The stylish man’s guide to different types of men’s socks

words Al Woods

There’s no shortage of people who think that socks are nothing but an unseen accessory to one’s outfit. While this might be true in a number of circumstances, choosing the right socks can also elevate your overall style.

Socks come in all lengths and designs, and there are conventions concerning socks that you should follow if you want this accessory to complement the rest of your outfit and highlight your sense of style. Here’s a rundown of the different types of men’s socks and how they’re best used.

mens socks

Let’s Talk About Sock Lengths

Aside from color and design, socks are often categorized according to their lengths. More often than not, pairs that are shorter in length are designated to be men’s casual socks, while most of the longer styles are used in events that call for more formal attires. Categorizing socks according to length will give you the following:

No-show Socks

No-show socks are the perfect option when adding socks to the picture won’t exactly complement your shoes and overall outfit. The shortest type of socks you can buy stop an inch or so below the ankle, making them invisible to the casual observer. No-show socks offer most of the comforts of your quintessential sock without being a visible part of your ensemble. Depending on the material, these socks can have good cushioning and moisture-wicking capabilities, allowing your feet to stay dry throughout the day. Avoid wearing them with boots and high-cut shoes, though, as they might not offer sufficient protection against chafing.

Ankle Socks

Slightly longer than no-show socks, ankle or athletic socks stop around the ankle area and offer a bit of protection against chafing when you’re wearing gym or hiking shoes. Ankle socks are not considered to be fashion accessories, as they have a more utilitarian appeal. While their contribution to a man’s personal style is often downplayed, they’re a great companion if you want to spend a day doing physically demanding activities like hitting the gym, trekking, hiking, running, or playing sports. Avoid wearing them in more social or casual settings, though. If you need to choose between ankle socks and no-show socks when going out with friends, no-show socks are the more stylish option.

sock types
Quarter-length Socks

Also known as short crew, quarter crew, micro crew, and mini crew socks, this type of footwear serves as a middle ground for ankle socks and crew socks. They stop an inch or so above the ankles but don’t yet reach the calves. Its length makes the quarter-length sock a great pair for mid- and high-top shoes, as they’re capable of protecting the feet from chafing. It’s a good alternative to ankle socks if you require more protection while hiking, for example, or if you find crew socks to be too stifling to wear on a hot summer day.

Crew-length Socks

Crew or mid-calf socks are the most popular type of socks for men. These socks are designed to cover the mid to upper calf area and they go well with pants and different shoe types: boots, loafers, sneakers, dress shoes, and everything else in between.

Over-the-Calf Socks

Last but not least are the longest type, over-the-calf socks. These socks cover the entirety of the calf and stop just below the knee. They are a fool-proof solution if you want to prevent your socks from pooling or bunching around your ankles at all costs. Over-the-calf socks are often worn in more formal occasions, and they look sharp no matter how early or late the shindig ends. Take note, though, that it’s a fashion no-no to wear over-the-calf socks with shorts.

Sock Fabrics and Style

Aside from sock length, it’s also important to pay attention to the material and features of the socks that you want to wear or add to your everyday wardrobe. Cotton is a popular fabric for socks, as it’s soft, lightweight, cool, and highly durable compared to other types of fabric. Wool, on the other hand, is a fabric of choice for people who live in places with cold climates and those who want to stay warm no matter what the weather is outside. If you want to best of both worlds, there’s cashmere, a material that offers plenty of warmth yet remains soft and light to the feel.

For fancier events, you can go with silk socks, though you need to treat them gently to help them last longer. Synthetic socks are lightweight and are often reserved for athletic purposes, but they’re also typically mixed with natural fibers to boost their softness and durability.

Your choice of socks can make or break your outfit, and it can also help you inject a bit of your personality into otherwise run-of-the-mill gym or office attire. When choosing socks, make sure to consider these categories. By doing so, you’ll have an easier time picking out a pair that will complement your look and sense of style.


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