Thin, large, men's dress socks that can be laundered without shrinking.
January 31, 2021 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for men's crew dress socks that are: (1) as thin as possible, with no extra padding anywhere, (2) black or gray with minimal decoration, (3) sized for wide and moderately large feet with a very wide toe box, and (4) can be washed and tumble-dried without shrinking. Any specific recommendations?

I have reasonably big feet with very wide toes (M11.5/45 and 3-5E/EEW), I hate the feeling of toes constricted by socks, and my feet are always too warm. I want to forget I'm wearing socks.

I know my ideal socks can exist. I've found at least three different vendors in the past that were great, but they've all stopped making the product. The most recent, which seems to be a Macy's house brand, changed their fabric slightly around two years ago. The components (a cotton/flax/synthetic blend) are almost the same, and the packaging is the same, but the new socks now shrink and become unwearable within weeks. The threadbare three-year-old versions are still the best socks I own.

My experience with microfibre has been frustrating. They're okay once or twice, but even when washed cold and air dried, they tend to shrink and become stiff and unpleasant very quickly. Then I inevitably fail to remove one in moving clothes to the dryer and ruin it entirely. Wool, including fancy prefix-wool, has been universally infuriating. I've tried several popular brands of "diabetic socks" in the past, but they're always thick and padded (and ugly), which is exactly what I don't want. I've now got a large drawer full of failed random attempts to find a suitable sock. There must be someone in the world still making the socks I want.

I'm also happy to hear tips from anyone who's figured out a simple way to launder typical socks without turning them into torture devices.
posted by eotvos to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Check an army surplus store? This is the exact description of the black dress socks I was issued. They make them in a large size, they’re thin, and they’re very comfortable.
posted by Night_owl at 11:39 AM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Standard issue socks are high-polyester, though.

This is a "what's your budget?" question. You can get sheer and durable in mercerised cotton for $$$ from makers like Pantherella or Mazarin, or for a lot less money, you might get along with Uniqlo's standard or pique variants. I've no idea what the Blacksocks subscription bundle is like, but the description of this unribbed sock fits what you're after.

(I try to avoid tumble-drying socks. If you don't want to air-dry them, you can try laying them flat on the dryer while it's running.)
posted by holgate at 11:59 AM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

After washing in cold, I would air/drip dry them, then put in a no-heat dryer cycle with a dryer (or tennis) ball to unstiffen them. Everything else is going to depend on the materials, since the reasonable alternative conclusion is that socks can't get wet, even if no heat is involved.
posted by rhizome at 12:26 PM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’ve got a couple recommendations that might work for you:
They’re not precisely dress socks, but AllBirds socks are thin, roomy, plain, and (so far) durable. I think the dark colored ones could pass as dress socks well enough, but it may depend on the cut of your shoes.
I’ve also had extremely good luck with Bombas socks. I haven’t tried the dress socks specifically, but I’ve tried a lot of their other styles and the fit and comfort are great. They have a tighter section around the arch, which lets the toes be roomier without the socks shifting and bunching.

With both of those, they come in more specific sizes than regular socks, which should help with fit for larger feet. I wash mine in warm water and tumble dry, and they’ve held up great so far. No special care at all.
posted by duien at 12:59 PM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

> Then I inevitably fail to remove one in moving clothes to the dryer and ruin it entirely.

Laundering tip to avoid this - put socks in a mesh laundry bag for washing. Then you just need to fish out the laundry bag to get all the socks.
posted by needled at 2:17 PM on January 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

No specific brand to recommend, but I am a huge fan of bamboo fiber socks. The don't last as long (wear because of thinness, not deformation), but they aren't expensive. Very comfortable, especially in the summer.

I have smaller feet and the Secret brand standard-sized women's socks (by the pantyhose and stuff) fits me well. Don't know if they have larger sizes.
posted by porpoise at 2:37 PM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for the suggestions. I'll be trying several in the next month and will update with best answers and comments.
posted by eotvos at 9:51 AM on February 7, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks all - I'm still waiting to try a few options based on suggestions here - but I appreciate all the answers.

So far, uniqlo are tight at the foot out of the box and a bit thick. They're still better than what I've found in stores recently. Allbirds are okay if a bit narrow at the foot, but theye're tight at the calf and a bit thick, blacksocks are perfect at the foot and very nice material, but absurdly tight at the shin (it's hard even to pull them on straight from the package.) The later two are close to what I want, but seem designed for people with slightly bigger feet and much narrower calfs.

It looks like the Secret brand doesn't make anything approaching the right size But, exploring the womens hosiery section in more detail is a good idea.

I'm considering the higher end options. Given my 0/20 success rate in the last two years, I hesitate to ship a $60 sock that will likely be too tight. But, if any were successful, it would be worth it.

A laundry bag has been ordered.
posted by eotvos at 1:25 PM on March 15, 2021

My feet are kind of normie, but my two pairs of spendy formal socks for dressing up posh -- Gammarelli cardinal red and Mazarin academy green -- are socks that feel invisible to me while being noticed because they are fundamentally silly socks. I don't want to test how far they stretch, because I can't replace them any time soon, but I can't imagine them pinching your lower legs. They're hosiery in an old space before socks split off from stockings/tights/pantyhose.

The people selling the really fancy socks are going to be responsive to your questions before you splurge on them because they're really fancy socks and they are sized.
posted by holgate at 9:46 PM on March 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

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