Are Socks the new Ties?

The Well-Stocked Sock Drawer


Who knew that socks are important enough to write about twice in the same week? While not your most significant sartorial concern, socks are getting a lot of attention right now.

Many men, every year or two, simply replace all of their socks in one fell swoop. Out with the old and in with the new. They also tend to keep the selection very simple: a dozen or two, over-the-calf, wool blend, all the same color – usually black. Super easy. A “no brainer!” No worries about having to match one sock to another. They all match! That approach is overly pragmatic and rather dull for my taste, but I get it.

On the other end of the spectrum, more than a few modern men are collecting an array of socks that rival some of the world’s great neckwear collections, with a wide variety of color and pattern. I’m not saying that socks are the new tie, because the wearing of ties is once again on the rise. However, expressive socks reflect the strengthening trend of men adding more color to their personal style. This fits nicely with shoes that are more colorful: from the upper to the soles, insoles, and laces. More on that in another post coming soon.

My socks are organized by color for those that are solid or have very subtle patterns. I also organize them by length because I prefer to wear the longer, over-the-calf (OTC) socks when the weather is cool and the shorter, mid-calf socks on warmer days. That isn’t necessarily textbook advice, but my personal preference. The more colorful and patterned socks I keep separate. Most of them are mid-calf, but are of a quality that they stay up during the day really well. At the rate I’m going it won’t be long before that part of the collection will need its own drawer.

Q. Other than the length of socks, the most common question I get is what fabric is best? Wool? Cashmere? Cotton? Some kind of blend?
A. The answer to that is a little trickier because fabrics keep changing through continual innovation and improvements. For one, a lot of wool knits, socks included are not nearly as “itchy” as they used to be. In general, wool is considered to be more durable and able to keep its shape better than cotton. Wool certainly can absorb more moisture throughout the day without feeling damp.
One of my mid-southern partners wears 100 % cotton OTC in the summer, but switches to wool in the colder months. Fine quality cotton takes to color better than wool, so most of the more colorful socks that are growing in popularity are made of cotton. A blend of around 80% natural fiber, 20% synthetic is about right, with the exception of the very finest socks, which are mostly made from 100% natural fibers.



Q. How do I decide what color to wear?
A. With a suit, the most conservative option is to match the leg of the trouser, or the color of the shoe, whichever is least conspicuous. For a more fashionable statement, harmonize (but don’t match) with your tie or a color in the pattern of your shirt. Just remember, it’s hard to take your major presentation seriously with “silly” socks. Give similar consideration to your more colorful socks as you would when choosing a tie, don’t let the colors don’t clash with the rest of your outfit. For dressy evening events, black shoes and dark socks only, please! For daytime wear, or casual social settings, knock yourself out, just stay harmonious with your color schemes. For black tie occasions, the proper choice is black solid, or subtly patterned. The fabric? Silk or silk blend. OTC is a must.

Q. So, how many pair of socks does the well-dressed man need in his sock drawer(s)?
A. Well look, no one wants to have to worry every Sunday evening whether or not you have clean socks to wear the next week, so for the most practical of reasons, two weeks worth would be a bare minimum. As a basis to work from, here’s what I would suggest for….

  Solids and Simple Patterns
Wool or Cotton
Mid-Calf Cotton
Black 4 2
Navy 4 4
Dark Gray 4 4
Medium Gray 2 4
Brown 2 2
Olive 2 2
Tan 2 2
  Socks with more Color and/or Pattern
No particular rhyme or reason to this part of it. Add a few Stripes, Dots, Geometrics, Argyles, whatever you like.

So, that comes to around four or five dozen pair of socks. Of course, you may want to adjust the color mix based on what color pants/suits you wear most often. With that kind of inventory you are always prepared and only have to update a few each year to keep it fresh.

Note: Personally, I replace my basic socks as necessary. You know when you put them on. Can you see part of your bare heel through that fabric? Are they getting a little “crusty?” Time to toss those bad boys.

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