How to Choose the Best Dress Socks

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? The three most important factors to take into consideration are: length, material and style.

Table of Contents
Step 1: Start with Length
Step 2: Merino Wool or Cotton?
Step 3: Choose Your Style
How the Best Dress Socks Are Made (Factory Tour)

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.

what is the best length of dress sock for men?

Mid-Calf Length

  • Shorter, more casual length
  • Slightly longer than a crew sock
  • Provides leg coverage when pants rise
  • Contemporary length

Mid-calf dress socks are 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.

Shop Mid-Calf

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 and measures around thirteen inches in length.

Over the Calf Length

  • Longer, more formal length
  • Fully covers the calf and rests below the knee
  • Stays up all day long
  • Classic, traditional length

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.

Shop Over the Calf

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.

Other Helpful Articles on Sock Length:
The comprehensive guide to dress sock length.
3 reasons why you should wear over the calf socks.
Why do my dress socks fall down?

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 long staple 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.

what material makes the best dress socks for men

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.

Merino Wool Dress Socks

  • Superior breathability
  • Keeps feet dry and comfortable
  • Naturally fights odor to stay fresh

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

Cotton Dress Socks

  • Silky-smooth for luxurious feel on skin
  • Soft, strong and very durable
  • Colorfast and easy to launder

Our cotton dress socks are knit with extra-long staple 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 Cotton

Other Helpful Articles on Sock Material:
What is the best material for dress socks?
6 reasons why we love merino wool socks.
7 rules for washing wool socks.

Step 3: Picking the Best Style of Dress Sock

After selecting your preferred length and material, the next step in choosing the best dress socks is determining your ideal style. 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? While much of this comes down to personal preference, having a variety of styles in your drawer is extremely helpful.

choosing the best men's dress socks

 Other Helpful Articles on Sock Style:
How to match socks, shoes and pants.
What color socks do you wear with khakis?
What socks go with black dress shoes?
What socks do you wear with a grey suit?
What socks can you wear with a navy suit?
How to wear colorful dress socks.

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. This again highlights why we believe black dress socks are best; they simply go with everything.

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. 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.


When it comes to patterns, there are plenty of classic options that easily fit into a business setting. These patterns add pop but, again, do not scream out or look clownish. Dots and stripes are the best patterned dress socks for men as they 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.

Business Casual and Everyday Wear

For casual work wear, the rules are much looser and the best men's dress sock color should primarily be driven by what you are most comfortable wearing. Causal pants and even jeans look great when paired with virtually any color dress sock and stylish dress shoes. To complete a more casual look, opt for derbies, loafers or monkstrap shoes for a relaxed appearance.

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

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 intricate 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. Check out the video below to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the best dress socks for men are manufactured.

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 fine merino wool on a sock knitting machine

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.

The best men's dress socks are made with either merino wool or fine cotton. For a deeper dive, read our sock material guide.

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 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

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

Nathan's favorite dress socks are our burgundy merino wool socks. You will also frequently find him wearing our new no-show socks. Outside of the office he enjoys fishing, reading and exploring Charlotte with his wife.

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