Allow me, dear reader, to confess. My sock drawer is in a perpetual state of disaster. Why? Because 80% of the socks in there never get worn. Even if I match and fold the pairs I actually use, together, fresh out of the dryer, all that unused noise will eventually get in the way. Why not just toss all of those unused socks? Maybe it’s shame. Maybe it’s a subconscious reminder to think before I buy. And I’m guessing there are a hell of a lot of you guys who are just like me. We have all bought socks that don’t feel good on our feet, don’t go with anything we own, and whose sole existence is to make it tougher for you to actually FIND the pair you want to wear.
So let’s cut through the crap. And in the sock market? There is a lot of crap. You can waste a ton of money on bad, itchy synthetics, squishy, sweat soaking cotton, and black socks you’ll just never wear. I’ve done it. My sock drawer is living proof. But through that process I also learned what socks you actually do need. Here they are…
Wool Calf-High Dress
- The Pick: Nordstrom Merino Blend in Navy, Charcoal, & Brown – $14.50 (or 3/$35)
These are the foundation. The Boxer of your sock drawer. Strong. Stable. Criminally under-celebrated. You can wear them with suits. You can wear them with jeans. They breathe, they wick sweat away, and if you find the right blend (like those Nordstrom socks… which most find to run half a size large) they’re darn near indestructible. Plus, since they pull up over your calf? They stay up all day. No constant pulling up on shorter socks, perpetually stalactite-ing their way towards your ankles. Strongly consider getting multiple pairs in all of the basic colors suggested above. Especially navy and charcoal. Also get a pair in black (for funerals and black tie events). Remember, match your socks to your pants. Not your shoes. Matching them to your pants makes your legs look longer, and therefor, you look taller. So ditch the regular black, cotton, or synthetic socks most of us believed we were supposed to wear when dressed up, and get these instead. (Shown above with the discontinued AE Hanover.)
Wool Mid-Calf Dress
- The Pick: Nordstrom Merino Blend in Navy, Charcoal, & Brown – $12.50 (or 3/$30)
For when all your over-the-calf socks are dirty, or, it’s super friggin’ hot and despite wool’s breathable properties, you just can’t imagine wearing socks up to your knees all day. Yes, the pick is the same as the over-the-calf, only shorter. Why? Because the blend is lightweight, strong, and holds up supremely well in the wash, as long as you wash em’ on warm or cold, and don’t dry them on nuclear hot. (Shown above with the discontinued AE Neumora… but the Mora 2.0 is almost identical.)
Cotton Mid-Calf Colorful/Bold
For those who like to have fun with their socks (but not every guy who pays attention to style does). These are like a loud suit. Since you won’t be wearing them quite as often as the basics, you don’t need nearly as many and you can spend a little less. Thus? Cotton. Cheaper. Easy to wash and dry, but not great for your feet (or shoes) when your feet are sweating. (Pair shown above is actually from Etiquette, and came in an old bespoke post box. Shown along with J. Crew’s suede long wings.)
Merino Wool Mid-Calf Hikers
These are not super thick, weighty rag-style socks. They’re lighter and thinner than that (although not thin like a dress sock). They’re do anything, very casual socks, that can absolutely double as athletic/workout socks. No, really. Unless it’s north of 80 degrees, my twice a week 7 mile run is done in these exact socks. I’ll also wear them with boots, sneakers, etc., and wash them/dry them with my other socks. (Shown above with Woolrich’s Yankee Boot.)
Athletic Ankle High or No-Show Cotton
For working out and when you don’t want to go sockless in sneakers. So all this praise and hyperbole over wool, but when it comes to sweating, cotton is the suggestion? Yes. Why? Ease of care. They’re super easy to wash. Yes, thinner, lighter, wool workout socks are ideal. They’re also pretty damn expensive. Cotton socks are fine for the gym or kicking back with a beer. Just avoid logos/branding on the ankles. And who cares if a little sock shows above your Jack Purcells or Supergas when worn with shorts. Don’t over think it. (Shown above with the Asic’s Gel Kayano 21. Good for those who aren’t as aerodynamic as full-blooded, gazelle-like running addicts, and therefor, want a bit more cushioning.)
And that’s it. That’s the list. Why no no-shows? You don’t really “need” no-shows. They’re certainly nice to have, but if worn with trousers, a pair of lightweight, regular wool dress socks will never look out of place. Sneakers? Use the shorty athletic socks. Boat shoes or drivers? Go bare. If you do want to do the no-show thing? Strongly consider options that are a lightweight, wool blend.