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Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from anotherErnest Hemingway


British manufacturing may be in the doldrums, but UK based sock makers are booming.  To what do we owe the rise of the sock?  And do socks really deserve a gentleman’s close attention?

In a hyper-competitive world, where first impressions count, it’s important to get the details right.  For men who are aware of the importance of image humble hosiery is one detail that makes a real difference.  A quality pair of socks, carefully matched with the rest of your outfit, creates a stylish impression.

Changing Fashions Bring Socks to the Fore

The recent rise of the sock is the result of social and fashion trends.  The transition towards informal dressing at work means men wear ties less often.  This makes socks a great way to add colour to an outfit, and express individual style.  The recent menswear trend for higher cuffs on trousers, puts more ankle on show, which again makes your choice of socks essential.  

Brogues by Grenson, red cashmere socks Pantherella.

This all adds up to a success story for socks and their makers.  British and European socks producers Corgi, Wolsey, Pantherella and Bresciani are all reporting increased sales, and are ramping up production in their home countries.  Good news for jobs, our balance of trade and the economy in general.

How to Spot Quality in a Sock

As we enter an era where stepping out in style means first putting on a pair of quality socks, how can you be sure to buy the best? Here are the essential elements of an excellent sock that a gentleman should be aware of.

Start by understanding the brand.  What are their values? Do they make socks in a fair way that is safe for workers?  A gentleman takes responsibility for the consequences of his actions, including his buying choices.  Choose a sock made by brands such as Wolsey, Corgi, Pantherella and Bresciani and you can be sure that workers are getting a good deal as they make their socks in the UK and Europe.


Cotton socks by UK based sock maker Wolsey

You next need to consider the build – in particular the quality of the textiles.  Your feet sweat a pint each day.  More when it’s warm.  On their own man made fibres do a poor job of wicking wet away.  Which means cold feet in winter, and soggy, smelly feet in summer. Natural fibres do a much better job. Which is why you need at least 70% cotton, bamboo (yes bamboo) or wool in your socks.  A bit of nylon’s good as it helps with fit and durability.

How a sock looks and feels will give you important clues to it’s quality.  Is the colour and pattern consistent?  Does the material feel soft to touch and comfortable to wear?  Good quality cottons socks are often made from cotton lisle which has a smoother texture compared to normal cotton. This gives socks a soft sheen that is great to look at, and silky to slip into.

The final thing to look for is the finish.  Are the seams tidy and tough?  Has the sock been hand linked?  Mass produced socks are machine linked, which is easy to spot as you will find a big ridge around the toes.  Quality socks are hand linked, a complex manual process.  The result is a smooth seam, which means the socks won’t rub your toes, and will last longer.

Casa Italia cotton lisle socks with handlinked toe

To make things easier for customers specialists like Richmond Socks only sell socks that are hand linked.

Follow these basic guidelines and even the most fastidious observer will praise you for your choice of socks.

Simon Bullmore, Head of Socks, Richmond Socks
Twitter: @richmondsocks
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