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Men’s Guide To Dress Socks: 6 Things To Keep In Mind

Men's dress socks, as an item of clothing, are more important than you might think and their role should never be underestimated. Although mostly hidden, they can still add a unique touch to a man's formal attire. While the wrong sock can attract unnecessary attention, probably making you feel uncomfortable, wearing a sock that properly fits the occasion will not only add to your comfort, but will also elevate your outfit and offer a glimpse into your personal style. Though fashion rules may seem annoying and, of course, you will always find the exceptions to them, they are still useful guidelines that will help you overcome the struggle of the “what sock to wear dilemma”. The advice below will give you an idea of what your dress socks should be. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when choosing the right dress socks for men.

1. How much should you spend on your dress socks?

The first important consideration is what is the right price for good quality dress socks. Like with many things, the price can range from literally a few dozen cents to more than a hundred euros for a pair (check out the Falke's finest cashmere socks). Some luxury socks brands will still be asking for more; try doubling that amount! Ouch! But does paying more mean buying a better quality? Not in every case. Cheap socks that sell at a few dozens of cents a pair will most likely be poorly finished, short-lived and made of regenerated yarns. On the other hand, paying more than 15 euros for a single pair of black formal socks made of cotton may seem too extravagant for many of us, even for the value they offer. Not that we can't afford expensive suit socks, it's just we never thought we had to.

2. How should your quality dress socks fit?

No matter how much you spend on your suit socks, make sure they fit you comfortably. Your heel must be seated exactly in the heel pocket and the toe seam situated in the toe area. There should be no, or as few as possible, folds and wrinkles. The best dress socks sit snugly on the foot.

Socks snug fit

Size

When looking for the best fit, the first thing to pay attention to is the socks size. Size does matter. Many brands sell one-sized suit socks assuming they will fit everyone. Unfortunately, they do not. It is true that certain synthetic fibres, that we use in socks, will increase their stretchiness. However, no matter how stretchy they can be, the main property of those synthetic fibres is elasticity, or elastic recovery, — the ability of a fibre to stretch and then revert to its original length. Therefore, unique size socks will feel either too tight or too loose. Your best choice would be to buy suit socks that come in a few size ranges (e.g. Small, Medium, Large). Know the size you are looking for. Because there isn't one unique standard for sizing, use the sock size charts as guidance to understand different sizes and see what is suitable for you. You can check one such sizing chart by clicking here.

Elasticity

Each one of us has a unique body construction, and so do our feet. It is important, therefore, that garments such as socks and hosiery, that we wear directly on the legs and feet, demonstrate a certain degree of elasticity to be able to adapt well to different forms and shapes. The socks’ elasticity depends on the type of knitting and the material they are made of. Since the knit fabric is already stretchy, compared to the woven fabric, historically, socks were usually made by knitting. It allowed them to stretch, even when made of 100% natural fibres that were hardly elastic per se (e.g. 100% cotton socks). Among the knit fabrics, however, the ribbed is stretchier than the plain. Things are different when we use synthetic fibres. Dress socks that contain Spandex, Lycra or Dorlastan (all are different names for elastane) have a much greater elasticity and ensure a snugger fit. In our view, quality natural fabric blended with 1-4% elastane will be a good composition for your formal socks.

Plain vs ribbed dress socks

While a preference toward any of the knits, plain or rib, mostly depends on your aesthetics, apart from having different appearances, they do render slightly different properties. The plain knit, also called the jersey stitch, produces a fabric with a smooth, flat surface. Such fabric is lightweight, with little elasticity, and is easy to apply different colours and patterns on. The rib-knit construction, on the other hand, creates pronounced, vertically alternating rows on each side of the fabric. In comparison to plain-knit fabrics, ribbed fabrics are heavier, stronger, and demonstrate a great widthwise stretchiness. So when opting for suit socks fully made of natural fibres that have low elasticity, e.g. 100% cotton socks, ribbed suit socks will most likely offer you a snugger fit.
Due to the complexity of the knit structure and the greater amount of fibres required, ribbed suit socks cost more to produce, and thus they are usually priced higher than plain suit socks.

 

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3. How tall should your dress socks be?

It is important to ensure that you wear formal socks of the correct length. The basic rule says that in any business setting a true gentleman should not have his bare legs exposed. To make this possible, the best men's suit socks give enough coverage to prevent skin from being seen even in a cross-legged, seated position.

Sock crew length

Mid-calf / crew length

The ideal dress socks height falls somewhere about the mid leg. The most common for formal socks is the crew length. It covers up the part of your leg above the ankle up to the point where your calf muscle starts. Mid-calf suit socks are supposed to be slightly taller than the crew, hitting right on your calves but not covering them up completely. This length might not work for everyone though. Because the calf has a sort of diamond shape, the mid-calf dress socks could slide down a bit. [Just to be clear: all socks will sag down to some level when you walk.]
In socks fashion, both terms crew socks and mid-calf socks are often used interchangeably.

Sock knee length

Over-the-calf / knee-high length

You can not go wrong wearing thin, classic style knee-high dress socks paired with formal shoes and a suit, or a tuxedo. Quite taller than the men's crew or mid-calf socks, knee highs hit you over the calves reaching your knees or going even slightly higher. This is an optimal option for any formal occasions where you want to be confident about the height of your suit socks. They usually have wide cuffs compared to shorter mid-calf socks, which helps them stay in place and not sag easily.
Because long suit socks also envelope the leg, they are often mistakenly thought to be appropriate in cold weather only. Indeed, when made of wool, knee-high socks offer an exceptional comfort and warmth during the cold season (more about warm socks here). However, if produced of a thin, natural fabric such as cotton, bamboo, or silk, knee-high dress socks provide good breathability and ensure comfortable wear even on warm days.

 

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Cuff

As said before, all socks tend to slide down to some degree. Pay attention to this detail and make sure that your dress socks feature a proper cuff. When sufficiently wide and fairly elasticated without being felt too tight, the cuff will help keep the sock up and won't put pressure on your leg.

4. What should your dress sock be made of?

The types of fibre that the men's suit socks are made of have a great effect on their performance. Apart from being well-fitted and looking good, dress socks that you wear on formal occasions should also have certain functional properties such as softness, moisture wicking capability, air permeability (breathability), and thermal control. Because suit socks are usually thinner than regular ones, they wear out faster, and so tear resistance should also be factored in.

Sock fabrics

While there is a wide selection of natural and synthetic fabrics, none of them can fully satisfy your preferences for all the properties mentioned above. There are, however, a few natural fabrics and blends that generally perform very well and are commonly used for formal socks. These will be cotton (preferably mercerised, Pima, or Egyptian cotton), micromodal, wool (mainly of Merino sheep), and luxury fabrics such as silk and cashmere. Depending on usage and environmental conditions, each of these materials has its own strong sides and a price. You can try them out to see which one suits you best.

As mentioned before, suit socks can be made of 100% natural fibres or blends that combine natural and synthetic fibres. While it is a matter of personal choice, we strongly recommend limiting the amount of synthetic fibres in your dress socks to a moderate level (no more than 25%). Even a small amount of man-made fibres can add significantly to socks durability and elasticity.

5. What is the right colour for dress socks?

Choosing the right colour for your suit socks can be tricky. Is it easy to go wrong? Depends on the situation. Ideally, your suit socks will be in a colour that pairs with trousers / suit, not shoes. Suit socks are an extension of your trousers and they should look balanced with the rest of your outfit, especially in the no-shoe situation.

Solid colour socks

Neutral solid

Matching colours exactly is a safe option for which neutral solid colours work best together. Brown trousers? Brown dress socks. Simple as that. However, for a strong but understated look, you may try different shades. Wearing suit socks that are a few shades darker than your trouser legs is perfectly fine. You might combine a grey suit with black dress socks, or a navy suit with a pair of dark grey dress socks. Plain coloured socks pair well also with trousers in patterns.
Try to avoid suit socks that are lighter than your trousers. Say “no” to white socks when dressing for a formal event. Do not mix and match.

Cool dress socks

Bright and patterned

Colourful dress socks have recently become popular in the world of men's fashion. Depending on the formality of the occasion, they can be a fun alternative to the long-established rules of matching colours. Remember that funny dress socks will catch the eye. It should be OK, otherwise why would you wear them? Your job, though, is not to make them too distracting. Choose your novelty dress socks deliberately and do not overdo. Try to keep it simple and subtle, and stick to recognised motifs, such as traditional argyle, stripes, polka dot, or anything else minimalistic. Pay attention though, as socks with patterns are usually multi coloured. Pick up the ones with the base colour, smartly contrasting if needed, and reference it in your outfit. You can coordinate your patterned dress socks' base colour with any element of your clothes: your tie, bow tie, your pocket square, etc. The last option would be your shoes. Read more on the topic here: How Not To Get Lost In Colourful Socks.

 

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6. What else is important when wearing dress socks?

The devil is in detail. One small hole in your sock, believe it or not, can and will destroy your otherwise elegant look. Make sure your suit socks look fresh and clean. It pays to invest in your accessories and have a few pairs of brand new dress socks in your arsenal.

Let's sum up

A well-dressed classy man gives off a confident air and his attire sets him apart in any room he enters. Dress socks, as a fashion accessory, are often overlooked. However, when properly selected, they offer an opportunity for a man to show his taste and a glimpse of style, and add to his sophistication and professionalism.

Mens dress style

Though fashion tips on men’s socks and so-called "rules" can seem bothersome and, of course, there are exceptions, it is still important to know the rules before you can break them. Here are the 6 things to keep in mind when choosing the right dress sock:

1. It is not necessary to spend excessively on a decent pair of suit socks. Cheap quality socks, on the other hand, will offer you a rather disappointing quality.
2. Know your foot size and choose your sock accordingly. Don't be tricked by brands selling “one size fits all”. Proper suit socks should provide a snug fit.
3. When dressing up for formal events, make sure you pick the sock with the right length. The idea is to prevent your bare skin from being seen. Therefore, the proper sock length should fall about mid leg or higher.
4. There are many different fabrics and blends, and each offers its unique properties. Try out a few to see which fabric suits you best.
5. Play with colours and patterns smartly. Coordinate them with the rest of your outfit. When in doubt, go for the safest choice: pick solid, neutral colour dress socks that match your trousers (not the shoes).
6. Make certain that your dress socks look fresh and clean. Always have a few extra pairs of good quality suit socks in your wardrobe.

Hopefully you now know what you're looking for. If you find this article useful, share the link with like-minded people.

 

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