dress, and with your style.

About the author: Jeanne Rihm is a personal fashion stylist who specializes in helping real women dress with confidence. Jeanne’s 25+ years of industry experience is rooted in the fashion capital of NYC collaborating with major designers and working with companies like Bloomingdales.

September 28, 2018
Tags: Fashion tips

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