In the world of menswear, there seem to be serious battle lines drawn on the subject of dress sock length. The two primary lengths of men’s hosiery are mid-calf and over the calf. Mid-calf dress socks usually reach approximately halfway up a man’s lower leg, landing somewhere at or slightly below the calf. As the name over the calf implies, these socks rest fully above the calf and just below the knee.
While each length has its merits, men typically stock their drawers with only one or the other. What we have found through discussions with customers is that gentlemen tend to have the strongest opinions, whether positive or negative, on over the calf dress socks.
In retrospect, I was one of these “knee-high naysayers” prior to joining our family business. In fact, for years I refused to wear them until my father insisted that I wear a pair of OTC’s (over the calf) to the office one day. After going through the day without having my socks slip, sag or fall down, I was duly converted.
I decided to write this article after hearing the reservations that many men, including myself, have about wearing knee high dress socks. We commonly hear that they are uncomfortable, a dated style only appropriate for older generations, or that they are too warm. As the saying goes, “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it...”
Here are three reasons why you should try over the calf dress socks:
Sagging socks are uncomfortable and look sloppy (as do unpolished shoes).
First and foremost, a quality pair of knee-high dress socks truly will stay up all day long. The keyword here is quality, as every pair of over the calf dress socks is not created equally. In addition to the actual length of the sock, the design of the sock and the yarns used in its construction are other key elements to creating a quality OTC sock that will stay up. If you are interested in reading more about how above the calf dress socks are designed and manufactured, I published another article on the subject here. In short, slipping and sagging socks that fall down are not comfortable. Constantly bending over to pull up and adjust your socks throughout the day can be quite annoying. Over the calf socks eliminate this nuisance.
Over the calf dress socks, also referred to as knee-high.
While opinions and “rules” in menswear fluctuate with trends over time, one longstanding rule is that when a man wears pants and socks, his hairy leg should never show. When you are seated or crossing your legs, your pant leg will naturally rise. If you are wearing short socks or if your socks have sagged, your bare skin will be exposed. During formal events such as business meetings, this is a faux pas and is distracting. While a quality pair of mid-calf dress socks will still do a fairly good job of staying up, an over the calf sock will always do a better job of staying up largely due to it’s length; by resting below the knee, the calf acts as an anchor to prevent the sock from falling down.
I mentioned that many of the preconceived notions that gentlemen have regarding above the calf socks involve comfort. We hear many folks say that above the calf socks feel restricting or are too warm; however, upon trying them, I think you’ll find them to be quite comfortable. Given their ability to stay up, you’ll likely put them on in the morning and then forgetting you even have them on. The tightness and warmth that can be experienced with socks is usually due to the yarns used in knitting the sock, not the sock’s length. For example, low quality synthetic fibers such as polyester do not breathe and can feel hot against the skin. Per my previous comment, much of the comfort has to do with a quality pair of over the calf socks.
At the end of the day, your personal preference will be the determining factor. If you haven’t worn over the calf dress socks before, give them a try. We offer free shipping and free returns in the US, so we’d be happy to help you with your first pair.
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