I’m somewhat of a sock evangelist. To me, some of the worst sartorial transgressions have nothing to do with flip-flops and hooded zip-ups. If someone doesn’t care much about their appearance, I say let them be. The worst transgressions are when someone puts in the effort, but then skimps on things they think the rest of the world won’t notice – like socks.
It is noticeable, however. Cheap hosieries will frizz, have an ugly, matte cotton appearance, and look much like colored gym socks. They also tend to be short and have weak elastic banding, so they slouch and sit near your ankles, thus leaving your pale, bare calf exposed when you sit down. Moreover, because they’re made of cheap materials and have poor construction, they’re quicker to develop holes at the toe seam. Given these problems, I’ve never understood why men are more willing to spend another $100 on a shirt or tie they don’t need when the same amount could go into rehauling their sock wardrobe.
So when the nice folks at Belt Outlet offered to send me some Gold Toe socks to review, I happily obliged. They sent six pairs: over-the-calfs in wool and mercerized cotton, as well as mid-calfs in tweed, pima cotton, and two kinds (1, 2) of wools. I’ve been wearing them for a month now and by far the best performers have been the over-the-calfs in wool or mercerized cotton.
First Dimension to Quality: Do Your Socks Stay Up?
There are two primary dimensions to the quality of socks. The first is whether they stay nicely stretched over your leg the entire day. In this regard, Gold Toe’s over-the-calfs are best. Since they don’t sit below the calf muscle like mid-calf socks, they won’t be pushed down by your calves as you walk. The only downside to over-the-calfs is that they’re more likely to stick to the back of your trousers if you’re wearing lightweight wools with a bit of nap, like flannel. This shouldn’t be a problem with most of your trousers, however.
Gold Toe mid-calfs were OK. They perform better than many other mid-calf socks in their price range. Throughout a day, I would only have to adjust my socks maybe two or three times. If left alone, they wouldn’t slouch so low as to expose my calf, but they would fall down enough that some of the excess material would bunch a little at the bottom.
Second Dimension to Quality: Material Composition
The other important dimension is the material composition in a pair of socks. Wool here is the best since it helps keep your feet warm during the winter and wick sweat in the summer. It also has more “spring back” than cotton, so the material won’t flatten out at the end of the day and look shiny. If you do buy cotton socks, I strongly recommend the mercerized versions. Mercerization is a chemical process that increases the cotton’s luster, strength, affinity to dye, and resistance to mildew. Contrast this with the pimas, which are more likely to flatten out, get wet, stay wet, feel slimy, and then bunch up in the process.
The problem with Gold Toe’s wools, however, is that they’re mixed with more nylon than higher-end socks. My Marcoliani socks, for example, are either 100% wool or an 80/20 mix of wool and nylon. These Gold Toes are around 60/40. When nylon is added to a pair of wool socks, it improves how well the socks stretch, which adds to durability, but when too much is added, the material is more prone to break. After two washes, for example, I can already see some breakage at the cuff.
Despite the breakage, the big advantage here is the quality to price ratio. Gold Toes will cost you about $4-7 a pair, whereas Marcolianis will cost about $20-25. Many men just aren’t able to spend that much for socks. For them, I think Gold Toes are an excellent buy. I recommend the over-the-calfs in wool or mercerized cotton in navy, as those will match anything. They’re only $6-7 a pair, which is pretty affordable. I guarantee once you give these a try, you’ll suddenly realize the inadequacy of your current hosiery. If you don’t believe me, read This Fits’ recent experience.
To learn more about socks, check my extensive article here.