Dress Socks vs. Crew Socks (Comparison)

Let us take a close look at dress socks and crew socks to determine which is a better pick for you in terms of form, function, history and the appropriate times to wear them.

This is a man wearing a suit, dress shoes and blue patterned dress socks.

Socks aren’t only a way to keep your feet warm and your shoes smelling clean – they’re also an essential fashion accessory. However, many men now ask what the differences between the various types of socks are. Dress socks vs. crew socks: What are they made of, what are they for, and which is best for me?

Crew socks are cut between the ankle and mid-calf. The most common type of sock can be casual, athletic, or formal. Conversely, dress socks are meant to be worn with dress shoes and other formal clothing. They often have muted colors or sophisticated patterns and are usually crew sock length.

Read on to learn the details of dress socks vs. crew socks. We’ll go over the benefits and features of both, as well as how to style them. Not only that, but we’ll explain which is best for you, the modern man.

Table of Contents

Dress Socks vs. Crew Socks: Features

Design Features

Easton Marlowe Blue Dress Socks Men 6-Pack (Cotton) Navy Dress Socks (#4-4) 10-13

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Dress socks are a level of formality, not of length. So, dress socks are best for formal occasions or outfits. Since they’re typically made of high-quality materials like pure cotton, silk blends, or wool (including alpaca and cashmere), they’re incredibly comfortable too.

Most dress socks come in dark or muted shades, like black, navy blue, or grey, best for conservative formal wear. However, there is a trend of more brightly colored socks. Although these aren’t great for a funeral, they’re an excellent way to incorporate color and lightheartedness into your outfit.

Although you can purchase dress socks in a crew cut length, we don’t recommend it. Because you’ll most likely wear them with a suit, you don’t want your socks to slide down and show your bare legs to everyone. That’s a major faux pas.

Due to this, over-the-calf (OTC) length dress socks are best because they don’t fall down your leg. This advice isn’t to say that wearing crew-length socks is wrong, but it is an additional risk, especially with cheaper socks.

Conversely, crew socks relate to length, with a crew sock being about six to eight inches long starting at the ankle. This length means that they go up to your mid-calf, often accentuating your calf muscles too (so don’t skip leg day here!). Seriously though, this length is ideal for athletic or work socks and for more casual outfits.

Crew socks also have a lot of features that make them attractive. Unlike many sock lengths, they’re specifically designed for comfort or special interests. You can get them with extra cushioning, microbial management (for the smell) or even with additional cooling properties.

Durability

Under Armour Adult Cotton Crew Socks, 6-Pairs , Black 2 , Medium

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The durability of dress socks and crew socks isn’t related to the sock type itself. Instead, how durable your socks will depend on the material from which they’re made. Most socks are made from either cotton, wool, rayon, or polyester.

First up is cotton, which is soft, warm, and stretches easily. Due to this, cotton socks are great for both casual crew socks and dress socks, but their lack of durability means they don’t make for good performance wear.

Wool, on the other hand, is durable and wrinkle-resistant. Not only that, but it also absorbs moisture and odor, letting your feet and your shoes stay smelling fresh. However, they can get hot.

If those don’t impress you, you can try rayon socks. Rayon is a manufactured fabric from cellulose, typically bamboo. It is breathable and durable, as well as hypoallergenic.

Lastly, you can also buy polyester socks. These are the best choice for socks with bright colors and bold designs since polyester holds its dye very well. Unfortunately, this synthetic fiber also holds moisture and heat in.

Keep in mind that most socks are now made from a blend of materials. Doing so lets the designer save on costs and get the best attributes out of each material they use. Cotton-polyester and wool-cashmere are particularly common blends.

Regardless of the materials you pick, though, a good-quality pair of socks will last you for years. Although it is easier to repair natural-fiber socks, socks made from synthetic materials are typically more stretchy and better designed for performance wear.

Cost Differences

A close look at a man wearing brown leather shoes and dress socks.

You can get a good pair of dress socks for as little as $10, and this won’t lock you out of designer brands either. However, a pair of quality wool dress socks will usually cost about $25 and last you for years.

However, if you want true luxury, expect to pay upwards of $100 for the best dress socks on the market. Keep in mind that at this point, you are paying primarily for the brand. These will be excellent socks, but functionally, you can get them for less.

When buying crew socks, expect to pay less than for dress socks. After all, you aren’t buying a piece of formal attire. A twelve-pack of good crew socks will only cost you $15.

However, suppose you’re looking to wear crew socks for hiking or sport. In that case, it’d be a better decision to buy specialized athletic crew socks. A three-pack of these will set you back about $25.

Benefits

This is a close look at athletes training wearing crew socks.

Dress socks look good, plain and simple. When you’re wearing dress socks, you’re wearing a fashion item that can boost your confidence and impress your friends, family, and coworkers. These socks can elevate your suit to the next level or give a nice pop to a more casual outfit.

Not only that, but modern dress socks have some of the best fits, durability, and breathability there is. Hence why they’re so expensive. When you buy dress socks, you’re paying for both comfort and style.

Furthermore, dress socks are versatile. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Even though you’ll only need a few dark shades for everyday wear, boldly-colored dress socks can also be a fun and eye-catching accessory when worn with jeans.

On the other hand, crew socks are a great choice if you’re not doing white-collar work or your office is more liberal. Although you can wear particular crew socks as a part of a smart-casual getup or even some formal outfits, they shine for performance wear.

Crew socks come with extra cushioning, reducing friction and making them far more comfortable if you’re on your feet all day. Similarly, their thickness protects your feet and shoes when you have to carry a heavy load.

If you’re a sportsman, crew socks are also an excellent choice. Not only will there be crew socks tailor-made for your specific sport, but crew socks also absorb moisture and have a stronger-than-average grip. This way, they’ll never slip inside your shoes or let your feet get sweaty.

Brief History

Dickies Men's Dri-tech Moisture Control Quarter Socks Multipack, White (6 Pairs), Shoe Size: 6-12

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Although people have worn socks for thousands of years, the modern cuts of socks we know and love (and wear every day) only came into being after the invention of nylon in 1938. This material is flexible and durable, which allows people to make cheaper socks for mass consumption.

Dress socks are the continuation of men’s socks as formal wear for centuries. However, they are significantly more casual than the black-tie of the past.

Crew socks originated with the invention of modern elastics in the 1960s, which let shorter socks stay up without using garters.

Conclusion

Overall, both crew socks and dress socks are great choices. However, we would recommend that you concentrate on getting some good crew socks first. If you get them in a color that matches your suit pants, you can get away with wearing them formally.

Similarly, you can also still play sport or do manual labor wearing crew socks, which you can’t do comfortably wearing dress socks. So, while dress socks might look better visually, they’re less versatile, especially if you’re starting with fashion.

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