Why Every Man Should Pay More Attention To The Socks He Wears
If you haven’t given much thought to what you wrap around your feet, it’s time to rethink your sock game and get with the times. Socks play a vital role in our personal hygiene, and in the functionality of how we get around and are seen by other people. Their most important asset, though, is how they protect your feet from perspiration and give you the confidence to step forward with your best foot.
Keep reading to learn how to select the right socks; from your choice of fabric to pattern, you can tell a lot about a man by what he wears. After reading these quick tips, I’m confident you will be able to pick the right statement socks for every day of the week!
What Socks Can Men Wear?
When it comes to wearing socks, there are very few hard and fast rules. Firstly, understand that when you wear a pair of socks, you ought to pull them up the whole way (no slouching or rolling, please). Sock makers create socks at specific lengths, so you should wear them pulled up. Beyond that I would say, do what feels right, and avoid wearing socks with sandals, with shorts, in bed, or (usually) during sex.
On days when I’m traveling, I want a sock that is comfortable, so I will choose an ankle-dress sock with a nice wool-blend, like crew socks.
The sock aisle can be an intimidating array of choices; from sports socks, to dress socks, and all manner of cuts, styles, patterns, and sizes, finding the right pair for your needs takes a few considerate questions to make an informed decision. For the most part, socks serve to protect your feet from perspiration and to reduce friction between your feet and choice of shoe.
To help you get started, let’s do a quick walkthrough of what to look for in your next pair of socks. The first thing you ought to know is the length of the sock: there are three primary styles; the low-cut sport, ankle-dress, and knee-length socks (although these are rarer, and often more expensive). If you pick the right length of the sock, the finer details will fall into place.
Here’s how to decide what sock style to wear:
Low-cut sports socks: As the name suggests, these are appropriate for sports thanks to their shorter length, which fits neatly into tennis shoes. Socks, such as these Gamut Liner Socks, which are cut below the ankle, and often incorporate a wool and nylon blend to absorb perspiration and give added strength to the bridge of the foot for use during athletics.
Ankle-dress (or mid-calf) socks: For most men, these are going to be the socks that account for much of your collection. Ankle dress socks, sit above the ankle but below the knee. These socks typically range in materials depending on price point and come in the widest selection of colors and patterns (such as the iconic Pringle argyle).
Knee-length socks: These long and dandy socks, are seeing a resurgence in dapper men who wear suits, and who prefer the comfort and convenience of a longer sock. Unlike the traditional ankle-length dress sock, the knee-length sock offers the added confidence of not being too short in the leg should a man flash his calf throughout the day.
Now that you have the correct sock for the occasion, let’s consider what sock fiber best suits your needs for this occasion:
- Wool: Wool is an extremely popular sock choice thanks to its ability to keep feet cool during the scorching summer, and warm during the colder winter. Wool may be blended with other fibers to add strength, durability, and other positive factors, or to mass produce cheaper socks.
- Cotton: Much like wool, cotton is sought after for its temperature regulating properties, but this lightweight option is great for sportsmen. Cotton is also more affordable than wool, and can also be blended to create durable and comfortable socks.
- Synthetics: Before turning your nose away, understand that synthetic socks are an important addition to your collection, especially if you play soccer or football. These lightweight socks are not adept at preventing perspiration, but their resilience makes them an important asset.
- Cashmere or Silk: Strictly luxurious, cashmere, silk, and other exotic fibers, are called upon for black-tie and other special events. Silk, especially, is known to snag easily, and won’t hold up to daily wear, but is expected during formal events. Cashmere is perhaps a luxury, but an affordable one.
It is important to ensure you have a collection that encompasses different sock lengths and fabrics for the many different events or needs of your feet. For men who wear a suit each day, expect your collection to encompass knee-length socks in wool. For athletic men, you may prefer how a low-cut synthetic blend feels.
The thickness of socks is the final important consideration, as it determines how warm your feet get and how comfortable you will be throughout the day. After you have chosen a thickness (I stick with wool or cotton), it’s time to get into the fun part of selecting a color or pattern. This is also when the rules go out the window!
Choosing the Right Sock Color & Pattern
When it comes to selecting the right sock pattern or color, as Bob Dylan rightly said, “The times, they are a-changin.” Where men were once expected to wear plain socks (in black, white, or navy), and maybe spare one set of Argyle for playing golf in, nowadays men have a world of patterns and colors available to them, and all are up for grabs. From polka dots to reindeer, every aesthetic imaginable is out there waiting for you.
While there is value in black or navy socks (men over 16 should avoid wearing white), I feel that colors and patterns offer much more personality and interest in an outfit. Neutral socks are great for formal events, but it’s perfectly acceptable to match your socks to an attractive handkerchief. Similarly, solid colors are always a safe choice, but isn’t life too short to be boring?
On the topic of novelty socks (and yes, novelty socks do come up in conversation), I would say, go with your heart. If you are confident, a comedian, or just appreciate humor, the novelty sock can be worn to great effect. This isn’t a look for everyone, all the time, but at an office party, or on holiday, a nod to the festivities can be a nice touch — think Shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day.
Finally, there are a few times when no socks are also an option. Sockless days should be reserved for those very casual occasions — or for when you are on a boat. You also need to wear the right loafer with quality leather, to prevent perspiration and odor. Sock-free days can be liberating and comfortable, and absolutely have their place, but for the most part, expect to wear socks at least 300 days a year.
If you’re still unsure of what length, fabric, or color socks to choose, let me walk you through my two foolproof looks that won’t let you down!
Style Rule 1: The Casual Look
The casual sock is defined by two things: the length of your sock (shorter is better), and the color (the louder, the better). A very casual and effortless sock, for example, would be bright blue, in an ankle-fit, and work well on the boardwalk. Casual socks may also have fun patterns, and be less serious in their use of imagery; I love crew socks for their comfort and durability.
- Step 1: Pick an ankle-length dress sock
- Step 2: If it’s summer, choose cotton; in winter, choose wool
- Step 3: Ensure the color of your socks matches at least one color of your outfit.
Wear this look to parties, when hanging out with friends, or around the house. This is going to be your everyday look. Switch it up by alternating colors.
Style Rule 2: Creating a Formal Look
A formal sock, is a much more sophisticated affair; they’re typically defined by the quality of fabric (you can usually spot this in the price tag). A formal sock is made from pure wool or cotton, and other luxurious fabrics such as silk or cashmere, and is much longer in length. Expect to wear a knee-length silk sock to a black-tie event, and yes gents, this is the men’s equivalent of lingerie.
- Step 1: Pick a knee-length sock
- Step 2: Depending on your budget, choose a 100% cashmere or silk sock
- Step 3: Wear black, grey or navy to match your primary suit color (limit extravagant patterns)
Wear this look to a work event or social mixer. For a true black-tie look, settle for all black and invest in the best quality fabric you can afford. Patterns may be worn, but avoid bright colors and large prints.
Style Rule 3: Should I Match My Socks to My Accessories?
As you can tell, there is much more to socks than just slipping into fabric each day. Socks are an exciting and practical style point that many men find surprisingly enjoyable to collect. The right pair of socks can tie an outfit together (Lebowski could tell you how important that is), and offers you the confidence to step into something new — be it a new pattern, or a new opportunity in life.
Before you go running into your next sock adventure with glee, I wanted to answer one final question I get asked a lot, which is, “should you match your sock to your accessories?” To which I say, it depends. The answer is usually yes, you ought to match your socks to your handkerchief or shirt pattern (if you have one) to create synchronicity, but there are a few events when low-key is best.
If you are wearing a fancy pair of shoes that are a style icon in their own right — for example, a pair of out-there cowboy boots — adding any kind of noticeable sock is likely going to be a step too far. The same can be said for metallic shoes or sneakers. If your outfit has no other discernible focal point, then now is the time to reach for those retro purple polka dot socks to add some jazz.
My final tip to you is the “Pocket Lift Maneuver,” which will ensure no matter what socks you pick, you will be represented well no matter where you go. Before you head out, stand in front of a full-length mirror and put both hands inside your pockets. Lift your hands to the ceiling and look at your ankles, if you see hairs on your calf, go back to your bedroom and try again.
But in all seriousness, at the end of the day, you can take your socks off. What is important is that your feet remain dry, comfy, protected, and preferably clean. Anything beyond that is an exciting opportunity to express who you are and what your style is; so, that to effect, I challenge even the most dapper man to tell me that wearing a certain style of socks is wrong.