Frequently, visitors to this blog or my website are looking for answers to a common question, “What kind of socks do you wear with cowboy (or motorcycle) boots?” Good question — and despite marketing recommendations from some vendors, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have comfortable, dry feet inside boots. (And another reason why I never recommend wearing boots without socks… sweaty feet lead to awful fungal infections.)
Here are my recommendations for the socks to wear with boots.
First-of-all, if you have those thin socks worn with dress shoes, put them away. Those kind of socks wear out quickly when worn with boots. And think about it — no one can see socks when worn with boots, so the color doesn’t matter. Grey or white socks work fine.
Socks come in three lengths: 1) ankle socks, sometimes called sport socks, which some guys wear with sneakers while playing sports or working out at a gym. These socks are not suitable to wear with boots. 2) mid-calf (or crew length) socks are what most men are familiar with. They extend to the middle of the calf and are the most common socks worn by Americans, and are what I wear with boots. It doesn’t matter if the socks slide down the leg a little bit, because no one sees socks under boots anyway. (Another good reason not to wear shoes — you don’t have to worry about committing a style faux paus by showing hairy legs.) 3) over the calf (OTC) hosiery, the formal name of what is commonly called “knee socks,” are recommended by the style guys to wear with dress shoes. Regular guys (or western wear stores) call them boot socks, but guys wearing boots don’t need socks that go up that high on the leg. Really, guys wearing boots do not need to wear boot socks!
Why don’t I recommend boot socks? Quality cowboy boots are made with a leather lining so if the socks do not come up as high as the boot shafts, that’s okay. The boots should not rub on the legs, and if you have quality socks, they will stay up on your calf all day. You don’t need to spend more money for something that you don’t need. So what if socks slide down the leg a little bit? Most guys could care less.
You do not have to spend a lot of money for good socks, either. Most variety stores and on-line retailers carry mid-length socks made of a blend of cotton (for comfort); nylon, rayon, or polyester (to keep shape and stay up); and wool. Yes, wool — you know, that yarn made from sheep. The best kind of wool is called “Merino,” (a kind of sheep), which does not cause itching as some other types of wool.
Why am I such a promoter of wool in socks worn with boots? Feet sweat naturally. Wool will absorb sweat and make your feet feel more comfortable and remain dry. The amount of wool in a sock does not have to be much — 10% to 15% is sufficient, but you can find it in a blend as high as 60% more more. The more Merino wool, the more expensive the sock.
Let’s talk about the other materials in socks, too. Cotton — simple, pure cotton. Definitely comfortable on the foot, which takes a lot of pounding when walking. However, cotton is not a sturdy fiber. It will wear out quickly, which is why it is blended with synthetic fibers.
So that brings up the synthetics: polyester, rayon, nylon, or a general term, “acrylic.” All of these fibers are made in a laboratory. They are not grown on a plant like cotton or an animal like wool. Synthetic fibers are known to be very durable. They can stretch and return to shape over and over again. They wear like steel. BUT… they don’t absorb sweat. About 30% of the fibers in a sock made of a synthetic material will help the sock maintain shape. No more than that is necessary.
If you use a search engine to find socks, try using these key words, “Thermal Sport Merino Wool Socks”. Using that search myself, I found a number of good choices of socks with the cotton/acrylic/wool combination.
You may find socks made of cotton and acrylic blends only, which are not as good as socks that have wool in the blend, since acrylics do not absorb sweat nearly as well. Be wary of inexpensive socks made only of acrylic/cotton fibers. The socks may wear for a long time, due to the durability of the acrylic fibers, but the socks do not breathe, or wick away sweat. When feet get sweaty, they are more likely to get an infection, such as athlete’s foot which is caused by a fungus that loves hot, sweaty feet.
Well, all you needed to know (and probably more) about what socks to wear with boots. Be comfortably booted!
Life is short: ditch the shoes; wear boots!