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15 Types of Socks and How to Wear Them

Socks are an essential part of every wardrobe. We wear them daily to keep our feet comfortable and give our outfits a finishing touch. There are so many types of socks to choose from depending on the occasion and what type of shoe you’re wearing.

No matter what the day ahead holds for you, socks can make or break your outfit. There’s nothing worse than having to tug on socks that keep falling down or walking around with frozen toes because you wore the wrong type of sock.

To help you figure out which socks are your best bet for comfort and style, we created our handy guide to 15 different sock styles for men and women’s socks, too. We’ll also discuss which shoes work best with each style of sock so that you’re always putting your best foot forward.

15 Essential Sock Styles

An infographic illustrating 15 types of socks separated into five categories, with each listing the best types of shoes for each style

It’s important to choose the right socks every day to keep yourself comfortable. If you pair your socks with the wrong shoes, you’re more likely to be uncomfortable or have your socks fall down throughout the day. Socks aren’t just an accessory, either! They protect your feet from injury so that you can keep sporting your favorite shoes.

We wear socks almost every day, so they need to look good and feel comfortable. If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of socks that are available to choose from, use this guide to figure out which socks are best for your needs.

1. Liner Socks

Illustrated legs wearing Tommy John’s Stay-Put Liner Socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed]

Liner socks are a type of sock that’s ideal for when you don’t want your socks to show and distract from your shoes. These socks are ultra-low – just covering your toes and heel – so they’re nearly invisible when you wear shoes. Because of this, they’re sometimes called invisible socks.

Our Stay-Put Liner Sock is made from our InvisiGrip® Technology so that you don’t have to worry about these socks bunching at your heel or falling down. Say goodbye to blisters! 

Wear them with: 

Slip-on sneakers, ballet flats

Level of coverage: 

Very low coverage

2. No-Show Socks

Illustrated legs wearing no-show socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

No-show socks are ideal for wearing loafers and dress shoes because they cover your whole foot without showing at the ankle. This means that your entire foot is protected but nobody will be able to tell that you’re wearing socks.

These socks offer all the protection without distracting from your shoe choice for formal events.

Wear them with: 

Loafers, dress shoes

Level of coverage:

Low coverage

3. Ankle Socks

Illustrated legs wearing ankle socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Ankle socks are the go-to socks for your favorite sneakers. You’re probably going to see the very top of these socks at your ankle, but it’s subtle. 

Ankle socks cover your entire foot but scoop down below your ankle bone. They’re ideal for shoes that cover your whole foot and when you don’t want to make a statement with your socks.

Wear them with: 

Casual sneakers

Level of coverage: 

Low coverage

4. Quarter Socks

Illustrated legs wearing quarter socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Quarter socks reach just above your ankle bone. These socks are good for transitional weather when you’re wearing ankle-length boots. They offer a bit more warmth and protection than ankle socks and usually aren’t visible above the boot line. Some quarter-length socks are called short crew socks.

Wear them with: 

Chelsea boots, ankle boots, hiking boots

Level of coverage: 

Medium coverage

5. Mid-Calf Socks

Illustrated legs wearing mid-calf socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Mid-calf socks are a couple of inches taller than quarter socks but still leave the top part of your calf exposed. They’re a good option for any boots that are between ankle and knee length. Depending on your shoe, these can peek over the edge of your boot, so you can use them to accessorize your look.

Many people call these socks mids or crew socks.

Wear them with: 

Chelsea boots, ankle boots, hiking boots, rain boots, snow boots

Level of coverage: 

Medium Coverage

6. Over the Calf Socks

Illustrated legs wearing over the calf socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Over the calf socks come up around the biggest part of your calf muscle. These socks are ideal for colder weather and work well with many types of boots. 

These socks are a good choice if you want a visible sock with your shorter boots or a no-show look with your taller boots. To style them with a shorter boot, some people will wear them normally or scrunch them down just above the top of their boots.

Wear them with: 

Snow boots, ankle boots, knee boots

Level of coverage: 

High coverage

7. Knee High Socks

Illustrated legs wearing knee high socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Knee socks cover your entire calf and come up to just below your knee. These socks are ideal for your favorite winter boots because they have full coverage of your lower legs. 

These socks are also a favorite for lounging around your home while keeping your feet warm. Our Second Skin Knee High Sock offers light compression and a Comfort Cuff that won’t leave those annoying marks at the top of your calves.

Wear them with: 

Snow boots, rain boots, knee boots, riding boots

Level of coverage: 

High coverage

8. Over the Knee Socks

Illustrated legs wearing over the knee socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Over the knee socks cover everything up to the top of your knee. These socks are often worn as accessories, but the length is also great for keeping you warm. They’re often paired with a skirt and boots in cooler weather.

Wear them with: 

Snow boots, rain boots, knee boots, riding boots

Level of coverage: 

High coverage

9. Thigh High Socks

Illustrated legs wearing thigh high socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Thigh high socks come up to your mid-thigh for the highest coverage. These socks can be ultra warm or made from stocking-like material depending on your needs. They work best for layering under your tallest boots.

Thinner thigh high socks or stockings are sometimes called hold-ups or stay-ups. 

Wear them with: 

Thigh high boots, riding boots

Level of coverage: 

High coverage

10. Casual Socks

Illustrated legs wearing casual socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Casual socks are good for everyday wear or loungewear. They usually have more of a knit texture to keep your feet comfortable in your day-to-day life. Our Second Skin Casual Socks have extra arch support to keep you on the move, no matter what your plans are. 

Wear them with: 

Slippers, ankle boots

Level of coverage: 

Medium coverage

11. Dress Socks

Illustrated legs wearing dress socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Dress socks are your go-to sock for any formal occasion. While their length is similar to casual socks, they have a smooth texture because the knit is closer. Dress socks come in solid colors or different patterns, depending on the occasion. Some dress socks are called work socks because they’re appropriate for office dress codes.

Our Stay-Up Dress Socks come in many colors and patterns. They stay up no matter what with our InvisiGrip® Technology. They’re also designed with zoned support, so you can wear them all day with comfort.

Wear them with: 

Dress shoes

Level of coverage: 

Medium coverage

12. Athletic Socks

Illustrated legs wearing athletic socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Athletic socks offer more cushioning than other socks to protect you from blisters while exercising. No matter how your feet move, these socks will keep you comfortable. They also usually offer some compression for extra support through all your activities.

Sometimes, these socks are labeled as sports socks or varsity socks because they’re ideal for working out and playing sports.

Wear them with: 

Athletic sneakers, basketball shoes, cleats

Level of coverage: 

Medium to high coverage

13. Compression Socks

Illustrated legs wearing compression socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Compression socks support your legs and feet to promote healthy blood flow. These are often recommended for people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, but anyone can wear compression socks. Because of their health benefits, compression socks are sometimes called diabetic socks.

On long flights or trips, compression socks keep your blood flowing to your feet even if you’re sitting for a long time. This prevents swelling and keeps you comfortable.

Wear them with: 

Any shoe

Level of coverage: 

Medium to high coverage

14. Split-Toe Socks

Illustrated legs wearing split-toe socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Think of split-toe socks as gloves for your feet. They have 10 smaller sections for your toes to keep them warm and supported. Some split-toe socks only have two sections, one for your big toe and one for your other toes. Split-toe socks that have 10 sections are sometimes called toe socks or glove socks.

Split-toe socks with two sections are called tabi socks and are popular throughout Asia. These socks are thought to promote flexibility and are sometimes called thumb socks.

Wear them with: 

Sandals, flip flops

Level of coverage: 

Low to high coverage

15. Boot Socks

Illustrated legs wearing boot socks with level of coverage and complementary shoe styles listed

Boot socks are inserts for your rain boots that keep your feet warm and comfortable. Rubber rain boots are the ultimate waterproof choice but they can get really cold when temperatures drop. With boot socks, you don’t need to sacrifice warmth to reap the waterproofing benefits of your favorite rain boots. 

They’re also good additions to other boots that are stylish but not very warm for your feet. Boot socks are sometimes called sock boots, bootees or booties.

Wear them with: 

Rain boots, knee boots, riding boots

Level of coverage: 

Medium to high coverage

How to Wear Socks and FAQs

 

An illustrated chart describing the occasions when each Tommy John sock style should be worn

When deciding which type of socks to wear, it’s most important to consider the occasion, the sock’s visibility and your comfort. For example, ankle boots are appropriate for casual and formal occasions. While a quirky-printed sock may pair well with a casual look, you may want to choose a monochromatic option for a fancy dinner.

Choosing your socks’ ideal visibility level not only requires that you consider their coverage, but also their print or color if your socks will be visible. And of course the whole point of socks is to keep your feet comfortable, so be sure not to neglect your comfort when making your decision.

What Are the Most Popular Types of Socks?

It’s no surprise that casual socks are the most popular sock. Most days, we dress more casually and these socks are ideal for hanging out at home or wearing out and about.

In warmer weather, lower-cut socks are perfect for casual days. But as temperatures drop and the boots come out, you can get away with quirkier casual sock choices. So, mid-calf casual socks are a popular choice for their versatility.

What Type of Socks Are in Style for 2022?

Mid-calf socks are always in style and come in many different colors and prints. Fun patterns on socks are a fun way to express yourself and boost your mood.

Prints for socks can range from quirky patterns, like a cactus print, to classic patterns like argyle. There’s a print for any occasion, so explore until you find one that sticks out to you!

What Makes a Good Pair of Socks?

A good pair of socks is comfortable, durable and fashionable. You want breathable material that keeps your feet warm without making them sweaty in the warmer months.

When it comes to quality, you also don’t want a pair of socks that easily tears or thins out after a couple of wears. The best socks are machine washable and safe to toss in the dryer to help simplify your laundry routine.

Finally, you want to look good! You’ll always need the basics but it’s nice to have a pattern or two for when you want a fun look.

How Do You Fold Socks?

There are a couple of different ways to fold your socks to keep them organized in your drawers. Here are a few:

  1. Cuff Fold: This is the easiest fold to do but it can look a little messy. To cuff your socks, just lay them on top of one another. Then, fold the cuff of one sock down and around the other so that they stay together. You can keep it this way or fold the toe part of your socks up to save a bit more space.
  2. Simple Sock Fold: This sock fold packages up your socks without using the cuffs. Since it’s such an easy method, this is a great fold to teach children. For this fold, just lay your socks flat on top of each other. Next, fold the toes up one-third of the way towards your cuffs. Lastly, fold your cuffs down all the way to the crease that you made with the first sock. Now your socks are neatly folded and ready to store in your drawer.
  3. Military Sock Fold: The military sock fold saves you the most space in your drawer. For this fold, lay your socks on top of each other and roll your socks up tightly, starting at the toe. When you get to the end, pull the cuff of the outer sock so that your socks are tightly packaged up. This is an ideal fold for travel laundry because it saves a lot of space.

What is the Difference Between Mid-Calf and Crew Socks?

Crew socks are slightly shorter than mid-calf socks and are usually a more casual cut compared to mid-calf socks. But now, there are many dress socks that are cut to crew length.

For some manufacturers, mid-calf socks and crew socks are used interchangeably. You probably wouldn’t notice the difference between the two in normal wear.

With the help of this guide to sock types, we hope that you’re never second-guessing your sock choices again. Whether you’re looking to gift some socks or shopping for yourself, you can feel confident that you’re making the best choices to complement any look.