Here's an in-depth sock guide for men including a detailed sock length chart, most popular sock lengths, socks by material and novelty socks.
It may come as a surprise but a pair of socks can do wonders for making first impressions. It has often been said that shoes tell a lot about someone’s personality. But as a matter of fact, a pair of socks can say a lot about who you are, too.
- The Science of Socks
- Sock Lengths
- Types of Men’s Socks
- Types of Socks for Women
- Sock Materials
The Science of Socks
Some say that your socks can tell people a lot about who you are. Are you stylish? Conservative? Quirky? The socks you wear will let the world know.
Socks in bold, bright colors show a sense of style and a bit of flash. By contrast, black socks make you look sensible and practical. Stripes, polka dots, patterns and graphics can show off a quirky or fun personality. You can use socks to send a message, to showcase something about yourself or to finish off a perfectly matched outfit and add one more detail to a cultivated look.
It’s the length of the sock that really helps determine what type of sock it is. Socks can be made in just about any material with any color or pattern. But the length of the sock changes everything about how it looks and how it feels. Get to know sock lengths from shortest to tallest.
As the name suggests, ankle length sock styles, also called ankle socks, cover your foot just up to the ankle. They are also called low-cut socks because they are perfect to wear with low-cut shoes, such as loafers. Ankle socks are a great option for all kinds of low-cut footwear. They are also shorter than quarter length socks, which still show a little sock above even low-cut designs.
Slightly longer than ankle socks, the quarter length socks extend above the ankles up to your shins. Quarter socks are a good length for casual footwear and for those who don’t like longer lengths. Quarter length socks are a good in-between sock length.
Crew length socks are among the most popular and recognizable types of socks. Crew sock styles are traditionally ribbed at the cuff, which creates a snug fit. Since the socks are six to eight inches tall, the ribbed design helps keep them in place. Crew length socks can be worn pulled to full length or folded down to create a cuff that will cover the ankle. Crew socks are also called sneaker socks because they’re so often worn with athletic shoes.
Also called tall socks and trouser socks, mid calf length socks stop a few inches below the knee. This is a popular length that is seen in casual and dress sock designs. Mid calf socks are a good length for tall boots. Mid calf length socks can be tricky to wear because they may want to slide down. Look for a good pair that are made to stay in place. Mid calf socks are shorter than knee high socks but longer than crew socks. They are a tall sock, but not the tallest you can get.
Knee high socks, also called calf length socks and knee length socks, reach to just under the knee. Knee sock styles provide a lot of coverage to keep feet and legs warm in colder weather and they are seen in many different types of athletic uniforms. Knee high socks are also often seen in school uniforms, though calf sock styles are often worn as well.
Thigh high socks are popular with women, as they can be a great substitute for stockings that cover the entire lower half. Thigh high socks are made for style but they do serve the practical purpose of keeping legs warm in chilly weather in thicker designs. These socks are made with all different materials in all sorts of styles, from incredibly sheer and thin looks to heavy, thick woolen designs. Thigh high socks can be any length from above the knee on up.
Types of Men’s Socks
Whether going for a job interview, date or even a funeral, men with a good sense of style can’t step out of their house without a good pair of socks. Yes, socks are that important.
Athletic socks were once much more commonly known as tube socks. These are now a true fashion classic and in most designs, they have two or three stripes going horizontally around the sock near the top.
Chuck Taylor, the basketball player that became famous for the Converse shoes that bore his name, wore knee-high stockings while on the court. The stockings usually had stripes placed about midway on the sock. Clearly, there was a need for a better athletic sock.
The Nelson Knitting Company decided to fill it. They invented the tube sock in 1967. The name is for the shape. This sock looks like a long tube, which is a contrast from the more articulated sock designs you see in crew length socks and dress socks, which are designed to more closely match the natural shape of the human foot.
The advantages of such a simple design are clear. Tube socks were quick and easy to make, which made machine-manufacturing very effective for the design. Tube socks were sold in a one-size-fits-all design, which simplified things even more.
The socks quickly became a craze. Quick to make, made for all to wear and simple enough for anyone to learn how to wear, tube socks became the go-to garment for basketball players and athletes in all sports. You’ve probably owned a dozen or more pairs of tube socks in your lifetime and counting.
You might think that Nelson Knitting Company was laughing all the way to the bank but the company made a terrible error: they didn’t patent the tube sock design. Other manufacturers flooded the market with their own tube socks. Now, tube socks are available everywhere. And maybe that’s the way it was always meant to be.
More properly known as stirrup socks, baseball socks have become as much a symbol of the game as the baseball bat. The story begins in 1868, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings wore uniforms that exposed the stockings on their legs. Maybe you can guess what color they wore.
The high pants and long stockings look wasn’t completely new. The look was actually seen in cricket frequently but it had yet to be seen in American baseball. Stirrup socks were created in 1905, replacing the stockings that had been worn previously. They are still worn by baseball players all over the world and became an integral part of the Red Sox uniform, debuting in 1936.
Stirrup socks are now more often called baseball socks and they’re seen without actual stirrups all the time. The stirrups were once necessary to keep the socks up, because the look became popular far before elastic was invented.
Compression socks are worn for many reasons. They are often worn by athletes and to relieve certain medical conditions. Compression socks are designed to improve blood flow, reduce swelling and relieve pain in the legs. These socks can be made in any length and just about any style.
Compression socks are one type of pain relief sock. Many other socks are designed with pain relief in mind, including plantar fasciitis socks. These socks are made with cushioning and support to relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis. If you have a specific type of foot pain, there are a type of socks made to help relieve it. Many of these are made with compression designs to encourage healthy circulation as well as pain relief.
Dressier shoes, such as oxford shoes and formal shoes, are made to fit the feet very well. This means that wearing even an ordinary pair of socks may not work, as these socks can be too thick. Dress socks are specifically designed to be very thin so they work well with dressier shoes. Wearing thick socks with dress shoes is considered to be a fashion no-no.
Dress socks are often made in shades of gray, blue and black because these socks are so frequently worn in professional and formal environments. However, patterned and colorful socks have started to become more fashionable in menswear, so dress socks are available in a huge variety of styles.
No Show Socks
The last thing you want to do is wear your shoes without socks. You may get your shoes sweaty or cause painful blisters on your feet. But you may also ruin a perfect outfit with socks sticking up out of your shoes. No show socks are the solution you need.
These socks are so low cut they do not show while you’re wearing most footwear styles. No show socks are usually made in lightweight designs so they feel comfortable. They’re made to sit under the ankle, making them the most low cut sock style. A no show design may also be called an invisible sock, since it’s not visible when your shoes are on your feet. This is a good choice for boat shoes and other summer footwear styles when you want to create a casual, sockless look.
These socks may also be called loafer socks, as they can be worn with loafers so that no sock will show.
Ski socks are designed to be very thick and warm to insulate feet against the coldest temperatures. They are commonly made with wool or with a synthetic blend that mimics the material’s warming, insulating qualities. Ski socks are usually made to be both thick and cushioning. This is why ski boots are usually worn at least one size larger than your actual boot size.
Most ski socks are designed to be tall, usually knee-length. This gives your lower legs protection from the cold. [Source: REI]
Thermal socks are made to provide warmth and protection from the cold. Thermal socks may be made with special technology or materials in order to be more insulating. Many types of socks can also be thermal socks, depending on how they are made.
Types of Socks for Women
Women wear all the same socks as men but women also have additional styles they wear for the sake of fashion and for other practical reasons. There are many types of women’s socks that aren’t seen in menswear.
Bobbysocks are ankle-high socks that are typically embellished with lace, ribbons or other details. These socks are usually made in a fold-down design to create a layered look. Bobbysocks were particularly popular in the 1950s but date to 1927. [Source: WiseGeek]
Fence Net Socks
Enlarge the gaps in fishnet socks you get fence net socks, presumably named because they look something like the links of a chain-link fence. It goes without saying that these socks hardly provide any coverage. They are strictly worn for the sake of fashion and are often used to add a little bit of edginess to any look. Fence net socks can be made in any length, but thigh-high styles are common.
Fishnet sock designs are so called because they are made in a pattern that looks similar to a fisher’s net. The length of these socks and the wideness of holes in the net that is used can vary from one manufacturer to another. However, one thing is certain: they are a unique accessory that can pump up any simple outfit.
These socks are highly versatile by their very nature. Quarter length designs can be worn with most sandals, crew length fishnets can be worn with canvas shoes whereas thigh high styles can be worn with dresses to casual and semi-formal events. Fishnet sock styles look great will all open-toes sandals, too.
These socks look pretty modern but actually, fishnet hosiery was first worn back in the Victorian Era during the 1800s. Fishnet stockings later became trendy in the 1920s with flappers, the fashionistas of their day. [Source: WhoWhatWear]
Needless to say that knitted socks are made from wool. They keep your feet warm and they can be made in any style, color or pattern. You can learn how to make your own knitted socks and never be without new pairs again.
Split Toe Socks
Split toe socks, more properly called tabi socks and also known as flip flop socks, look like a really modern design. However, this sock style dates all the way to the 15th century. They were designed to be worn with thonged sandals, the ancestors of modern flip flops, and they still do a great job of serving this purpose.
Split-toe socks have a self-explanatory name. Instead of one continuous stitch like in all conventional socks, split-toe socks have a separate compartment for the big toe and another compartment for the remaining toes, similar to mittens worn on hands. [Source: Footwear News]
Made from a combination of polyester, spandex, and cotton, transparent socks have become one of the newest sock trends.
They are almost completely transparent and function a lot like pantyhose, except that they only cover your feet. These socks also come decorated with different designs and patterns at the toes, feet and ankles. Also, the designs are printed in various colors to match different outfits. [Source: WhoWhatWear]
Sock Designs and Patterns
Gone are the days when the average shopper could only find plain black and white socks for sale. In the modern age of fashion, there’s a wide array of sock designs in different colors and patterns to choose from.
Another way to add zest to your overall outfit is by opting for geometric socks. From cool designs to chaotic looks to everything in between, there are all different kinds of geometric sock designs.
Socks can be a mind-blowing accessory if done right. If your overall outfit is simple and mono-color, you can jazz it up by adding a lot of color with multi-colored socks.
Cool, funny socks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Only the bold can pull off novelty socks with confidence. These kinds of socks are best for casual outfits and usually are not suited to office wear. Novelty socks can display a particular fandom or famous character or really, anything else you can imagine, so you can choose the ones that define your personality the best.
Plaid socks and plaid-like patterns, such as argyle, are another classic. If you want to dress traditionally but still display a little bit of extra fashion sense, plaid patterns are a great choice.
A classic pattern, polka dots can be used to add a touch of flair to even the most conservative outfits to add just a little style. In bolder designs, polka dot socks can make a strong style statement.
Made to be eye-catching, striped socks are not for the faint of heart. If you want to make a big style splash and get your socks noticed, go for stripes. They’ll get noticed.
What your socks are made from is every bit as important as the style they’re made in and the way they look. After all, you’re going to feel your socks a whole lot more than you’re ever going to see them. Pay attention to your sock materials so you can give your feet the comfortable feel they deserve. You want to know sock materials so you can choose the right socks for the weather and the activities you’re facing on any given day.
Cashmere is considered to be a luxury fabric. It’s made from the hair of the Kashmir goat and it’s remarkable for its softness. Because cashmere is a type of wool, it’s also insulating and warm. Cashmere is often compared to Merino wool, as both materials are considered to be more high-end fabrics. However, the cashmere sock is definitely a luxury item so you will pay more.
Cotton is a natural material that is non-irritating and soft on skin. Cotton is a breathable fabric and in socks, it can be made in a thin, lightweight design or a thick, heavy one. Cotton is also very affordable and it’s one of the most frequently used fabrics in sock manufacturing.
Silk socks are mostly reserved for formal occasions. Unlike cotton sock styles, silk socks aren’t durable. They’re somewhat delicate and made for more looks and style than warmth or practicality.
It is better to wear them only during special affairs to make your feet feel fancy. They usually look best in a simple black hue. Avoid getting light-colored socks in silk, as they may look dirty quickly.
Many synthetic materials are used to make socks. Nylon, polyester and acrylic are all very commonly seen. Synthetic materials are affordable and they can be made to feel like any other fabric. Synthetic fabric can feel just like silk, for example. Synthetic fabric can be dyed to be any color, too. Synthetic leather and fur are also popular in fashion, but rarely seen in socks.
Wool socks are ideal for the winter season because of its naturally warming and insulating qualities. Unlike other materials, it does not absorb much moisture, making it the perfect sock option for outdoor activities and occasions. This is also a highly durable material. However, it’s not always easily machine-washable and some types of this material can feel scratchy on skin.
There’s a lot more going on with socks than you probably ever knew. If you’re still full of questions, so are lots of other people. Get all the answers to the most common socks questions and get to know more about socks than you ever knew you didn’t know…or something. You get it.
What type of socks should be worn with boots?
Look for thicker, durable socks to wear with boots. You want socks that are durable and comfortable to wear. Socks that won’t cause friction on your feet or cause your feet to sweat too much are ideal. Moisture-wicking materials that stay breathable will keep your feet from getting too hot inside your boots.
Synthetic materials, quality wool and natural materials work well for socks that are worn with boots. Don’t forget to consider sock length. You want socks that are tall enough to cover your foot, ankle and any part of your legs that will be covered by the boots. To avoid friction and keep skin comfortable, you want socks that keep the boots off your skin completely.
What color socks should you wear?
For women, anything pretty much goes when it comes to sock fashion. Socks are very much a part of the outfit and women’s styles like to play around with this. But for men, the rules are a little bit harder to figure out.
According to traditional fashion rules, men should wear black socks with black pants, gray socks with gray pants and so on. But in modern fashion, it’s okay to have a little bit of fun with your socks. It’s okay to wear bright socks with colors and patterns in many situations but it’s better to dress more conservatively for serious business occasions and somber occasions. In a business setting, colorful socks are usually out of place. For more casual looks, however, it’s okay to play around.
Should your socks match your boots?
As a general rule, you don’t want your socks to match your shoes. This can create an effect where the shoes and socks seem to blend into each other. The only time you really want to do that is if you’re intentionally dressing all in one color. Men should match their socks to their tie, their shirt or the pocket square. [Source: GQ]
Which types of socks should you have in your wardrobe?
It’s a good idea to have many pairs of socks on hand, enough to change socks at least twice a day while maintaining a normal laundry schedule. Stock your sock drawer with the essentials: workwear socks; everyday pairs of socks; athletic socks that can be worn at the gym or while engaging in lots of activity; heavy socks that can be worn in cold weather; and dress socks that can be worn with formal attire. You may also want to have a pair of no-show socks for summer looks as well. [Source: Effortless Gent]
It also helps to have good hiking socks if you spend a lot of time outdoors. These socks should be wicking and insulating, as well as cushioned and comfortable. Feet go through a lot during a hike, after all. Some hikers choose to wear a liner sock with their hiking socks. Liner sock styles are very lightweight and wick moisture well. They are added to help keep feet dry. However, many hiking sock styles are designed with moisture-wicking technology, which eliminates the need for an extra sock. [Source: REI]
What’s the difference between wool and cotton socks?
Both cotton and wool are natural materials and both are very frequently used in socks. Cotton is non-irritating and non-itchy on feet. The fabric can be lightweight or thick to provide more warmth, but cotton is not moisture-wicking material. Cotton is very affordable material. [Source: Active]
Wool is very moisture-absorbing and wicks moisture well. The problem is that it can shrink, so it’s usually not machine washable and dryable. This material is very warm in cold weather but it can be uncomfortable in hot weather as a result.
Which types of socks are good for sweaty feet?
Feet sweat. That’s just the way things are. You wrap them in socks, stuff them down in shoes and then start banging them against hard surfaces. Yeah, of course they’re going to sweat. But there are some types of socks that can help you manage sweat better than others.
Wicking fabrics that help pull sweat away from skin, such as nylon, wood and polyester, are great options. Some socks are specifically designed to wick moisture and keep feet breathable. These socks are all good options for sweaty feet. Cotton, the popular choice for athletic socks for decades, is surprisingly not the best choice to protect feet from sweat.
What kind of socks should diabetics wear?
There are many complications associated with diabetes, including neuropathy. This is nerve damage in the feet that can create sharp pains, numbness, tingling or burning sensations and other foot problems. You need socks that feel comfortable and protect your feet.
Good diabetic socks fit well and feel comfortable. Seamless construction is best because the socks won’t rub against feet this way. Socks should also be moisture-wicking and breathable in order to keep feet dry. Warm socks help improve blood circulation, so get a pair that’s thick and insulated. Padded socks provide comfort and they give feet an added layer of protection. [Source: Healthline]
What kind of socks should you wear for athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot can actually happen to anyone. It’s a type of fungus that makes feet itchy and creates red, rashy splotches on skin. The best way to prevent athlete’s foot, and the best way to treat it, is to keep feet dry. Socks that wick moisture are the best way to keep feet healthy. [Source: WebMD]
Can you wear socks with sandals?
Once, it was a cardinal rule of fashion that you could not wear socks with sandals. But with athletic sandals becoming more popular, this old fashion rule has become much more flexible. Wearing socks with sandals is now acceptable in men’s fashion. It’s a brave new world in fashion.
Socks and sandal combinations are starting to be seen more in women’s fashion, too. This trend may prove fleeting or it may break decades of fashion tradition once and for all.
Are socks underwear?
When you’re shopping online or in physical stores for socks, they’re often doing their own thing in their own section of the store or storefront. However, socks are technically not in their own clothing category. Since socks are worn beneath other items of clothing, socks are undergarments or underwear. [Source: Answers.com]
Are socks bad for your feet?
You probably don’t wear socks with flip flops and you may walk around in bare feet all the time. You don’t wear socks with high heels or numerous other shoe styles. So do you even need socks? Are they actually doing your feet more harm than good, since your feet are totally fine when you go without wearing them?
Actually, your feet need socks. They absorb moisture to keep your skin dry and they protect your feet against the inside of footwear. Even lined, comfortable footwear can cause blisters when it rubs against your bare skin. Without socks, sweat gets into the lining of that footwear and now your shoes smell bad instead of your socks.
Socks can prevent foot problems, such as athlete’s foot. And if you don’t wear socks frequently, your feet actually have a better chance of producing odor because your sweat glands are all exposed. [Source: Parkview Health]
Bacteria and fungus actually like moist, dark places the best. This is where they thrive. So if you make a habit of wearing your shoes with no socks, your feet will sweat and get the inside of your shoes moist. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria. The next time you wear your shoes, the bacteria gets on your feet. In other words, say yes to socks!
How do socks get lost in the dryer?
It’s pretty much the oldest joke in the book that socks get lost when you do a load of laundry. It’s one of those small oddities of modern life that is so common, it has simply become accepted as a fact of life. Yet, few people seem to know why socks go missing. There are tales of sock monsters, of parallel dimensions filled with socks, theories about socks jumping out of the dryer all on their own. But don’t start looking for a sock-stealing garden gnome sneaking into your house just yet. There’s actually a good reason that socks disappear and it’s all about mechanics, not science fiction.
Washing machines have a gasket inside the chamber where the clothing gets put in the machine to be washed. This is a thick rubber ring that creates a tight seal so that when the washing machine is running, water doesn’t come shooting out of it. As the washing chamber inside spins and spins and socks go flying around, it is possible and even easy for a sock to get pushed through a hole or slit in the gasket. Should the sock go all the way through the gasket, it will end up below the washing basket and get lost inside the inner workings of the machine.
And if you have a top-loading washing machine, just lift the lid and you’ll start to see the potential hazard. There is usually a small opening between the washer basket and the side of the machine. An opening big enough, perhaps, for a sock to slide into.
Avoid overloading the washing machine to help socks avoid this fate, advises Today.
Can socks cause blisters?
Blisters seem like such a little problem, but it just takes one to make you realize how painful and annoying they really are. In fact, blisters are one of the most common foot injuries. Blisters can lead to other problems, according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. They cited a study published on military personnel that found blisters led to a higher number of overuse injuries, such as shin splints and fractures. Blisters are a “little” problem that can create much bigger foot issues.
Socks actually prevent blisters, rather than causing them, as long as you’re wearing socks that fit well on your feet and don’t irritate your skin. Socks help keep feet dry and prevent friction, which is the best to avoid getting blisters.
Poorly fitting socks and shoes can also lead to shoe bite, a painful area on the foot. Wearing socks is a good way to prevent this. Shoe bite, like blisters, is caused by friction. [Source: Healthline]
Can you wear socks to bed?
If feet tend to sweat while inside socks and sweat is bad for feet, can you even wear socks to bed? According to the National Sleep Foundation, not only can you wear socks to bed but you should. Having cold feet can cause insomnia, whereas warm feet helps keep your mind clear, promotes blood flow and literally helps you sleep. Socks are a great way to keep feet warm and cozy so you can get a good night’s sleep.
In fact, it’s the best way to warm feet for sleeping, says Healthline. Hot water bottles, heating pads and other methods can cause your feet to become too hot. Wear socks made with natural fibers and only wear pairs that aren’t tight on feet. Unless your physician tells you otherwise, don’t wear compression socks to bed.
Oddly, wearing socks to bed has been found to prevent hot flashes during menopause and increase the chance of orgasm during sex in both men and men. It even helps prevent cracked feet.
However, there may be some reasons why you shouldn’t wear socks to bed, according to the Sleep Foundation. If you have circulatory problems, if your feet swell or you have any other foot problems, wearing socks to bed may do more harm than good. Talk to your healthcare provider before you start sleeping with socks in bed if you have any sort of foot or health issues at play.
How should socks fit?
Socks are weird, right? Shoes are sold in very precise sizes. Heck, they’re even sold in half sizes. But socks are often sold in a size range. If you have to hunt around to find a shoe in the right size because you can’t wear any other size, how is it possible for you to wear the same sock as anyone with feet ranging in size from 6 to 12?
This is why it’s so hard to not just find socks that fit, but even to know how your socks are supposed to fit. The problem is, ill-fitting socks can cause all kinds of foot problems like blisters and beyond.
And while it seems that your sock size and your shoe size should be the same, that’s actually not the case. If you wear a size 6 shoe, you should be looking for a sock around size 10. Up that number to 10 1/2 if you wear a 7 1/2 to size 8 shoe. From here, add one more sock size for every shoe size as you go up in number.
Socks should fit so that the heel of the sock matches your heel, cupping it all the way around. The heel shouldn’t come up on the back of your foot, leaving room to spare. This means the sock is too big. The toe seam should fit perfectly against the top of your toes and lay flat, without excess bunching and without pinching. [Source: Primer Magazine]
When were socks invented?
Historians believe that the first socks were created way back in the Stone Age, around 5,000 B.C.E. The first socks were made with soft animal skins that were tied around the ankles. Several thousand years later in ancient Greece, around the year 800 B.C.E., socks had become more sophisticated. According to the poet Hesiod, socks were made from matted animal hair. Ancient Roman soldiers in the year 200 wore foot covering made with pieces of woven fabric that were sewn together. These coverings, called undones, were made to be pulled over the feet.
Ancient Egypt, however, got it right. Around the years 300 to 600, Egyptians wore knitted socks that far more closely resemble the modern socks worn today.
What type of socks should you wear with cowboy boots?
Cowboy boots are somewhat taller boots that cover the entire foot and ankle and then some. You want to wear socks that are tall enough to protect your skin from the inside of the boots, which you don’t want rubbing against your skin. Crew-cut socks are usually just about the perfect length. You also want to make sure your socks are breathable and comfortable, no matter what type of footwear you have on.
Bob Vila – The Best Work Socks For Wearing With Boots
Britannica – Cashmere
The Farmers’ Almanac – Socks: A Historical Footnote
Gentleman Within – Men’s Dress Socks Guide (Everything You Need To Know)
No Cold Feet – A Brief History of the Invention of Socks
Smithsonian Magazine – A Brief History of the One-Size-Fits-All Tube Sock