Contrary to popular belief, Ben... I, Sid Mashburn & the fellas that work at Sid Mashburn actually DO like socks. And we wear them often. We use them to complement an outfit or for the more practical reason, to stay warm and protect our feet. But since we often do go without, we've narrowed down what we like in socks to a pretty extreme degree. We're not talking about athletic socks or boot socks. Those are great – we particularly love the ones from American Trench and CHUP – but that's for another column. Today we're gonna stay in this sort of jeans-northward range... dressy-casual to dressy.
I know there are guys who like trouser-length (mid-calf) socks and we carry them in our shops... but I pretty much only wear over-the-calf socks. I just like them because they tend to stay up, they give me full coverage, and I don't have to think about them. The full coverage thing is especially important when you're sitting down. Clearly we have no compunction about showing some ankle – as I said, we go sockless all the time – but when it's just a sliver of leg showing between your sock and your trousers, it can look a little awkward. So the OTC sock is sort of a "prevent defense". Anyway, I like an over-the-calf sock, and usually like it ribbed. I don't mind a flat sock, but for me, it's better with some texture.
When it comes to the content, we like wool with a little bit of nylon in it. The nylon gives them some structure and durability, helps them stay up, and means you can throw them in the dryer... it makes them a little easier to manage. Personally, I don't mind cashmere in the mix, or silk, but I want wool to be the prevalent fiber in my socks. Partially because they breathe and perform better that way. I do wear cotton socks, too, but they tend to lose their luster and color quicker, don't stay up well, and they're not as durable. For my money (and my mind,) it's wool OTC nearly all the time.
Now for colors... by and large, we're not big on super-fancy socks, or character socks, or socks being the lead singer. Sometimes we like them to just blend in, sometimes we like them to be a discreet accent to what we're wearing... small patterns, dots, feed stripes, small foulards, small decos. Granted, we have good friends who take a very different approach and love lead-singer socks! To quote Charles Wright, "express yourself!" But, yeah, around here, we keep the socks fairly quiet.
So, unsurprisingly, my sock drawer is about 60% navy – I like all shades from mid-blue to midnight and blu scuro. Then 20% of my socks are charcoal, which is like the Switzerland of socks. Completely neutral. It can cross over, it can go to navy, black, brown, olive, anything. So navy and charcoal alone can work for pretty much every occasion, anywhere. The rest of my sock drawer is a mix of various colors found in nature... browns, greens, even some burgundy. And I prefer some melange in those – which is when a couple of colors are knitted in – because the small flecks of different shades make them more versatile and easier to wear with other colors.
And to answer the question you didn't ask – but a lot of people do – I am sockless a lot. (God's socks!) Personally, I have never found a need for those small no-show socks. Just going without works for me. And fear not! It doesn't make them smell bad. It's amazing what high-quality leather, cedar shoe trees, and maybe a little Clubman talc can do.
Grey and navy dress socks aren't the most exciting things to buy, but it's kind of like stocking your pantry with pasta. The simplicity is what makes them essential, and perfect... you'll be happy they are there for you and happy you don't have to think about them. So, Ben, when you're grabbing your socks in the morning – navy OTC or otherwise – do it with confidence and sing along with Mitch Ryder. "Sock it to me."