Socks 101

Socks are an important aspect of how a man dresses in relation to his shoes, so I thought it was important to write an introductory type article on the subject.

I hope to write other articles about more specific aspects of socks, but this article is more of a sock 101. Because of this, you may already know most of what I address in this article, but some people may not.

For men there are basically 4 standard lengths for socks:

  • Loafer Socks (also known as loafer liners or footies) These socks are cut so the top line stays below your ankle, and covers only your toes. The idea is that the sock is not seen when worn with loafers, to give the sockless look, while still providing the benefit of wearing a sock.
  • Ankle Socks (sometimes also referred to as footies). These socks are typically worn by women as an alternative to crew socks. These socks are cut to sit just below (or just above) the ankle and cover the whole foot. Although not gender specific it is less common to see a man wearing this type of sock.
  • Crew Socks. These socks cover the ankle and go about a quarter way up the calf. This is the most common sock length for men in the US. All types of socks come in this length; from white cotton athletic socks, to black silk dress socks, and everything in-between.
  • Over the Calf Socks (also known as OTC). These socks cover the entire calf, and stop just before the knee. This length is referred to as knee-high in woman’s socks. This length of sock is typically worn with business suits and formal attire. One of the main purposes for this length of sock is to keep the skin/hair of the leg from showing when a gentleman crosses his legs. You can also get hunting/hiking/winter recreation socks in this length to help keep your legs warm.

Socks come in all types of fabric, but typically include a blend of some type of stretchable synthetic fiber, to allow the sock to fit snugly against your foot and leg.

The type of fabric used in socks will vary by the intended use of the sock, and the intended price of the sock.

Athletic socks (usually in crew length) are typically made from cotton, and intended for playing sports. The cotton absorbs sweat well, and the socks are easy to care for.

Hiking socks are typically made from wool, which keeps the foot dryer by holding the moisture in the interior of the fabric. Depending on the percentage of wool in the sock will determine how the sock should be cared for. A sock that is over 80% wool should be air dried so that it does not shrink. Most wool socks are a blend of polyester and wool.

There are a number of different types of wool. The most common is sheep wool. However, any fabric woven from animal hair is considered a wool. Examples are cashmere (goat), angora (rabbit), mohair (angora goat), alpaca, camel, and vicuna (a small rare camel/alpaca).

Socks made from animal wool other than sheep are more expensive, but typically warmer and softer. You will not typically find socks made of mohair, camel or vicuna, but cashmere socks can be found, and are quite nice in the winter. It is rare to find angora socks for men, but they are available for women.

Dress socks (for business attire, with slacks, or even jeans) can be made of thin cotton, wool, silk, nylon, rayon, and polyester. Fabrics made of mostly natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk are better for your feet than synthetic fabrics like nylon, rayon, and polyester.

The reason for not wearing synthetic fibers is that synthetic fibers do not absorb sweat like natural fibers, keeping more perspiration on your feet (rather than wicking it off as natural fibers do), and promoting athlete’s foot, and foot odor.

Unfortunately, most men’s dress socks (at least in the US) are typically blends of mostly polyester and/or rayon. The main reason for this is cost. Synthetic dress socks cost less to make than natural fiber socks, and give higher profit margins to the manufacturer.

When storing socks it is best to roll your socks around each other in a pair, rather than rolling the top of one sock over the other and tucking it inside, as it typically done with athletic socks. Rolling socks around each other in an actual roll keeps them from getting stretched when not in use.


Sock spend the majority of their time in a drawer, not on your feet, so they should be stored so as not to cause them damage. Cotton socks seem to be less prone to stretch damage, but the elasticized top can be stretched out of shape.

I hope to write a future article specifically on the proper way to roll socks.