Socks area one of the few items in menswear when it’s perfectly acceptable to go absolutely crazy without looking ridiculous. You can use them to show off some of your personality and have fun with them. I’ve got clients who wear their favorite sports teams, crazy patterns, super heroes, etc. People will only really see them when you’re seated and they’re great conversation pieces, so I say go bonkers with them!
The Cardinal Sin of Socks
The only rule you cannot break from this day forward is: NO WHITE SOCKS – EVER. That’s it. They’re the cancer of the sock world. There’s no excuse or reason for owning any white socks anymore.
How many Socks Should I Own?
How many plain & patterned dress socks to have depends on what you wear and how often. I would say have enough to get you through a week, so about 7 pairs.
Best Material For Socks
Socks come in all sorts of fabrics/materials – wool, cotton, cashmere, silk, nylon or blends of each. In my experience, merino wool and cotton blends are best, because they’re more forgiving and comfortable than the other fabrics. They also look great and can be worn with both casual and dress outfits, and they’re just the right thickness. My choices at the bottom of this page will come in either fabric or one or the other. Silk, silk-blended or nylon-blended socks can only be worn with suits and dress shoes and will wear out quicker than other fabrics.
The types of socks to own
Plain & Patterned Dress Socks
I say dress socks, which are usually thinner than regular white socks, but I really just mean colored socks of any material. Think of these as your replacements for your white socks.
Like I said, it’s perfectly acceptable to go crazy here, but you should also at least have the standard colors of Black, Gray/Charcoal, and Navy in your sock drawer. That way, if you’re going to something where maybe it’s not appropriate – like a funeral or when it’s best to be more conservative.
As for material, like I said in the materials section, stick with merino wool or cotton blends because they’re most comfortable and can be worn with casual and dressy outfits. Just beware: Thick cotton or wool socks looks horrible with suits because they’re just too thick and informal. So if you need socks like that, wear them with casual outfits only.
These are to be worn when working out ONLY.
These are sometimes called low or short socks, depending on the company. Either way, they should have a little lip at the top. Anything higher, is to be avoided.
As for color, stick with black. White or other colors will get dirty and look gross very quickly.
For materials, merino wool or cotton blends are best.
No show socks
These are appropriate for when you’re wearing shorts or cuffing your pants with any type of shoes – loafers, boat shoes, dress shoes, sneakers, etc.
You want to go with black because it’ll look the best the longest. You can also go with patterns and other colors, but no one will really see it, so it’s a bit of a waste. If you’re wearing white shoes, you can wear white ones, but they tend to get gross and nasty pretty quickly so I just avoid them. Whatever you do, don’t get nude-colored ones. It’s really gross looking.
How to match socks to an outfit
Patterned Or Colored Socks
(Any colors or patterns outside of the standard colors I listed above – black, charcoal & navy.)
The best thing to do, and what I do with my clients, is have a color in the socks, regardless of whether they’re plain or patterned, that is similar to a shade of any item in an outfit – whether it be your shoes, pants, shirts or accessories.
So if your tie or pocket square has a bit of blue in it, wear some socks with blue in them.
Just don’t match your socks to your shirt color if it’s white. Again – NO WHITE SOCKS!
Standard Plain Colored Socks
(Black, Charcoal & Navy)
Jeans and any color sneakers = any of the 3 standard colors.
Black suit (you better be wearing black shoes only!) = black socks
Navy suit (shoe color doesn’t matter) = navy or charcoal socks
Gray suit w/ black shoes = charcoal or black socks
Gray suit w/ brown shoes = charcoal socks
With that said, though, you shouldn’t worry about matching 99% of the time, though, because socks are one of the few places in menswear when you can (and should) go absolutely bananas.
When should you replace your socks?
When they’re worn thin in certain areas – usually around the heel or toes.
When they’re faded, stretched out or stained.
When they’re severely pilled (those weird little balls of fabric usually around worn areas are called pills). Pilling is usually the beginnings of them starting to get worn out in that area.
The Best Men’s Socks
Plain & Patterned Dress Socks
They’re some of my client’s favorites – and mine, of course. They’re soft, super comfortable and about as durable as any socks I’ve encountered.
The kicker is that they come with a lifetime warranty, so if anything happens to them, send the company an email and they’ll replace them free of charge, for life. Obviously, this comes at a price, because they’re not cheap, but I don’t find the price too offensive compared to other brands that don’t offer a lifetime guarantee.
They’re a merino blend, so they wick sweat and moisture away from your feet, keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They’re also seamless on the toes, so you’ll never have to deal with the discomfort of excess fabric around your toes.
Their cushion versions are the best, but even their non-cushioned socked are great. I found the other sizes, like their micro crew, to be too short and you’ll be flashing some shin when crossing your legs – which is to be avoided – so stick to the crew length or mid-calf lengths.
The only annoying thing is that they don’t sell socks directly, so you have to get them via third parties, like Amazon, REI or GearX
If you want a great budget-friendly cotton options with LOTS of different colors and patterns, look no further than Uniqlo’s Crew Socks.
Kirkland & Gold Toe
These are good for plain/traditional colored socks. Unless you’re a member of Costco, you won’t be able to get the Kirkland Signature Cushioned socks.
Gold Toe’s are the old standby and are great for their price, but you’ll be replacing them once ever six to 12 months.
Just like with their dress socks, I really love Darn Tough Ankle Socks. They’re comfortable as hell and come with that amazing lifetime guarantee.
For budget-friendly and variety, almost nowhere beats Uniqlo. They call their ankle socks “short” socks.
No Show Socks
I honestly say get the cheapest ones you can find because they’re all very similar. Some companies sell cotton blends and others sell more thin, nylon blended socks.
Some clients prefer one type over another, some like to have both and wear the thinner ones with dress shoes and the thicker ones with sneakers. This one is up to you, so try both and see what you prefer!
Again, Uniqlo reigns supreme! They call them “low cut” socks.