best in class

The Very Best Men’s Socks

From cozy cashmere to moisture-wicking merino.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

Every day, you put on socks and forget about them — if they’re good. If they’re bad, you can’t help thinking about them. There are so many ways socks can go wrong: when they don’t hug your ankle tightly enough, when they develop heel and toe holes suspiciously fast, or when a single wash cycle turns them into something entirely different from what you bought.

As we age, it’s easier to appreciate the mundane pleasures of a good pair of socks — the ones that last forever, go with everything you wear, and those that feel so good they make workouts and long workdays less of a pain. Suddenly, unwrapping a fancy pair of socks made of cashmere or moisture-wicking merino wool makes us smile rather than roll our eyes.

To help find the very best socks in what feels like an almost infinite sea of options, the Strategist asked more than 20 stylish people what socks they like to wear for a variety of occasions and tested several pairs ourselves. Our panel includes clothing designers, photographers, footwear designers, runners, and stylists. The resulting list, based on their recommendations and ours, includes simple and affordable everyday staples, statement-making styles, and even a pair for those of us who want to make it look like we’re not wearing socks at all.

Read on for the criteria we considered, or use the table of contents to jump to any of our sock superlatives.

What we’re looking for


Great socks come down to the material they’re made from, which will vary depending on the occasion and the function they’re intended to serve. Cotton is used in many socks but is rarely recommended for sports activities because it can absorb sweat and dry slowly, which can lead to clammy skin and blisters on long hikes or a marathon run. Nylon or other synthetic materials are used to add stretch, especially to athletic socks, and to help socks hold their shape. Merino wool is used in some performance socks and can keep your feet dry and comfortable in a wide range of temperatures.


If it’s an especially cold day you might opt for a heavier-weight wool sock and on an oppressively hot day you might pull out thinner, lighter-weight socks. Hiking socks usually have high-density cushioning and a snug fit to prevent bunching (which can cause blisters). Some athletic socks have additional padding for the soles of your feet. A combination of materials and thickness will affect the socks’ warmth. Whether or not socks have cushioning or padding, you want them to have enough weight to keep you comfortable but not be so bulky they can’t fit inside your shoes.


The ideal height of a sock depends on your preferences, style, and footwear. No-show socks are a poor match for hiking boots, for example, as ankle-cut athletic socks are for dress shoes. Perhaps you hate having your ankles covered or feel cold unless they are; if so, sock height will be an important consideration for you. Some types of socks come in a variety of heights, while some, like dress socks, tend to be more standardized (ankle-cut dress socks aren’t really a thing). No-show socks are usually hidden and pair well with loafers or sneakers. Ankle socks hit at the ankle, and crew socks are a higher sock that usually hit just below the calf muscle. Dress socks usually hit at the mid-calf or slightly higher, depending on the brand.

Best overall socks

Material: 59% Cotton, 26% Acrylic, 12% Nylon, 2% Spandex, 1% Polyester | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: Crew

Uniqlo crew-height socks come in more than 40 different colors, can easily be worn with any type of footwear, and at $5 a pair, are super-inexpensive. They feel good — snug but not too tight — and last for years. But if that’s not convincing enough, they also come recommended by nine of our panelists and several Strategist staffers, myself included. Phillip Wong, co-founder and creative director of Hawthorne, appreciates the socks’ medium height and thickness, which make them work for many different outfits and activities. New York City street-style photographer Christopher Fenimore says they “last hundreds and hundreds of washes before fading or tearing” (Nicolás Lazaro, a community specialist at menswear-resale site Grailed, says he has been wearing some of his Uniqlo socks for “more than a decade now.”) Alexander-Julian Gibbson, a celebrity and editorial stylist at Ebony and Grazia, says he buys new colorful pairs monthly. And photographer Patrick O’Rourke likes to wear them with black loafers “so you can catch a glimpse of color on top.”

Best organic cotton socks

Material: 98% organic cotton 1% nylon and 1% spandex | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: Crew

Maggie’s Organics has a very loyal fan base that includes every kind of sock wearer from Waldorf school teachers to fashion obsessives. The brand knits its gender-neutral socks out of organic cotton and a touch of nylon on old knitting machines, a process that gives them a level of quality not often seen for the low price. They come in tons of colors (including a perfect tie-dye) and hold up well after many washes. Strategist contributor Ruby Redstone discovered the brand’s perfect creamy-white socks after a lengthy online search. “The cotton is thick enough to feel sumptuous but not so heavy that you can’t wear them on a hot day. The wide ribbing makes them look deceptively more fashionable than the average white sock, like they could be Prada,” she says. They can also be found at many crunchy health-food stores, including the Park Slope Food Coop, where I like to buy them as a little treat alongside fancy French butter and heirloom tomatoes. Strategist writer Erin Schwartz is also a fan of the brand, noting that the natural color takes dye really well if you want to tie-dye them yourself. “They’re so good that during the winter when I’m feeling grumpy about having to leave the house, remembering I have a clean pair of Maggie’s socks legitimately makes a difference,” Schwartz says.

Best cotton-blend socks

Material: 75% cotton, 20% Polyester, 3% Nylon, 2% Spandex | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: Crew

Another affordable, quality pair of socks: Muji’s right-angle rib socks made from organic cotton, which fashion designer Thakoon Panichgul says he can’t live without. “They’re thin enough that you can wear them with any pair of shoes, and they’re good for summer and winter,” he says. He has worn this heather-gray color with everything from white sneakers to black dress shoes. Even though they’re cheap at $5, they last a long time. “They literally don’t rip. I’ve worn some pairs for a couple of years, and they’re still holding on,” Panichgul says. They come in a handful of neutral colors, including white, charcoal, navy, and “grayish brown.”

Best wool-blend socks

Material: 77% Merino Wool, 14% Nylon, 7% Polyester, 2% Spandex | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: Crew

When it’s especially cold, socks made of wool or a wool blend will be some of your warmest options. Dan Snyder, the founder of Corridor, loves these socks from American Trench. They’re made in Pennsylvania from a wool blend with a bit of stretch and come in eleven textured color options with Donegal-like flecks. It’s not uncommon to find that most wool socks are also blended with other materials, like spandex for added elasticity or polyester to cut down on weight. For a more athletic style, Victoria Hitchcock, a personal-branding-and-lifestyle consultant, likes American Trench’s merino activity socks, which feature antimicrobial silver for additional odor control. She says it’s a “gorgeous sock” that’s both “old-school and hip.”

Best (less expensive) wool-blend socks

Material: 71% Merino Wool, 21% Nylon, 7% Polyester, 1% Spandex | Thickness: Heavyweight | Height: Crew

For something a little less pricey but just as warm and durable, former Strategist newsletter editor Mia Leimkuhler recommends her and her husband’s favorite winter socks. She marvels at the fact that they are so inexpensive while also being made of over 70 percent merino wool but warns that they’re not for wearing with your favorite pair of sleek Chelsea boots. “They are really, really good but they are thick, perfect for winter boots, hockey skates, or wearing around the house,” she says, noting that unlike a lot of wool socks, they actually let your feet breathe and are incredibly tough. “My husband Bruce is really hard on his socks (he wears them around the house and even outdoors to take out recycling), and other wool socks of his show thinning and wear around the ball and heel of the foot, but not People socks.”

Best dress socks

Material: 70% Cotton Lisle, 30% Nylon Blend | Thickness: Lightweight | Height: Calf

For dress socks, stylist Brian Coats prefers a longer “over the calf” model and particularly likes this pair from Pantherella. “They actually become essential for your circulatory system when you have 25 showroom appointments a day,” he says. His praise is seconded by Fenimore, who told us he has been wearing Pantherella socks for years. “They’re super-soft and thin, so it almost feels like you’re not wearing a sock at all.” Lazaro is also a fan of Pantherella’s merino-wool dress socks, which he says have natural breathability and moisture-wicking benefits. “Best of all, they’re hard-wearing enough that I don’t have to worry about deterioration or holes as much as I would with cashmere or other finer fabrics.”

Best (less expensive) dress socks

Material: 72% Cotton, 25% polyamide, 3% elastane | Thickness: Lightweight | Height: Crew

Stylist Jessica Cadmus works with lots of clients who have jobs in finance, and to keep them comfy and looking good, she relies on these cotton-blend dress socks from Hugo Boss. “The socks are durable and the patterns have just the right voice — not too crazy or too loud for a conservative workplace,” she says.

Best boot socks

Material: 73% cotton, 12% acrylic, 12% polyester, 3% polyurethane | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: Crew

Strategist senior editor Ailbhe Malone first bought these Japanese socks as a Christmas present for her husband, who has really large feet (he wears a U.K. size 11 shoe), and never seems to be able to find socks that hit mid-shin for him — a must, as he wears Chelsea boots every day. “These are toasty but not scratchy, stylish but not flashy, and despite being more than I would typically spend on a pair of socks, can totally handle being thrown in the tumble dryer,” Malone says.

Best patterned socks

Material: 98% Cotton, 2% Elastane | Thickness: Medium to heavy weight | Height: Crew

When it comes to socks with “creative designs,” Snyder and three more of the men we spoke to are fans of Japanese company Anonymous Ism, which makes unique knitted socks in old-school herringbone and patchwork styles. “When I’m showing some ankle with sneakers or more casual footwear, I go with Anonymous Ism,” Fenimore told us, adding that “the variety of beautiful colors is timeless, and they’re substantial enough to wear even in the colder New York months.” Though these socks are on the warmer side, they can be worn for fall, winter and spring (you may want to put them away during the hotter parts of the year). Former Strategist writer Jordan Bowman says “they were a saving grace amid unexpected cold temperatures” on a trip he took a few years ago. And Christopher Echevarria, the creator of the footwear brand Blackstock and Weber, praises their weight and thickness. Anonymous Ism also makes thinner patterned socks in paisley and tie-dye.

Best athletic socks

Material: 64% Cotton, 33% Polyester, 2% Spandex, 1% Nylon | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: Crew

Frequent travelers might be interested to know that these are the socks the Points Guy (a.k.a. Brian Kelley) wears on his longest hauls. “These breathe, so you don’t overheat, and are great for travel and workouts alike,” Kelley promises. They also have cushioning under the heels and the front part of the foot and a band around the arch that feels snug and helps the socks hold their shape even after multiple washes. Musician Jimmie Allen told us they’re the only socks he buys. He wears them for everything from playing basketball to fishing to running errands to performing. “The only thing I don’t do is wear them with sandals,” he says. I’m not that type of person.”

Best athletic ankle socks

Material: 96% polyester / 4% elastane | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: ankle

Actor Lorenzo Pozzan’s days vary from filming auditions and reading scripts to traveling for press and red-carpet events with regular gym sessions and hikes scheduled in. He told us that a key part of his sock strategy is to have a “literal bucket full” of these Reebok ankle socks at home that he wears for the gym and other athletic activities. They are made of stretchy sweat-wicking fabric to help keep your feet comfortable during workouts.

Best hiking socks

Material: 63% Merino Wool 35% Nylon 2% Lycra Spandex | Thickness: Heavyweight | Height: Crew

“Darn Tough is a hilarious name for a brand but an apt description of their socks,” says Dan Small, who directs partnerships and special projects for Baggu. Bowman agrees and has been wearing his pair of Darn Tough Socks for over a year. “They’ve survived multiple hikes, snow-shoveling, and winter storms, as well as plenty of trips through the wash,” he says. They’re padded to add comfort, so you will immediately notice the thickness in comparison to medium-weight socks like Uniqlo’s and Muji’s. They also have a snug fit, so they won’t slip around while hiking. Because they are made of merino wool, they regulate temperature, meaning your feet will stay comfortable and dry in a variety of weather settings. Darn Tough socks come with a lifetime guarantee of quality, and the brand will replace any pair that rips from normal wear and tear.

Best (less expensive) hiking socks

Material: 53% Supima Cotton, 24% Polyester, 21% Nylon, 2% Elastane | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: Quarter

My husband Jacob and I both came to love these quarter-length hiking socks after I bought them for him as a gift. We share a lot of our socks and have similar requirements: They must be comfortable when standing for long periods of time (he’s a teacher who hardly ever sits down), they must wash and dry well without shrinking, and they must wick away moisture regardless of how much hiking, gardening, or biking we do. These meet all the criteria and more. We have each worn them on long hikes — and through hours of walking stroller naps with our new baby. They have extra cushioning on the bottom that feels satisfyingly squishy and prevents feet from getting tired. Plus, they come in more interesting marled colors rather than the typical gray, brown, and black.

Best running socks

Material: 68% Nylon, 23% Polyester, 5% Combed Cotton, 4% Elastane | Thickness: Medium weight | Height: Crew

“Having socks you trust is so key,” says David Roche, the coach and founder of the SWAP running team and a co-author of The Happy Runner. He likes these nylon-blend Stance socks for running, which are moisture-wicking to prevent odor and keep your feet dry. They come in small, medium, and large sizes and have cushioning in the heel and arch support. Amir Muhammad Figueroa, the co-founder of Harlem Run and a marathoner and ultra-marathoner, also recommends Stance socks. “It’s a great combo to go with my kicks,” he says of the socks’ sleek design.

Best no-show socks

Material: 54% Cotton, 42% Polyester, 4% Spandex | Thickness: Lightweight | Height: No-show

When the temperature permits, no-show socks are the answer for anyone who’s looking to give their sunlight-starved ankles some fresh air. To prevent the blisters and odor that can come with not wearing socks at all, publicist Jon Salas says he “lives and dies by Uniqlo’s no-show socks,” explaining that “they’re super comfortable, durable, light, and breathable.” He tries to wear them as close to year-round as possible, which can be hard during New York City winters, but he especially likes them in the summer with sneakers because they really stay hidden without falling off his heel. “And you just can’t beat the price,” he adds.

Some more men’s socks we’ve written about

Our experts

• Jessica Cadmus, stylist
Brian Coats, stylist
• Christopher Echevarria, creator of the footwear brand Blackstock and Weber
Christopher Fenimore, New York City street-style photographer
Amir Muhammad Figueroa, co-founder of Harlem Run
Alexander-Julian Gibbson, stylist and content specialist
• Nikolaj Hansson, creator of menswear brand Palmes
Victoria Hitchcock, a personal-branding-and-lifestyle consultant
Brian Kelley, the Points Guy
Nicolás Lazaro, community specialist at Grailed
• Mia Leimkuhler, former Strategist newsletter editor
• Ailbhe Malone, Strategist senior editor
Patrick O’Rourke, photographer
Thakoon Panichgul, fashion designer
Lorenzo Pozzan, actor
• Ruby Redstone, Strategist contributor
• David Roche, founder of the SWAP running team and co-author of The Happy Runner
Jon Salas, publicist
• Erin Schwartz, Strategist writer
Dan Small, partnerships and special projects for Baggu
• Dan Snyder, founder of Corridor
• Phillip Wong, co-founder and creative director of Hawthorne

Additional reporting by Jordan Bowman and David Notis.

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15 of the Very Best Men’s Socks