You know the drill. For men, a suit and tie (or at least a button-down shirt with dress pants/jeans). For ladies, a dress, pant suit or blouse with a skirt or dress pants. And oh, yeah, completely funky socks or leggings (you know, the orange and purple polka dot ones).
What you wear matters to others--and to you
Researchers know that what you wear affects how others think of you--it's an entire field known as embodied cognition. For example, when people were shown images of a man in an off-the-peg suit and in a made-to-measure one, they rated the man in the made-to-measure suit as more confident, successful, flexible, and higher-earning. So it's possible to direct others' perceptions of you, just by being pickier about what you slip into. What's more, your clothes can affect how you feel and perceive yourself, too--there's truly some science behind dressing the part.
What those bold socks are communicating
Over-the-top socks are in the same vein as, say, a dramatic pair of eyeglasses frames or hairstyle. They tell others that you're a bit of a creative rebel who can think for himself, all while showing a playful side that can help others connect with you. They also can send the message that you're somewhat powerful--if you're wearing out-of-the-box socks, people may infer you must have earned the right to do your own thing and work outside the norm.
Edginess isn't limited to your feet
But what if bold socks or leggings aren't your thing? Don't sweat it. You can push the envelope for a bit of edginess in other ways, such as just layering some more conventional pieces. The trick is just to keep your audience in mind. For instance, people tend to follow instructions more carefully if you're dressed like they are, likely because the clothing similarity makes them feel more connected to you and, therefore, pay more attention. Keep it neat and clean and, from there, take "professional" with a grain of salt.