Friday, January 6, 2012
Many men buy nothing but cotton socks, which is perfectly reasonable for those who wear nothing but cotton trousers. After all, merino wool costs a few dollars more per pair than high quality cotton and wool's texture never seems quite right to me under khakis or even Sea Island cotton trousers.
That said, the suit-wearing man should usually be donning wool socks year-round. Wool socks do a better job of keeping feet warm in cold weather, and cool in hot weather. This is because wool socks are much superior at wicking water, keeping feet dry and regulating their temperature. All else being equal when it is warm cotton-encased feet will get hotter and sweatier, and when it is cold, they will get colder.
I emphasized weight in the previous paragraph because much of the common perception regarding wool vs. cotton has less to do with the properties of each and more to do with the tendency for wool socks to be woven heavier than cotton. But weight really has little to do with one vs. the other. Hosiery makers like Bresciani offer lighter weight wool for office wear as well as heavier socks for outside activities. They also offer lightweight cotton socks for hot weather, and heavier versions for cooler temperatures.
Another widely accepted but incorrect knock on wool is that it itches and cotton does not. Far be it from me to deny that there may be a pair or two of Cheviot wool socks on a store shelf somewhere and those will undoubtedly be scratchy. But the best wool socks these days are made from merino, and feel almost like cashmere. Advantage wool.
Technical points aside, notice how the socks in the photograph have the same slight nubbiness as the trouser fabric. Wool socks simply look better with wool trousers.