I did not expect much - a sock is a sock. Boy, was I wrong…

Steven, a recent Boardroom Socks customer from Columbus, shared the above comment with us. Simply put, not all dress socks are created equal. So, what makes the best dress socks? And, even more importantly, what are the best dress socks for you?

To help answer these questions, we have compiled this detailed article and broken it into two distinct sections. In the first section, we will guide you through the process of selecting the best pair of dress socks to meet your individual needs. In the second section, we'll take you into the operational side of the business to explain how the best dress socks are made.

Choosing the Best Dress Socks

So, what are the best dress socks for youLike many articles of clothing, much of this comes down to personal preference. The three most important factors to take into consideration when choosing the best dress socks are: length, material and style.

Step 1 - Choose the Right Length of Dress Sock

The two primary lengths of men’s dress socks are mid-calf and over the calf. Aptly named for where they reach on your leg, a mid-calf dress sock is slightly longer than a crew length while over the calf dress socks fully cover the calf and rest just below the knee.

guide to dress sock length by Boardroom Socks

A mid-calf dress sock is best for casual wear or for gentlemen with very large calves. Some men also simply find this shorter length to be more comfortable; it is really a matter of personal preference.

Mid-calf dress socks have become more popular in recent years as a more contemporary, casual look. It is important to note that many brands and manufacturers have begun to knit dress socks to a shorter, crew length. This is typically done in an effort to reduce costs, but will have an impact on the ability of the socks to stay up. A true mid-calf length dress sock is slightly longer than a crew sock.

Shop Mid-Calf

The knee-high length of over the calf dress socks is best for formal occasions and for those whose greatest concern is ensuring the socks stay up all day. At Boardroom Socks, our over the calf socks are meticulously designed to stay up. In fact, my father started Boardroom Socks because he could no longer find a quality pair of American-made over the calf dress socks that would actually stay up all day.

Prior to joining my parents in our family business, I begrudgingly admit that I had never worn a pair of over the calf socks! I have since fully converted to being a fan of over the calf socks; I absolutely love them. If you’d like to read about why I personally believe you should give over the calf dress socks a try, read this article on our blog.

Shop Over the Calf

Step 2 - Merino Wool or Pima Cotton?

Now that you have selected your preferred length, let's move on to material. You always want to check the material contents on the socks’ label when shopping for dress socks. Look for socks that are primarily made out of merino wool or pima cotton - this is a key indicator of both quality and how comfortable the socks will be. Avoid polyester, as it doesn’t breathe and will cause your feet to sweat.

guide to sock length for mens dress socks

When choosing between wool and cotton, it is mostly a matter of personal preference. Each of these yarns have their own unique benefits, and both are key ingredients in making the best dress socks. Customers frequently ask us which material is thicker and, technically speaking, while our merino wool yarn is ever-so-slightly thicker than our pima cotton yarns, you would likely never notice the difference.

Our merino wool dress socks are our most popular collection. Merino wool is a fine, soft material that is naturally breathable, allowing it to very effectively manage moisture and odor. If your feet frequently feel damp, you may find that switching to merino wool socks would be best. As my father, Mike, likes to say, "Merino wool is nature's heating and cooling system."

Shop Merino Wool

Our pima cotton dress socks are knit with extra-long staple pima cotton, which is the same material used in luxury bed linens. These dress socks are buttery-soft and extremely comfortable against the skin, even for those with sensitive feet. If you are most interested in a lightweight, smooth texture, pima cotton dress socks will likely be best for you.

Shop Pima Cotton

purple cotton yarn with purple cotton dress socks

If I had to pick one feature of each material that customers like best, it would be as follows:

Merino Wool - The breathability, which keeps your feet dry and comfortable all day long.

Pima Cotton - The buttery-soft smoothness, which makes these socks incredibly soft and comfortable.

Step 3 - Picking the Right Style

Once you have determined the best material and length to meet your needs, the final step is to choose the appropriate style of dress sock. Do you primarily wear dress socks at the office? If so, what is the dress code? Do you like to stand out in a crowd or do you prefer traditional colors?

Traditional Business Colors

At Boardroom Socks, we offer both solid colors and patterned styles of dress socks, each designed to be acceptable for virtually any business setting. If you work in a formal environment with a fairly rigid dress code, stick to the traditional business colors of black, charcoal, navy and mid-grey. We are hard pressed to think of any business setting where these four basic sock colors would not be appropriate.

black merino wool dress socks with black oxfords and charcoal trousers

Beyond the Basics

Beyond the four basics, add dark shades of a broader range of colors such as burgundy or purple. These colors provide a stylish look with more color, yet they do not scream out; they’ll look good when paired with most traditional pants while adding a pop of color.

burgundy merino wool dress socks with herringbone trousers and black oxfords

If you want to make a statement, nothing speaks like a pair of red dress socks. These will look great with black, charcoal or navy pants.

Looking at patterns, there are many classic patterns that easily fit into a business setting. These patterns add pop but, again, do not scream out or look clownish. Dots and stripes are both simple, clean designs that look terrific with suits or dress pants. Keep in mind that your choice of shoes makes a big impact on finishing out the formal business style.

charcoal patterned dress socks with grey windowpane trousers

Business Casual and Everyday Wear

For casual work wear, your sock color selection should be influenced by what you are most comfortable wearing. In the images below, you can see that causal pants and even jeans can look great when paired with tasteful dress socks and stylish dress shoes. A great pair of oxfords, derbies, loafers or monkstraps will elevate just about any look.

purple dress socks laying across brown tassel loafers and khaki pants

Working from Home

The goal here is to create a style that puts you mentally in work mode but is "work from home" (WFH) in setting. In this environment, we like to incorporate a broader range of colors and combinations. The image below shows our teal dress socks paired with a comfortable pair of jeans. Add in those nice dress shoes from your closet and you'll create a look that lets you separate your workday from your stay-at-home day. While this pairing would apply to any color during "WFH," having some fun and looking sharp with the brighter colors will be a welcome pop in both your wardrobe and your mood.

man crossing his leg and putting feet up on desk while wearing teal dress socks

brown merino wool dress socks with jeans and brown monkstrap dress shoes

I hope that the above guide has been helpful in determining which style is best for you. If you have any questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. Ready to find your perfect pair?

Find My Perfect Pair


While the section above focused on finding the best style of dress socks to meet your needs, we have also written extensively below on how the best dress socks are made. One thing that I personally have learned from joining our family business is just how extensive the manufacturing process is. It is amazing how many jobs are impacted by the creation of our products.

Learn How the Best Dress Socks are Made

When it comes to manufacturing the best men’s dress socks, the three determining factors are: the raw materials used in the socks’ construction, the design of the socks and the knitting machine used to produce the socks.

Start with the Best Raw Materials

The best men’s dress socks require the best raw materials. In the hosiery world, the raw materials used are yarn, which can most easily be thought of as fine thread wound onto cones.

cones of grey merino wool yarn for knitting dress socks

The two primary forms of yarn used in hosiery manufacturing are natural yarns, such as cotton or wool, and synthetic yarns, such as nylon or polyester. Generally speaking, natural yarns are more comfortable while synthetics can enhance fit and durability. Typically, the higher the percentage of natural yarns used, the better the socks will feel and look.

field of American Supima cotton with mountains in background

As material costs have increased over the years, many brands and manufacturers have begun using smaller and smaller amounts of natural yarns, while increasingly relying on polyester and similar synthetics. Avoid socks that contain more nylon or polyester than cotton or wool, as they will feel hot and uncomfortable.

At Boardroom Socks, we knit our dress socks with a combination of both natural and synthetic yarns, allowing us to tap into the unique benefits of each material. The primary yarn used in our dress socks is either fine merino wool or long-staple pima cotton, resulting in a soft and breathable dress sock that will keep your feet dry and comfortable all day.

Mike holding a cone of charcoal wool in front of an American flag

We also use a moderate amount of stretch nylon to improve durability, make the socks fit well against the leg, and to accommodate a range of foot sizes and shapes. The percentage of nylon in a dress sock should not be higher than the percentage of spun (natural) yarn. Nylon has an especially important role, but it is a synthetic product that does not breathe and will feel hot if it is overused in the sock’s construction.

Finally, we finish each pair of our dress socks by adding a small amount of spandex in the top band of the socks. This allows the socks to comfortably fit around your leg while also holding them up throughout the day. As time passes in a sock’s life, the spandex will begin to lose its strength. You can increase the life of your socks by frequently rotating the pairs that you wear, giving the spandex time to retract and recover. For additional tips on launder and care, read our article on how to wash dress socks.

Designing the Best Dress Socks

The first areas of a sock to wear out are typically the heel and toe due to friction against the shoe. To prevent this, all Boardroom Socks are designed with a reinforced heel and toe. This makes the manufacturing process more time-consuming, uses more yarn, and is overall more expensive, so many brands skip this crucial step.

Mike holding up a pair of grey, ribbed merino wool dress socks

One of the best aspects of the dress socks we produce at Boardroom Socks is their timeless style. Every pair is designed with versatility in mind so that you can wear them with a suit and tie, business casual attire or even your favorite pair of denim.

Our solid-colored dress socks are made in a traditional ribbed knit style. In addition to their timeless elegance, the ribbed design also helps keep the socks up. When it comes to dress socks, few things are more aggravating than slipping, sagging socks that slide down into your shoes. The ribbing acts like an accordion to pull the socks in toward your leg, helping them to stay up.

Crafting the Best Dress Socks in America

We believe the best dress socks are made in America, building on over a century of textile manufacturing. This is particularly true in our home state of North Carolina, where many successive generations have passed down knowledge and expertise that simply can’t be replicated. While walking through an American hosiery mill, you’ll witness the powerful combination of time-tested craftsmen and modern technology.

Mike and Nathan James walking through the Boardroom Socks knitting mill

Of course, in every knitting mill you will also see rows of knitting machines. Each machine contains a circle of needles that forms a cylinder, with each needle representing a stitch in the sock. Machines with a low number of needles will produce a thicker, heavier sock while machines with a higher number of needles yield a finer, more tightly-knit sock.

Close up image of a sock knitting machine

Dress socks imported from Europe are typically knit on 200-needle count machines, making them exceptionally thin. While they are undoubtedly comfortable, these dress socks tend to wear out very quickly. In our experience, the best dress socks are knit on 168-needle count machines. This produces a dress sock that is slightly thicker than those produced by European brands, providing the same luxurious comfort while greatly enhancing durability.

If you've made it all the way through this article, you are well on your way to being a dress sock expert! Thank you for taking the time to read it and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at service@boardroomsocks.com.

Ready to pick out your next favorite pair of dress socks? I invite you to browse our collection today.

Find My Favorite Pair

Nathan James
Nathan James

CEO, Boardroom Socks

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