Socks were, admittedly, an afterthought early in my style journey. I had a few pairs of mid-calf in blue and grey, and then some with smaller patterns. But, I’d never had a pair of over-the-calf dress socks. I knew they flattered the leg line and worked best for a cleaner look, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. One afternoon, I walked into a department store and picked up a standard three-pack of ‘designer dress socks’ from a brand with a man on a horse as its logo. You probably know the one.
They stayed over my calves for about an hour before falling down. And, with subsequent washings, it got worse. The elastic was so thin, and so flimsy, I couldn’t walk more than a few a hundred yards without having to kneel down and pull them up again. At first, it wasn’t much more than an annoyance. This was until one day, after climbing the stairway out of a subway station, I bent down for the second time in an hour to pull my socks up and my virtually brand-new smartphone fell out of my suit jacket pocket and clattered onto the pavement. At that moment, I knew I needed a change.
In a way, this was how I discovered Boardroom Socks. But, what I want to discuss here is ‘designer’ socks for men, why someone would wear them-and why they’re rarely worth your investment.
Let’s start with a loose definition. Any sock has to be designed and knitted by someone; therefore, all socks are technically ‘designer socks,’ right? While that is, technically, true, for our purposes a designer sock is one produced through a fashion label or house manufacturing a full range of clothing.
I’ve found designer socks fall largely into two extremes. In the first camp are department store staples like Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, or Tommy Hilfiger. In the other live the upper echelons of Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Hermes, and other global luxury brands. So, why would someone go for each kind of sock?
Socks from Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger are readily available and easily accessible. You can walk into a local department store and pick some up, quite literally, off the rack in an hour or less. They’re comparatively inexpensive, with most coming in between $7-8 USD if you buy a three or four-pack. This is targeted at the guy who just needs a pair of socks. If he gets a pony, American flag, or little CK monogram on them, so be it.
The second camp is one where I want to dwell a little more. The cult of ‘luxury’ is an interesting world to explore, so let’s do it as it pertains to socks.
A luxury good is something costly and not easily obtainable. In that sense, being a global luxury brand is kind of a misnomer…and being a true luxury brand would make margins quite thin. But, luxury brands deal in tiers.
The answer is tiers. Take Louis Vuitton, for example. The eponymous founder of the brand began as a trunk maker. His unique style and reputation for quality, lightweight luggage endeared him to European upper classes. Today, though, a single piece of rolling luggage starts at around $3,000 USD-with a full set approaching five-figures. Bags and purses are at least $2,000, with most being much higher.
However, smaller leather goods like wallets and card cases are a comparatively modest $600-$700. This gives the consumer a chance to experience the brand cache at a (relatively) accessible price point.
It’s hard to rationalize Louis Vuitton offering six pairs of cotton/polyester blend socks for an eye-watering $1,900. But, when a brand like Hermes puts up four pairs of mid-calf cotton socks with an embroidered “H” on them for $290, it’s a far smaller investment than the $700-$900 for one of their iconic scarves. Or, when Burberry allows you to get into the brand by spending $150 on a single pair of “Italian-made socks in technical cotton cashmere with a hint of stretch” (read:50% nylon/38% cotton/8% cashmere/4% elastane), that’s supposedly easier to stomach than the $2,490 the modern iteration of their iconic trench coat is retailing for at the time of this writing.
Why do brands do this? In one sense, it’s psychological and a response to consumer patterns and behavior. Being able to obtain something from a luxury maker gives a person a feeling of inclusion. You’ve joined a secret club, of sorts- but everyone knows you’re a member because you’re displaying that item with a logo or a particular color. Brands know this and stake their reputation on it. The more product-whatever the product is-they can get into consumers’ hands, the better.
The other is just smart business. Few people have the funds to spend five figures on luggage, and it’s hard to run a profitable company selling goods at that price point. But, comparatively more consumers have the funds to spend, say, $600 on a leather bag. Indeed, in the global luxury space, small leather goods make up the vast majority of sales from these brands.
So, a consumer may consider spending that kind of money on socks for two reasons. First, as I’ve laid out, it’s financially easier to become a ‘part’ of a brand through something like a pair of socks instead of luggage, bags, or scarves. On the flip side, spending significant money on socks may be a display of wealth. If you’ve got the means to put $140 into a single pair of socks with a Burberry print on them, what else do you have in your closet?
But, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I’ll come right out and say it. $140 is too much for a pair of socks and there are better ways to utilize your stylish funds. But, there are a few other reasons besides price.
First is quality and materials. While there are some global luxury brands who do make some objectively good products, selling a sock with such inferior materials as a luxury good is borderline disingenuous. Two of the luxury brands I referenced-Louis Vuitton and Burberry- put up products that are, in some cases, mostly synthetics. The other, Hermes, advertised their socks as 100% cotton. I hope it’s a typo. If it’s not, those socks won’t stay up for long.
Here at Boardroom, we’re obsessive about our build quality and the materials we use. We use extra long-staple cotton and merino wool, and use 168-needle count machines for thinness and durability.
Second is on style at large. True style is more about what than who you’re wearing. A sock with loud designer prints or colorways is, in my view, a cry for attention instead of an attempt to put together an outfit.
Here at Boardoom, we offer the essentials in versatile colorways, as well as a few others if you’d like to have some fun. But, your socks should tie your outfit together.
Most importantly, we are the designers for our socks. We build them to be the best in materials and in styles that will be around for years to come. We operate right here in North Carolina because we believe in American manufacturing, ingenuity, and know-how. We’re a small business, not a subsidiary of a global conglomerate.
That, in our view, stands for more than any flashy marketing campaign.
Thanks for reading.
Yours in Style,
Our editorial staff is comprised of menswear experts dedicated to providing you with helpful information. Sharing everything from style tips to sock care instructions, these gentlemen are a wealth of knowledge for both our customers and the Boardroom Socks team.
by Editorial Staff January 29, 2023
by Editorial Staff December 29, 2022