When it comes to men’s dress socks, there are a few different types of socks to choose from. While every type of sock serves the same basic purpose – covering your feet and providing protection from the elements – these socks can also come in different styles, materials, colors, and patterns.
The first thing to consider about dress socks for men is their length.
While most men are comfortable wearing ankle socks that extend just over the top of the shoe, some men prefer socks that come up to the calf or even the knee. Your sock length should be based on both personal preference and your attire.
No-Show Dress Socks
No-show socks are best worn during the summer and can be paired with summer suits, chinos, or shorts. They are a good sock for men to have on hand in their wardrobe.
Low-Cut Dress Socks
Similar to no-show socks, low-cut socks are also designed for wearing with loafers or slip-on shoes. The major difference is that these socks sit just above the shoe collar rather than stopping at the middle of the ankle.
Related: Types of Men’s Loafers
Like the no-show sock, lock-cut socks will be fairly casual and best to wear to warm-weather events and informal occasions during the late spring or summer months. We also recommend wearing them with chinos or shorts, although they can also be paired with khakis and jeans.
Ankle Dress Socks
This sock type is rarely seen in the office or on formal occasions, but they are a popular choice for athletes rather than formal attire. Ankle-length socks are typically made from a thin, lightweight material and sit just above the talus bone (the protrusion at the back of the ankle).
Athletic or sports socks are usually made from moisture-wicking material, feature cushioning to protect the foot and ankle, and have a snug fit to prevent blisters while running or playing sports.
Pro Tip: Don’t wear this sock type with dress shoes or suits – it’s a major fashion faux pas.
Crew Dress Socks
This is the most popular type of dress sock and can be worn with various footwear options, including loafers, oxfords, boots, and even sneakers. Crew socks come in a wide range of colors, materials, and patterns, so you can easily find a pair that suits your style.
These socks are typically made from a cotton blend, although you can also find them in wool, cashmere, and other materials. If you are looking for a dressier sock option, choose a pair that is made from a finer material, such as cashmere or merino wool.
Mid-Calf Dress Socks
This sock type is quite rare and usually only worn by extremely fashion-conscious people. Mid-calf socks are longer than crew dress socks but shorter than over-the-calf socks.
They can be worn with various footwear options, but they are usually associated with Chelsea boots or sneakers.
Lastly, mid-calf socks are also referred to as “trouser socks” and are typically made from a wool or cotton blend.
Over-the-Calf Dress Socks
Over-the-calf socks, sometimes called knee-high socks, extend past the calf muscle and come up to the knee. These socks are typically made from a wool blend, although you can also find them in cotton and other materials.
Over-the-calf socks are usually reserved for formal occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and black tie events.
If you are looking for a dressier option that can be worn with a suit or tuxedo, over-the-calf socks are excellent. However, they are also perfect for wearing to the office or other formal events, including business meetings and conferences.
Over-the-calf socks can feel uncomfortable and constricting if they are too tight, so it is important to ensure they fit properly. If you are unsure of your sock size or if you are in-between sizes, we recommend going up a size to ensure a comfortable fit.
Related: Boardroom Socks Review
Editor’s Note: While compression socks do not qualify as dress socks per se, they are a popular sock choice for those who have to sit or stand for long periods. Compression socks are designed to improve blood flow circulation and reduce swelling in the lower limbs. They are made from various materials, including cotton, nylon, and spandex.
Sock brands will use a blend of various materials to make their socks, which include the following:
This is the most commonly used material, and there are plenty of advantages to wearing cotton socks. Cotton is breathable, durable, soft, and absorbent, making it an ideal choice for everyday wear.
The main downside to cotton socks is that they tend to lose shape and stretch out over time.
If you are looking for a well-made dress sock, go with one made from merino wool. Merino wool socks are usually more durable and comfortable than cotton or polyester, and they also wick moisture away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable.
Wool naturally regulates body temperature, so it is an ideal choice for wear in both the winter and summer months. The only downside to wool socks is that they can be more expensive than other materials. However, the investment is worth it if you plan to wear your dress socks often.
Silk socks are another great option for men, especially if you are looking for a slick and smooth sock. Silk is a luxurious material that feels great on your skin, and it also has several benefits.
Silk is a natural fiber that is hypoallergenic and gentle on your skin, which makes it a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
When buying silk dress socks, make sure you look for ones made from pure silk, as they are the only ones that will offer optimal comfort and performance.
Cashmere socks are made from goat hair and are known for their soft and comfortable feel. While these socks are quite comfortable, they tend to be more expensive than wool or cotton blends. However, cashmere socks can also deliver plenty of warmth, making them good for wear in the colder months.
We recommend cashmere socks for those looking for an ultra-luxurious and comfortable option.
Polyester, nylon, and other synthetic fibers are commonly used in dress socks. While they are quite durable and affordable, synthetic materials may not be as comfortable as a natural fiber like wool. However, synthetic fibers are often much more affordable and durable than natural fibers.
Lastly, these man-made fibers are often reserved for athletic socks.
Rayon is a synthetic fiber that is made from wood pulp. It is often used in dress socks because it resembles silk, but it is much cheaper to produce.
Rayon is lightweight and breathable, but it is not as durable as other materials. It also tends to shrink when it is washed, so it is important to read the care label before laundering your rayon socks.
Bamboo is a sustainable material becoming increasingly popular in the sock industry. However, there is a lot of misinformation regarding its natural benefits. The FTC has recently gone after companies regarding their environmental claims around bamboo socks.
While it is true that the fibers of a bamboo plant can be turned into rayon, the manufacturing process negatively impacts the environment.
As a result, we do not recommend bamboo socks unless you can verify that they are made from sustainably sourced bamboo and manufactured in an environmentally friendly way.
Colors & Patterns
When it comes to colors and patterns, the golden rule is that darker shades are typically more formal than lighter shades. Therefore, solid-colored socks are the most versatile option, as they pair well with both casual and formal outfits.
Common solid-colored dress sock options include black, grey, navy, and tan.
If you are looking for a more interesting or unique look, patterns like stripes, dots, or argyle can provide the perfect finishing touch.
Whether you opt for solid or patterned dress socks, coordinate with your outfit and footwear to maintain a professional appearance.
How to Combine Sock Type with Your Dress Pants & Shoes
Now that you know the different types of dress socks, it’s time to learn how to style them with your clothing.
As a general rule, the type of dress socks you choose should match the formality of your outfit. For example, if you wear a suit or tuxedo, crew, mid-calf, and over-the-calf socks are a good option.
If you wear trousers with a button-down shirt and tie, crew dress socks work well.
Lastly, wearing shorts or khakis, chinos, no-show, low-cut, or ankle socks is usually the best choice.
What Color Socks Should Be Worn?
When it comes to choosing a color for your dress socks, it is important to consider the outfit you are wearing.
For example, if you are wearing a suit or tuxedo, darker colors such as navy and black typically work best. On the other hand, if you wear dress pants with a button-down shirt, you can experiment with different colors and patterns.
However, it’s always important to consider the color of your pants, belt, shoes, pocket square, and other accessories.
For example, if you are wearing brown dress shoes, you’ll want to avoid brown socks as this can cause the “bootie effect.” Instead, match your socks to your pants or choose a complementary color.
Here are a few details you should be aware of when shopping for dress socks:
- Heel: The heel is the part of the sock that covers your Achilles tendon. It is important to make sure that the heel of your socks does not slip down when you are walking, as this can be uncomfortable and cause blisters. Look for a sock with a reinforced heel for the best fit.
- Toe: The toe of the sock should be seamless to avoid irritation. Some socks also have extra padding in the toe area for additional comfort.
- Cuff: The sock should stay up on your leg without being too tight or too loose. In most cases, a dress sock will have an elastic band at the top to prevent slipping while ensuring a proper fit, along with a ribbed shin panel for a comfortable feel.
- Instep: The instep is the top part of the sock (opposite the sole) and may feature a knit or mesh fabric for adequate ventilation.
There is no definitive answer when choosing a material for dress socks, as this will depend on your personal preference, lifestyle, and the weather.
The most popular lengths for dress socks are crew, mid-calf, and over-the-calf.
No, regular socks cannot be used as dress socks. This is because dress socks are typically made from finer materials and have a more sophisticated look.