Tailored clothing is all about subtlety. And it took me a long time to figure that out. When I began trying to dress well, I only paid attention to basics like suit colours and patterns. Eventually, however, that focused down to things like how a shoulder is constructed or a lapel is shaped. Shoes went from basics like “dressy” or “brown” to specifics like the curve of a certain maker’s shoe waist. It’s been the same way for my wardrobe in general. Where at first I was concerned with building up the basics – as I should have been – I am now trying to refine those choices, looking at each item with more scrutiny. The one item I simply overlooked for far too long, however, was quality hosiery.
Maybe because we don’t see them much or we’re so used to wearing poor quality, socks are often an oversight. They are also the most disposable item of a classic wardrobe, lasting far less that other items. So maybe it doesn’t seem worth the effort. But let me assure you, it most certainly does. Like all other aspects of a wardrobe, once you have experienced quality socks, it is very difficult to go back.
My Mazarin “Academie Francaise” socks.
I’ve recently started thinking about my socks in much the same way I do the rest of my wardrobe: in terms of fit, construction, quality and style. Instead of simply “dark” and “dressy”, there is so much more you can express with your socks – without having to take the easy route of “fun socks.” Here’s what I look for in my sock wardrobe:
Colour: I like to stick with solids or very minimally patterned socks in dark, classic colours. But that’s not a limit. Forest green and burgundy can be quite striking while still remaining understated, if combined with grey flannel and brown Oxfords. Subtle patterns like stripes or micro hounds-tooth can also be quite elegant.
Material: I would urge that like the rest of your wardrobe, you stick with 100% (or nearly so) natural fibres. Wool, cotton and silk being the best, of course.
Size: One great advantage to moving to better quality socks is better sizing. Again, like other wardrobe essentials, avoid anything marked “small, large or extra large” with a specific shoe size range, and the smaller the range the better. One size fits no one.
Pantherella OTC navy blue socks.
In terms of prices, be prepared to spend at minimum $30 per pair. There are some options below that price point that are acceptable and there are many socks over that price point that aren’t necessarily foolproof. I would recommend trying one pair from a number of different companies first until you find a sock that fits well, feels good and lasts, then stick to that maker.
Bresciani OTC brown/blue socks.
Of course one of the big issues is durability. And again, like a good quality tailored wardrobe, high-quality socks require special care. Many should be washed inside-out and I never tumble dry my socks as the heat can effect their elasticity or cause shrinkage. Do not stretch your socks over each other to store them but simply roll them gently. But despite the best of intentions, holes will happen. I developed a hole on the heel of a rather expensive pair of Fort Belvedere socks and so I took the opportunity to learn how to darn (how to article coming soon). It was actually quite easy and the socks are still going strong, months after the surgery.
Viccel OTC navy blue socks.
My sock recommendations:
My absolute favourite socks. Not only are they made to exacting standards in Italy, I have never felt socks that are so comfortable and luxuriant. They also fit over my feet perfectly, without any bunching or wrinkling. And while I purchased my first pairs from Mes Chaussettes Rouges in Paris – who have superb customer service – now that Toronto’s LeatherFoot Emporium has them (at a comparable price) I suggest checking them out in person.
This company is best known for producing socks for the Academie Francaise in a striking rich green. That’s the pair I went for and I love them. I purchased them from Mes Chaussettes Rouges and couldn’t be more pleased with the colour and the feel. After numerous wears and washes they are holding up very nicely.
This British sock brand is probably the best known of my recommendations as it’s available at many menswear stores in the city. I own a few pairs, all over the calf, and even though they feel luxuriant and fit well on my feet, they don’t stay up as well as the others. Even on my first wear, by the end of the day both socks were slipping down my calves. But perhaps it was just my pair.
My “gateway” recommendation, this Turkish company produces good socks at low prices. I bought two pairs of the “summer weight” and while they are nicely sheer, they are also a bit odd: they have two textures – thick stripes halfway up the ankle, then almost see-through the rest of the way. They also don’t go up quite as far as I’d prefer, stopping about an inch below the top of my calves, which makes them feel a little less than stable. That said, they have yet to slip down. But perhaps my greatest concern is their lack of give: the socks are tight to get on and yet do not fit snugly over the instep and toes, as you can see above.
[If you have any experience with these or other quality sock brands – positive or negative – please share them in the comments below.]