Spending a little extra on your socks is always encouraged. Bad ones will ruin your day — they can rub, bunch together, rip, or simply won't stay up. But buying nicer ones in bulk won't solve your sock problem. Yes, you need nice ones you can wear everyday, but you need your socks for special occasions, too: no-show socks for when you're wearing low tops and dress socks for, well, dressier events.
How Are Dress Socks Different?
How are dress socks different from regular socks? It's in the gauge. You don't want to wear loosely-woven socks with dress shoes. Instead, opt for tightly-woven, ultra-thin socks made from elevated materials — like merino wool or maybe even combed cotton mixed with nylon or polyester. These fabrics encourage moisture absorption or evaporation, keeping your feet comfortable inside your (likely leather) dress shoes.
A dress socks' density differentiates it from, say, a Nike Dri-FIT sock. Nike socks have elasticated arches, padded heels, a toe seam and tight, ribbed shafts. They're plush and comfortable. Dress socks are the opposite: They're thin, feature very few elasticated components and opt for textureless shafts that don't attract too much attention when exposed. Thinness is a requirement because most dress shoes, especially loafers, which are tight at first and stretch with wear, cannot accommodate your standard sock. The combination proves uncomfortable, no matter how many pairs you try.
Length is another point of differentiation between everyday socks and socks you save for special occasions. Although most of the options below are mid-calf height, dress socks range from mid-calf all the way to knee-high. It's because few folks want their bare legs, whether hairy or shaved, to be what occupies the space between their shoes and their pant's hem. Knee-high socks are a smart way to prevent potential exposure, but knee height is no means required.
To Pop, or Not to Pop, That Is the Question
Colorful dress socks, or dress socks with chaotic and kitschy patterns, have grown in popularity. Personally, there's nothing worse than spotting a polka dot sock on the foot of a groomsman at a summer wedding; or, a weird hot dog pattern wrapped around your coworker's ankle. If you're going to go over the top, I'd argue, add argyle, not a brand logo or something from your favorite movie.
As such, you'll see that most of these socks are solid. That's how it should be. Call me boring, but if you're dressing up, the sock isn't a safe space to express yourself. It'll probably show at some point, whether while you're sitting or when you step on stage to give your long awaited speech. Instead, opt for a statement-making pocket square, which, once stuffed into your front pocket, proves harder to decipher.
The Best Dress Socks
Bombas' is best known for its "honeycomb" arch system. It wraps tightly around the top and bottom of your foot, while sticking in place so the sock doesn't slide down when you walk. The sock's shaft boasts a similar technology the brand simply calls Stay-Up Technology. It helps keep the sock high on your leg, even when you move around or sit down.
Merino wool is an excellent fabric. It's naturally anti-microbial and better at breathing than cotton. The moisture within your shoes will easily evaporate, ensuring a much more comfortable experience. Order a single sock or a pack of seven; it's your call, but the latter offers a sock for each day of the week.
London Sock Company's best-selling Simply Sartorial Sock comes in an astonishing 28 colors — from hunter green (seen here) to bright pink to pale yellow. They aren't one size fits all, so you can order a pair custom to your shoe size. Plus, these socks are knit from ultra-soft Scottish Lisle Cotton and finished with a signature ribbing at the top that helps them stay up.
As I mentioned before, dress socks come in two heights: calf and over-the-calf. Drake's makes over-the-calf exclusively, a sign of their appreciation for the old fashioned way of doing things. That's not bad by any means, and I actually appreciate a higher sock. It's the best way to be sure my hairy legs will never poke out if my pants ride up.
Comfortably thin and made from a mix of supima cotton and merino wool, Proper Cloth's The Dress Sock has earned its eponym status. Sure, it's not the oldest dress sock — not even close — but it's everything one should be: soft, slippery and in a subdued color like charcoal gray.
If you must wear a "fun" sock, go with a trusty pattern like argyle. It's well-known, revered and ripe for reimagining. Happy Socks got the memo and made a pair in a vibrant blue, tan, red and black colorway.
With a name like Tie Bar you'd expect Tie Bar to make, well, just ties. But the brand myriad formal accessories — from socks and ties to tie bars and shirts to pocket squares and suspenders. Its most popular dress sock, the Wide Ribbed Dress Sock, is machine washable and made to fit sizes 7 through 12.