Happy-socksSunday’s Washington Post business section included an article by Seth Stevenson of Slate.com who went, tongue-in-cheek, in search of “the world’s most exquisite dress sock.” Since so few people can afford $200 cashmere Zimmerli’s, let’s look at a few more affordable choices for everyday wear.

First, a confession. I’m a big fan of bright, lively socks. Men have so few options for adding personality to their attire. Cufflinks and socks are two of the only places where a guy can get away with a bold shot of color.  For that reason, a sock’s appearance is important, even if Seth suggests that appearance is not a good indicator of quality:

While an onlooker might be able to judge the quality of your suit from its cut and material, he will be hard-pressed to do the same with your socks. For one, socks are only briefly and narrowly glimpsed from afar when the wearer is standing upright, and revealed more fully only when the wearer sits and crosses an ankle over a knee. Even given time to stare and assess, a spectator will be challenged to draw conclusions from a few inches of fabric hugging a shinbone. And he will be unlikely to reach out and caress the material, as he might with a jacket lapel… All of which means that appearance is a surprisingly poor way to advertise the princely sum you’ve spent on your socks.

He goes on to suggest that a “compelling back story” is the key to advertising the value of your oh-so-expensive socks, and his piece is worth taking a look at to get a brief glimpse into the history of a bunch of fashion houses who make hosiery you will never buy.

Seth’s original story on Slate.com also links to a longer and more detailed post by Alexander Kabbaz of Customshirt1.com, who offers a lengthy and interesting disquisition on appearance, design, fiber, cushioning, temperature, moisture, longevity and consistency.  (He concludes that the ability of a sock to stay up on your leg and the feel of the sock are the two most important features.)

Here are three colorful options that I find feel good to the touch, stand up straight and look good from across the room:

1. Boss Black and Orange: Hugo Boss makes great socks. Soft to the touch, they don’t drift or bunch.  The only problem is their longevity, as the soles tend to wear out when faced with repeated washings. Boss Black for dressier and classier socks; Boss Orange for more casual and colorful. Each run about $12-15 per pair and are, generally a blend of cotton/polyamide/elastane.

2. Club Room: Macy’s house brand is a dark horse contender for my favorite socks, even if they are a cotton-spandex-poly blend and, like Boss Orange, likely designed for casual wear.  They are still soft, stay put and stand up to repeated washings better than some wool socks from more expensive brands. 3 for $15.

3. Happy Socks: Happy Socks socks can be garish. Ghastly patterns and clashing colors. Yikes.  With a huge output of designs, there are a few — such as these from Nordstrom — that match and don’t look too out of place with a suit. Cotton-poly-elastane blend, around $12.

And, from personal experience, one to add to the do not buy list: Punto. For wool-blend socks that approach $30, it would be nice if they stayed up.  Horrible bunching and fairly uncomfortable.



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