If I had a nickel for every time I saw someone wearing gym socks with dress shoes…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be writing this. See, the thickness or thinness of your socks matters- not only for your comfort, but for your style as well. Here, we’ll cover what constitutes a thin men’s dress sock, just how thin you should go, and why and where to wear.

How Thin Is Thin?

A sock doesn’t really have a finite point where it magically becomes ‘thin.’ What is thin to one person may feel completely different to another. It’s perhaps especially true if one is used to wearing athletic socks or tube socks and transitioning into over-the-calf dress socks. The amount you feel can be a new experience.

“Thin” and “fine” are somewhat synonymous and are loosely determined by the amount of needles a knitting machine uses to sew a sock together. A woolen sock made with thick yarn, or a plush cotton gym sock produced by a global sportswear company, may use fewer needles. Conversely, a European sock made for evening wear with slippers or opera pumps may use north of 240 needles to sew it together. This results in a very fine-but very thin-sock.

yarn for making thin dress socks

Socks of this thinness may look elegant and streamlined, but just aren’t practical for everyday wear. They are delicate and difficult to wash, and the lack of reinforcement at pressure points (like the toe and heel) can wear out easily. So, reserve them for special occasions. On the other side of the coin, a thicker sock with fewer needles won’t hold together as well. If you’ve bought a cheap tube sock in a megapack of 16, you’ll likely remember the uncomfortable feeling of it unraveling as you walk along.

Here at Boardroom, we use 168 needles on traditional yet modern machinery to knit our socks here in North Carolina. We’ve found it gives the thinness needed for a streamlined look, a flat toe seam (no irritation on the top of your shoes!), and the ability to wear them with a variety of shoes. The needle count helps us to build a thin sock, but a durable one with reinforced heel and toe to extend the lifespan.

checking thinness of dress socks in knitting mill

Why Should You Wear Thin Socks?

Thinner socks aren’t easier or more difficult to wear than other socks, but they do have their benefits.

First, as we’ve mentioned, they create a streamlined look. A pair of bulky socks (especially those multipack tube ones) tend to appear sloppy. They don’t stay up as well. And, that’s just not a great look. But, a thinner pair with a well-fitted suit, flannel trousers, chinos, or even some denim, makes for a finishing touch to an outfit where athletic socks would look out of place.

Second, thinner and finer knits breathe a little better, especially in warmer weather. A squishy athletic sock tends to retain moisture (and odor). That makes for an uncomfortable experience for both you and those around you. But, a finer dress-style sock is far better at regulating heat, keeping you cooler on those warmer days.

Third, thinner socks made from the right materials hold their shape. Proper over-the-calf socks stay up all day. They don’t stretch out in the wash the way those tube socks will. This ultimately, leads to a more comfortable wearing experience.

How to Wear Thin Socks

Dress Shoes

Shoes on refined lasts are going to be the natural dance partner for thinner socks. Not only do athletic socks and dress shoes look out-of-place together, but they feel like it too. Elegant shoes are meant to hug the foot. A pair of good ones will adapt and mold to the natural contours of your feet, and a chunky sock just gets in the way.

man wearing thin khaki dress socks and dark brown dress shoes while standing on hardwood floor

Wearing the right socks is key to getting the right shoe size. Many men wear shoes that are simply too big. Perhaps it’s a lingering effect of putting on their fathers’ shoes growing up. Perhaps they’ve never been properly fit. Or, maybe they’re just wearing the same socks they’ll wear with athletic shoes.


Thin no-show socks and slip-on shoes are a winning combination in the summer. It makes for a relaxed, casual look with hopsack or seersucker suits, lightweight chinos, or most any pair of shorts. Here at Boardroom, we’ve got pairs of no-show socks thinner than most anything else out there. With merino wool for breathability, nylon woven to hold elasticity and shape, and silicone heel tab, we spent a full year building a sock ergonomically designed to stay on.

thin no-show socks for men

Leather Sneakers

As the world continues to go casual, leather sneakers are making a regular appearance in everyday wear. But, these are a little more refined than the typical Stan Smith tennis shoe. Italian Nappa leather. High-quality, durable Margom rubber soles. And, a supremely comfortable leather lining.

However, many of these fit the way a dress shoe would: a slightly lower profile on a longer, more refined last. A typical tube or athletic sock would bunch up in the toe box and become irritating rather quickly. But, an ultrafine sock (like the 200+ needle one we discussed earlier) would just be too thin. We think one at our thickness is among the most versatile out there.

Wrap Up

Here, we’ve covered what makes a thin sock, and why and how you should wear them. Socks calling themselves ‘thin dress socks’ for men can range wildly, from super thin to actually quite bulky. We’ve found that one using 168 needles is about right. They’re thin enough for an elegant silhouette, but thick enough to be durable to last for years to come. Wear them dress shoes, casual loafers, or even sneakers. But, we’d like to hear from you. What kind of socks do you go for?

Yours in Style,

Tony Gorga
Boardroom Socks Editorial Staff

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

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.

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