The best socks are a surprisingly complex style topic.
Although they feel like a small detail, wearing the wrong type of socks for your outfit can be a serious fashion faux pas. And they affect your comfort through the day in a big way.
What do you need to know to ensure appropriate, non-annoying footwear for every occasion? The right sock choice is a function of several factors.
#1. Best Sock Material
Anyone who's ever had to deal with itchy, tight, or soggy socks will tell you: sock material is a big factor for comfort.
- Cotton: absorbent but won't let moisture evaporate quickly. Best for workouts and other short bursts of activity.
- Wool: stays very warm and dry, but can be bulky. Best for cold weather, especially if you'll be outside.
- Synthetic materials (polyester, acrylic, etc): thin and compact. Often designed to wick away moisture.
- Silk: dress socks are made of silk. Not particularly practical or durable, but it looks nice – and that's all it needs to do.
# 2. Types Of Socks
There's always a best sock for the job.
- Athletic performance socks: focus on friction reduction and moisture absorbancy to keep you comfortable during physical activity. These will usually be cotton or synthetic.
- No-show socks: socks that are cut to fit completely inside your shoes. Wear these with shorts to avoid making your legs look stumpy.
- Dress socks: Any sock meant to be worn with a suit or other more formal clothes. Will usually come in a silkier texture (if not actually made of silk) and dark color.
- Mid-calf (crew) socks: An all-purpose sock style for men's fashion. Their elastic sits in the middle of the calf, hence the name.
- Over-the-calf socks: An older style of men's socks. Most retailers these days don't carry them.
- Ankle socks: Similar to no-show socks, but taller. Ankle socks are suitable to wear with shorts, especially if you're wearing high-top sneakers or another type of shoe that would be uncomfortable if you wore no-show socks.
#3. Socks Size & Fit
Fit matters, even for socks. A “medium” sock usually fits up to a US-size 12 in shoe sizes. If you're above that, or have particularly wide feet, a large size will likely be more comfortable. Cheap sock brands generally have a smaller size selection – so if socks always seem to be bugging you, seek out some with a bigger size available.
#4. Socks Color
You've probably heard a lot of advice about sock color. Traditionally, you want socks to blend into your outfit – but many fashionistos out there like to make socks their pop of color. Ultimately, you have more room for expression when it comes to socks than you may have been told. Just make sure the color matches something else in your outfit.
If you are going for the traditional, blended-in look, the best rule of thumb is to match your pants to your socks. They don't need to be a perfect match – a few shades lighter or darker is fine.
DON'T match your socks to your shoes – this confuses the eye and makes your legs appear shorter.
Patterned socks can make an outfit subtly unique. Make sure they complement – but don't exactly match – any other patterns you're wearing.
The Best Men's Socks For Every Occasion
#1. Best Dress Socks: Pantherella Ickburgh Men's Mid-Calf Dress Socks
This well-established English brand makes socks that have a classic, sophisticated feel while also boasting modern comfort and durability standards. In other words, they look old-school, but they're not. They're better.
The blend of high-quality cotton yarn and nylon means that the socks won't constrict your toes or fall down around your ankles. The fabric itself stretches and rebounds so well that they don't need an elastic band around the top of the sock – making them even more comfortable.
#2 Most Functional Dress Sock: ALMI All-Day Performance Dress Sock – Editors Favorite
This didn't take our best dress sock title as it's not your traditional dress sock. It's designed with the dual purpose of looking good at work and feeling great after; working out, playing golf, biking or any activity requiring performance after a long day at the office.
#3. Best Socks For Running: Smartwool Men's PhD Run Light Elite Mini Socks
If you're a serious runner – or even if you're just starting out – this is an investment that can make a huge difference in your run. Regular cotton socks can cause intense friction that leads to even more intense discomfort.
Smartwool's running socks are designed to wick moisture away from your skin without holding it in the fabric. Because of this, they don't get as smelly and don't feel as prickly. Definite improvement.
#4. Best Socks For Hiking: People Socks Merino Premium Wool Socks
Like I said above: wool is king when it comes to keeping your feet warm and dry. But many wool socks are too thick and chunky for optimum comfort. These, from People Socks, are not – they're the perfect thickness to fit snugly into your boots.
In addition to the optimal material, they come with a reinforced heel and toe to cushion the pressure points of your foot. Although they may not be a “fashion” sock, their sheer functionality will take you far – literally.
#5. Best Socks For Winter: United By Blue Trail Socks
These 100% Merino wool socks are incredibly soft and comfortable, and will insulate your feet from the cold whether inside or out. In addition to making an ideal cold-weather sock, the manufacturer dedicates money from the price of each pair to removing a pound of trash from oceans and waterways.
#6. Best Socks For Hot Weather: American Trench Dress Socks
Most socks that are appropriate to wear with a suit are uncomfortable in extreme summer heat. American Trench makes theirs with a blend of cotton, nylon and linen, keeping them breathable and cool.
The linen provides more breathability than the average sock, while nylon wicks sweat away and cotton provides stretch. The socks come in a range of colors designed to coordinate with summer suits.
#7. Best Socks With Arch Support: Feetures High-Performance Cushion Sock
Arch support socks provide extra benefits for the health of your feet. They're an especially good choice for those with jobs that keep them on their feet a lot.
Feetures is a maker of specialty socks for a variety of functions. Their people are experts on comfort and footwear performance. Although these socks are cushioned and feature foot-hugging support material, they don't feel compressing or bulky like some athletic socks, and they look good enough to wear as dress socks. If you want a pair of socks that will guarantee you never get another blister, your search is over.
#8. Best Socks For Diabetics: Yomandamor Mens Bamboo Diabetic Over the Calf Socks
If you need a sock with a non-binding top to reduce pressure and improve circulation, these may be the best you'll find. The bamboo-fiber construction makes them extremely soft and durable, and allows for a non-constricting fit.
#9. Best No-Show Socks: Saucony Men's Comfort Fit No-Show Socks
Among the most comfortable men's socks on the market, every pair of Saucony socks features a unique moisture-wicking design and mesh ventilation to keep your feet dry and fresh.
They're also designed with a mind to preventing the scourge of the no-show sock world – bunching. These will protect your heels, and won't slip off inside your shoes where it's impossible to adjust them. That alone puts them a cut above the rest.
#10: Best Socks for Boots: Darn Tough Steely Boot Cut Cushion Sock
These socks are cushioned at the toe and shin to make them more comfortable to wear with work boots. If you're going to have your boots on for hours, this may be the sock for you. The antimicrobial merino wool fabric provides insulating warmth while preventing athlete's foot. Overall, this is a sock that will provide support and prevent blisters and hotspots even over the course of a long day.
You may have noticed that most of these socks are plain gray and black. I admit it – I'm not a fun socks guy. But I know and respect a lot of men who are.
If you'd like to add a little happiness to your feet – but don't want to look like a clown – you are going to LOVE my guide to wearing bright socks with style. Click here to check it out.