Don’t Sleep On Socks! Pro Tips On Finding — And Styling — The Perfect Pairs

The ultimate winter accessory.

Originally Published: 
How to wear socks
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To some, socks might be an afterthought in the process of getting dressed. Perhaps you, too, look at your top drawer with disdain to find a pile of unorganized, mismatched sets in front of you (just how do they always go missing in the laundry?). But actually, this oft-underrated accessory has the potential to be one of the most important parts of your entire outfit. The key to making a pair do the heavy lifting for you? Knowing just where to buy the best socks and, of course, an arsenal of styling tricks for wearing them.

Rochelle Sara Gan and Nandita Sekhar, co-CEOs and founders of Stems, tell TZR together in an email, “So much attention goes into the larger real estate of an outfit — the skirt, the blouse, the dress — but consider treating socks like your jewelry. They should receive just as much attention to fully complete your look.” This sentiment rings true across the board. And although it is important to have good basics on hand, statement styles are not out of the conversation.

Just look to the Spring/Summer 2024 runways, which were chock full of major sock styling moments. Maison Margiela, for starters, showed white bow-adorned designs with high-shine black loafers. Marni took a sportier route, mixing brightly colored striped knee-highs with feminine shapes and silhouettes. And Victoria Beckham presented a variety of lengths in gray and black across her ballet-inspired collection, proving socks are having a star turn as styling must-haves.

Courtesy Of Maison Margiela
Courtesy Of Marni
Peter White/Getty Images Entertainment

Of course, having just the right socks for your outfitting needs makes all the difference. A few things to look for? “The colors, yarns and knits are all considered to elevate the wearer from a basic sock to a soft, beloved wardrobe classic,” Gan and Sekhar share. “[Stems] is designed with the idea that your socks should be seasonless, and take you from year to year.”

Quality, too, is of the utmost importance, as are the production processes and yarn. “When you have a good pair of shoes, you want a nice pair of socks, as well,” Shirley Braine, a store manager for heritage-brand Schostal, says. “You want to look for good materials, not nylon and polyester, which make you sweat.” Choosing cotton, wool, and blends with natural fabrics will give you higher quality made to last, which is just as important as style variety throughout your own wardrobe. “We also always consider the environmental impact of the yarns we use, and are very proud of our eco-conscious cashmere,” Gan and Sekhar add. Sustainability is also a way brands are setting themselves apart from each other, and should be considered in the research process.

And, yes, finding the best options may take a bit of research and a bit of trial and error, too. “I find so much inspiration from other people wearing socks!” Elizabeth Cardinal Tamkin, stylist, writer, and content manager, tells TZR. “Chunky socks, ribbed, lace. I have so many photos saved on my Instagram because of the way people style socks.”

There is an art to making socks truly work as a focal point. “Not to make this scientific (because it's very much not), but there are some socks that just don't feel right with specific outfits,” Cardinal Tamkin says. “Sometimes I'll try on 10 pairs before I find one that clicks. It's usually the slight variations of chunkiness or even the shade of white that is the make-or-break factor.” Options and choice are important, and don’t be afraid to play with various textures and elements, like color and pattern, and lengths to find the right style for your shape.

“I usually go for light-colored socks and light-colored shoes because I think that's the most flattering combination for the leg,” continues Cardinal Tamkin. “All of my favorite socks are able to easily scrunch down: I'm not a fan of a yanked stretched-up sock. I like it to look cool and easy.” And, when in doubt, remember this nugget of wisdom from Gan and Sekhar: “When socks are so beautiful, why hide them under boots or sneakers — show them off!”

Keep scrolling ahead for seven can’t-miss, niche brands (and TZR’s top picks from each) to restock your sock drawer with now.

Maria La Rosa

Why You’ll Love Them:

The Milan-based atelier (and fashion insider favorite) has become known for its unique socks, delighting consumers with fun prints, quirky color mashups, and superior quality for over 30 years. Originally founded and inspired by her Sicilian roots, Maria La Rosa is now joined by her two daughters Alice and Lisa, who are contributing to the evolution of the label. Still, as the company moves into the future, its handmade socks — made by way of raw materials and centuries-old weaving techniques — have become the bread and butter of the business.

TZR’s Pick:

Try the Gipsy, a color-blocked cutie that hits mid-calf, and comes in four color combos. Made from a silk blend, the slightly sheer nature and graphic pattern add depth and individuality to the simple shape. The design is easy enough to appeal to all personalities, but special enough to stand out in the crowd.

Comme Si

Why You’ll Love Them:

Comme Si was founded by Jenni Lee in 2019, with the intention to produce luxurious, well-made socks within the core ethos of sustainability. The result? A sought-after line that combines chic, simple designs with eco-friendly production, proving you can have the best of both worlds. Made in Italy, the brand’s factory is OEKO-TEX® and REACH certified, ensuring fair pay and working conditions. By using high-quality threads, such as Egyptian cotton, cashmere, merino wool, organic cotton, and silk, the luxurious nature of the wares can be seen and felt.

TZR’s Pick:

This classic knee-high sock will be your everyday go-to due to its extra-fine, lightweight merino wool composition (great for breathability), with just a touch of stretch, to fit the calf perfectly and stay up for hours on end. The chic, finely ribbed texture proves the devil is in the details. This knee-high is available in six colors, ranging from neutrals to bold hues. You will want to grab a few to have in rotation all season.


Why You’ll Love Them:

Launched in August 2020 by fashion industry veterans Rochelle Sara Gan and Nandita Sekhar, this New York-based label was developed with the belief that the joy of dressing begins feet first. What sets it apart? The use of lightweight performance knits that promote airflow, engineered to stay fresh all day. “Most sock brands cater to men, and offer a smaller-size sock for women, but women sweat differently and need lighter, more breathable knitting,” Gan and Sekhar detail to TZR. Your feet will be kept dry and comfortable, due to their high-performance mesh that has antibacterial properties.

TZR’s Pick:

Take it from the founders themselves, and test out the Silky Rib Luxury Crew style first, which has become a customer favorite. “Our silky blend crews were our first piece we designed and have become a Stems classic,” Gan and Sekhar say. “The silky blends come in rich saturated hues and are machine-washable and produced with upcycled yarns.”


Why You’ll Love Them:

Socksss is a unisex, Stockholm-based brand, founded by Sean Fry and Oscar Lund-Hansen. Rooted in a rich background of design and art, the brand focuses its efforts on sustainability through well-made crew socks (available in a bevy of patterns, from dip-dyed to rugby stripes and even camouflage) that’ll last for ages

TZR’s Pick:

Socksss’ signature crew silhouette is made from organic cotton that is OEKO-TEX® approved, and made for a lighter, yet still comfortable fit. Since street-style approved tie-dye is always en mode, TZR recommends trying it for a little boost of color — a truly groovy look!


Why You’ll Love Them:

Tabio, a beloved Japanese sock brand, launched in the USA in recent years, with great success due to its craftsmanship, comfort, and reasonable price point. Founded by Naomasa Ochi, the company is now also run by his son, Katsuhiro Ochi, who continues to build upon the legacy created by his father. You’ll find any style imaginable, from minimal and clean designs to fun colors and patterns and no-show sporty, sneaker-appropriate options.

TZR’s Pick:

Tabio is known for its unique prints. Break out of the norm and try a quirky pattern, like this sheer, daisy motif, to add a new dimension to your sock drawer. The plain background, in your choice of black or white, provides a minimal, tonal base that will make styling it a breeze.

Darner Socks

Why You’ll Love Them:

Darner Socks is an American-made brand founded by Roxanna Sternerud. The label’s name was inspired by the nickname given to women during the Civil War, who repaired (or darned) soldiers’ socks. Its become known for its unique cut-and-sew designs that create long, lean lines to extend the look of the customer’s legs (because who doesn’t want a little length in the leg department?). Everything is made in small batches in LA for a more mindful approach to design and craft, making these a special addition to your wardrobe that everyone you know won’t have.

TZR’s Pick:

The most popular and classic style for Darner Socks is their simple mesh. Offered in a wide range of colors and prints, we recommend trying out their best-selling black to start. It is the perfect addition to any wardrobe; chic, understated, and a great intro to the brand, due to its subtle nature and ease.

Darner Socks
Solid Black Mesh Socks
Rework your preppy basics by adding a little something extra, like these clean mesh socks, to the fray. An intarsia knit or sweater vest, plaid skirt, and Oxford lace-up shoes (like Dr. Martens), provide a transitional look that will take you from season to season without feeling too buttoned up. “For colder weather fun: wear socks with sandals!” Cardinal Tamkin adds. “Just make sure the proportions are good: a chunky platform sandal with a sheer ankle sock, or a fisherman sandal with a solid ankle sock.”


Why You’ll Love Them:

Schostal is one of those legendary brands that engenders its customers to be fans for the rest of their lives. The family-owned, heritage label has been operating since 1870, and is known for its high-quality pajama sets, shirting, and of course, calzini (socks in Italian). “Our socks are all made in Rome for the past 75 years,” Braine, the store manager for the brand, tells TZR. “We have pure wool, Filo Scozia (cotton), and a mix [of the two].” The simple, ribbed knit socks are offered in long and short lengths, in nearly every color imaginable. And with celebrity customers such as Anne Hathaway and Charlotte Gainsbourg, this line is not one to sleep on.

TZR’s Pick:

A classic, pure cotton sock provides the best option for everyday wear, keeping you fresh, dry, and comfortable all day long. This style can be styled up or down, worn front and center as an outfit highlight, or discreetly under your look, depending on your style preference. With impeccable yarn quality, these will be ones you’ll want to stock up on in every color ASAP.

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