The first thing people notice about you is your face. The second is your shoes and then your socks. Socks (called hosiery in finer men’s stores) protect your feet from rubbing against your shoes, keep your feet warm, and provide another style element in your wardrobe.
Here are the three categories of men’s socks:
DRESS SOCKS. Rule of thumb: The dressier the situation, the darker the socks.
In addition to being a dark color, dress socks are usually made from a fine fabric such as silk, although wool and cotton socks in a thin fabric are also appropriate. Some socks may also contain a percentage of nylon for fit, durability and smooth appearance.
The appropriate length of dress socks is more commonly over-the-calf (the longest available).
CASUAL SOCKS. These socks can be worn in a wide range of situations — whether you’re wearing chinos, slacks or jeans.
The rule still applies that you should match your socks with your trousers, but with casual socks you can wear more color, pattern and texture.
Heavier weight socks are perfectly okay in casual circumstances. For length, you can wear a mid-calf — also known as crew socks. Just make sure your trousers fit properly so you don’t flash any leg skin when you sit down.
Pattern. Socks can be any pattern imaginable – plaids, checks, dots and stripes. The more pattern, the more casual.
ATHLETIC SOCKS. Athletic socks are about the weight of casual socks, but they usually have a cushioned-sole or some other feature specific to the sport for which they were designed. Usually they’re white or white with colored stripes at the top or with a logo. Athletic socks are mostly cotton, a natural fiber that absorbs moisture and allows your foot breathe.
Most athletic socks are crew or mid-calf length, however for certain sports like running, an anklet (the shortest) is available. In other situations — playing soccer, for instance — over-the-calf is de rigueur.
Shopping tip: When you buy a pair of socks get two or three more of the same style and color. If and when your socks disappear in the dryer, you’ll still have others to match.