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Sock It To Me!
Posted by James F. Brown on Mar 8, 2009 - 2:07:02 PM

VARIOUS LOCATIONS—Wearing socks is usually a good idea. Not only do socks protect the foot from abrasion, chafing and blistering, they protect shoes from perspiration damage. There’s another critical reason for wearing socks — it’s required as part of a professional wardrobe. It’s also important to match the right kind of sock to what you’re wearing and what you’re doing.


However, there is one instance where socks shouldn’t be worn: with sandals, flip-flops, or other open footwear. Here, bare feet are de rigueur. We’ve all seen guys (usually senior citizens) wearing socks (usually white) with sandals. It’s an excellent way to look like a total dork.

For leisure activities, thick white athletic socks made of cotton or cotton blends are the norm. They go well with sneakers, boat shoes, moccasins, and other casual shoes. They absorb sweat, cushion the feet, and coordinate with jeans and a t-shirt. It’s a look that’s completely acceptable anywhere in the world.

Socks for the professional, business, and corporate world are another story. Here, darker colors are needed: black, navy, grey, brown and sometimes beige. Socks should match the color of the pants, although black socks are always appropriate. Dress socks are thinner than athletic and casual socks. Often the fabric is ribbed. Wool, wool blends, nylon, and other synthetics are used for dress socks. Spandex may also be added for stretch and to maintain the socks’ shape.

Recently, expensive cashmere socks have been offered by some upscale retailers, but I don’t recommend them. Cashmere is delicate, and such socks don’t last long. Plus, nobody will know (or care) that your feet are encased in cashmere.

Dress socks should never sag or bag at the ankles. It’s also considered gauche to show bare leg, so dress socks need to be high enough to cover the lower leg when sitting. Longer, over-the-calf (OTC) dress socks meet both these requirements. They’re a bit more expensive than normal length socks, but well worth it. OTC socks are what I recommend and wear.

Another recommendation is to buy solid color socks of the same brand and style. It makes it much easier to pair socks. I match socks and loosely knot them together before putting in the drawer. That way, I don’t have to riffle through the drawer for a pair when dressing. It also keeps black socks and navy socks separate.

I no longer buy patterned socks (such as argyle). The reason? I have a bunch of single, unmatched socks that I cannot wear. It’s the mysterious missing sock syndrome. Somehow, washers and dryers eat socks, but only one of any pair. Sticking with plain, solid socks saves me much anguish.

Socks are consumable items that need regular replacement. But spending a lot of money on them isn’t very cost-effective. Discounters and resellers such as Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Ross, Burlington Coat Factory, K-Mart, Target and Wal-Mart have a wide variety of dress and casual socks at very reasonable prices, including designer and name-brand labels.


James F. Brown is a business consultant and expert on professional attire. His e-mail address is


Cliffside Malibu




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