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Best socks for men 2023: From plain black basics to eye-catching knits

We've picked the coolest and comfiest socks for men, with everything from plain cotton to luxury cashmere, and prices starting from just £5

It’s true what they say about happy socks making happy feet. Choose wisely and your extremities won’t just look good, they’ll feel good and smell good too. And while they may be a small item of clothing, the sartorial power of the best socks is wildly disproportionate to their size. A well-chosen pair can make an outfit (especially if used as a point of interest) or break it (think thick black sports sock teamed with an elegant tux).

This is why it pays to be thoughtful about your purchases and to forget about socks as being purely functional items of clothing. People notice socks in the same way they do a man’s shoes or fingernails and they speak volumes about his personality.

For this round-up we’ve focussed on the standard sock rather than sports ones or ones for hiking boots or trainers. Not only are they the most popular, they’re also the most versatile. So, whether you’re after a hard-wearing basic, something to make you stand out from the crowd or just something cosy to slip into before a Netflix binge, we’re sure our carefully curated selection will, you know, blow your socks off.

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Best socks for men: At a glance

How to choose the best pair of socks for you

What’s the best fabric for socks?

Socks can be made of wool, cotton, cashmere, silk or assorted blends of these fabrics. Each has its pros and cons and which fabric you prefer will depend on everything from comfort, allergies, budget and how good (or bad) you are at understanding the temperature gauge on a washing machine.

Cotton is probably the most popular material because it’s cool, robust and easy to care for. Silk is elegant and dressy and great for business, special occasions or evening dos; cashmere is soft, toasty and luxurious, and wool is great for keeping feet warm. Bamboo fibre – a relatively new kid on the sock block – is great because it keeps feet even cooler than cotton and wicks moisture away from the feet.

Ribbed or unribbed?

Socks are designed to stay up (obviously) but ribbed ones provide a greater degree of elasticity so tend to be a little better at staying put. They’re also considered a little less formal than unribbed ones.

What about nylon?

Socks with large percentages of nylon are not cool – both literally (they’ll make your feet sweat) and sartorially. A bit of manmade fibre added to a natural one, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it can add strength and stretch to a sock. According to Oscar Lenius, author of A Well-Dressed Gentleman’s Guide, the addition of 20% polyamide, for example, can increase a sock’s life fourfold.

Any rules about colours?

According to Debrett’s Guide For The Modern Gentleman, the colour of your socks should match the colour of your suit or trousers but if you’re wearing something multicoloured they suggest choosing a sock matching the most dominant colour. They also advise against matching socks to ties, which they dismiss as a bit ‘affected’.

We say rules are there to be broken and, with many men using socks as the preferred way to express a little individuality in an outfit, anything goes – although, in fairness, a sports sock with a tux is never going to be a great look.

How do I look after my socks?

Always read the washing instructions when you buy them. You might be tempted to fling your socks in with a general wash but silk, cashmere and wool require special washing on low temperatures (wash by hand if you’re the kind of guy who has a history of laundry disasters). Tumble drying is also a no-no for wool or cashmere.

Cotton or mixed fibres ones are usually fine with a 40-degree wash but for wool or silk, a hand wash or at least a cool 30-degree wash is essential.

For best results, turn socks inside out before washing (this ensures you get rid of any dead skin cells from the inside and also prevents lint spoiling the visible side) and dry on a line if possible. To maximise a pair of socks’ life – especially if they contain elastane –  fold them together rather than screw them into a ball.

Investing in a sock organiser will make storage easy and will make choosing socks to match an outfit a cinch too. There are plenty on Amazon, including this foldable one from Yorgewd.

How we test men’s socks

Of all the garments a man can own, socks are probably the ones that see the most active duty. Rubbing against shoes and trainers with every step, prodded by toenails and thrown into washing machines and tumble dryers without a thought – socks have a hard life.

To ensure the socks we review are up to the challenge of everyday life, we test them over a period of three to four weeks, subjecting each one to a variety of activities ranging from walking and running to relaxing around the house. We wash them as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

During testing we look for comfort, fit, softness and robustness, how well they wash and value for money. Needless to say, how good they look poking out of a trouser leg is top of mind too.

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The best socks for men to buy in 2023

1. Marks & Spencer 7pk Cool & Fresh Socks: Best value for money multipack

Price: £12 | Buy now from Marks & Spencer

Good old M&S has always been a go-to place for Brits refreshing their sock and pants drawers, and whilst they may not have the kind of longevity they once had, the venerable high street institution’s basics are still pretty unbeatable when it comes to value for money.

This seven-pack (yes, SEVEN!) is their best seller, sock-wise, and it’s easy to see why. Apart from the cost-of-living-crisis-defying price, these (responsibly sourced) cotton-rich socks (81% cotton, 18% polyamide and 1% elastane for a bit of stretch) have been designed to keep cool and fresh as the name suggests, wicking moisture away to keep sweat and unwanted odours at bay. They boast a reinforced heel and toe for extra durability too.

Versatile (you can wear them with almost anything) and a great weight (they’re neither too thin or too thick) they feel better quality than the price suggests and maintained their shape and colour well after we washed them. Unbeatable basics.

Buy now from Marks & Spencer

2. Happy Socks MultiStripe Sock: Best for cool patterns

Price: £12 | Buy now from Happysocks

Happy Socks have a reputation as being a bit gimmicky and frivolous but look beyond the socks emblazoned with pizza slices, aliens and Disney characters and you’ll find some cool designs to rival (much pricier) socks by the likes of Paul Smith.

There are some uber-cool spotted socks for example, superb statement stripes and some amazing Argyll colourways that’ll instantly jazz up jeans or boring business suits. We love the sheer range of styles available – Happy Socks is like a sweet shop for sock lovers – and the quality is decent too.

These stripy ones are made from combed cotton which makes them particularly soft to the touch, while reinforced heels and toes and the addition of polyamide and elastane give them strength and stretch. We loved them and they’re great for gifting too.

Buy now from Happysocks

3. Pantherella Cashmere Waddington: Best luxury socks

Price: £44 | Buy now from Pantherella

British company Pantherella have been making men’s socks since 1937 so it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing when it comes to foot attire. A word of warning though: you don’t go to Pantherella for cheap and cheerful. A luxury sock company, they specialise in high-quality socks you’ll want to look after in the same way you would a designer T-shirt or sweater.

Their best seller – the Cashmere Waddington – is the last word in spenny socks, so soft you’ll barely know you have them on. Made of 85% cashmere, with 15% polyamide to add durability, these ribbed wonders are available in a host of colours and also feature Pantherella’s signature virtually undetectable toe seam, which adds extra comfort.

The only drawback is that they’re best hand-washed if you want them to last and the anklet (the bit that goes up your leg) is pretty long so might feel strange if you’re used to shorter socks.

Given that cashmere is three times warmer than lamb’s wool, they’re especially good in colder weather but are perfect for cosy nights in front of the telly too. We honestly didn’t want to take ours off.

Buy now from Pantherella

4. Stand 4 Socks The Statement Bamboo Sock: Best feel-good socks

Price: £12 | Buy now from Stand4socks

It’s not often you can buy a pair of socks, help the environment and do a good deed at the same time but buy a pair of these socks from Stand 4 Socks and you do all three.

These stripy numbers are made of bamboo which is naturally antibacterial, wicks moisture away from the feet and is widely regarded as being better for the environment than cotton. The big draw here, though, is that whenever you buy a pair of socks from Stand 4 Socks a thick pair of antibacterial socks are donated to a homeless person on your behalf.

The company offer a huge range of styles (from super stylish colourways to novelty socks featuring animals, celebrities, cities and LGBT Pride rainbows) but we loved these block stripe ones which have something of the David Hockney’s about them.  Good quality, good styles and a good cause to boot. Feel-good socks – in more ways than one.

Buy now from Stand4socks

5. Uniqlo Pile Lined Socks: Best everyday socks

Price: £5 | Buy now from Uniqlo

Masters of understated, affordable and durable clothing, Japanese high street giant Uniqlo offer a huge range of sock styles – from gym socks and trainer socks to socks for the suited and booted. What’s more, mix and match deals mean you can cover all bases with the minimum of fuss and outlay.

We especially like these versatile Pile Lined Socks which straddle smart and sporty with their ribbing and three-stripe top detail. They’re nice and stretchy, have a cushioned sole so are comfy as anything and are casual enough to be worn with shorts and trainers as well as under jeans. Like all Uniqlo stuff they’re available in an array of colours and the price is amazing.

Buy now from Uniqlo

6. Barbour Houghton Socks: Best for boots

Price: £15 | Buy now from Barbour

If you’re wearing boots you need socks that are soft, breathable and robust and these knitted wool-blend ones from outdoor clothing experts Barbour are perfect.

Thicker than regular socks but not as thick and bulky as those required for hiking, they’re ideal for day-to-day use and the addition of silk into the wool blend helps with heat exchange, keeping your feet from over-heating and your boots from becoming too sweaty.

They’re lovely and soft, acting like a comfort blanket for your feet and the contrasting heel and toe ensure they look good too. A word of warning though: since they’re wool, with a little added silk, you don’t want to be throwing these into a hot wash or tumble dryer, otherwise you’ll end up with something only a five-year-old could squeeze into. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Buy now from Barbour

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