When considering which dress socks to buy and wear, you are faced with two primary types: mid and over-the-calf.
We’ll compare the length, comfort, style, and fit of these two types of socks and how they fit into your professional or formal wardrobe.
But first, here is a summary outlining their key differences:
|Length||11″ heel to cuff||19″ heel to cuff|
|Comfort||Cooler and non-constricting. Susceptible to falling down.||Stays in place throughout the day. They can be warm and constricting.|
|Style||Crossing legs while sitting exposes skin.||Doesn’t break the visual line between pants, socks, and shoes.|
|Calves||Standard-height dress socks are likely to slip down, especially on larger calves. Specially designed socks should be considered.||Constriction will be more pronounced on larger calves.|
Differences in length
The most distinguishing feature between these two socks is, of course, the length. Mid-calf socks are cut like a crew sock and will extend approximately 11″ from heel to cuff. This length will rest halfway between your kneecap and heel, typically at the lower part of the calf muscle.
Conversely, over-the-calf socks extend, on average, approximately 8″ longer than mid-calf socks, topping out at 19″ in length, and will rest just above the calf muscle but below the knee. See how the length of these socks compare to others.
How does this translate to comfort?
When deciding between the two cuts of socks, there will be compromises for comfort.
The shorter cut of a mid-calf sock is more comfortable as it is less restricting and allows for greater airflow around the leg. However, the downside to the modest length is that the sock may not stay up throughout the day leading to an annoying and persistent slouching of the sock.
On the other hand, over-the-calf socks enjoy the advantage that they will stay put for the entire day, making them good for formal occasions, events, and work where you simply may not have the time to worry about adjusting your socks. The downside to the over-the-calf cut is that it will feel more restrictive and cause your legs to feel hotter.
What about style?
Aside from the colors, patterns, and styles that companies make available, the one style consideration to keep in mind with these two socks is if you sit and cross your legs.
Mid-calf socks are at a disadvantage here as the skin between the sock, and the pant cuff will likely be visible, creating a break in the visual flow of your outfit, which is unappealing.
Over-the-calf socks prevent this from ever happening, even if you have a pair of dress pants with an aggressive cuff.
What if you have larger calves?
Aside from the length, where the cuff of the sock rests on your calf may be impacted by your calf size. Those with larger calves, like active runners, athletes, or those with larger frames, may want to opt for specially designed dress socks.
Some companies make mid-calf dress socks for larger calves. These socks have a larger opening to the cuff, which leads to less pressure on the calf, and a more comfortable fit.
What about size?
Fit directly impacts the comfort and size of the sock when worn. Sock size is typically different than shoe size. When shopping for socks, always double-check the sizing chart to get the proper fit.
Most companies will have a table that converts shoe to sock size to make it easier to find the right sock for your feet.