Best Sock Materials for Every Need & Occasion — Pants & Socks Skip to content
Shop now. Pay later.
15% Student discount.
Shop now. Pay later.
Best sock materials

Best Sock Materials for Every Need & Occasion

Admit it - you’ve probably never agonised over the material of your socks, have you? Be honest now. You’ve never thought about how the material of your socks might suit your specific needs or occasions?

That’s what we thought. Very few of us gents have properly considered the fabrics that form our humble socks. But according to the ‘wizard of below-the-waist’, the ‘sage of socks’, the now legendary Pantsman... we are all making a grave error and should immediately change our ways. 

Just as socks come in many varieties to suit your style and need, so too do they come in a wide variety of materials for whether you’re out adventuring, lounging at home, working hard at the office, or heading down the pub for a cold one (or 6).

“Next to your pants, your socks are your most important items in your wardrobe. You wear them every day. They are the constant companions of your feet. At one with your sole(s). Choose comfort. Choose durability”, says the Pantsman. 

So, without further ado, let us venture further into the kingdom of the sock and discover the myriad materials that lie in wait to treat your feet.

Best sock materials for every need

Need

Best sock material

Worst sock material

Comfort and cushioning

Cotton, Wool, Merino, Cashmere, Bamboo

N/A

Durability

Cotton, Bamboo, Polyester, Spandex, Nylon, Polypropylene

Cashmere

Sweat and wick moisture

Bamboo, Cotton, (some) Polyester, Polypropylene

Cotton, Wool, Cashmere, (other) Polyester, Nylon

Insulation and warmth

Wool, Merino, Cashmere, Cotton

N/A

Compression

Spandex, Polyester, Polypropylene

Cashmere, Wool

Lightweight

Cotton, Bamboo,  Nylon

Wool


Best sock materials for every occasion

Occasion

Best sock material

Worst sock material

Everyday

Player’s Choice! 

N/A

Work

Bamboo, Cotton, Polyester

N/A

Lounging

Cashmere, Wool, Cotton

Spandex, Nylon, 

Formal

Bamboo, Cotton, Spandex, Nylon

N/A

Winter

Wool, Cashmere, Cotton

Bamboo, Polypropylene

Summer

Bamboo, Polyester

Wool, Cashmere

Sports and athletic

Cotton, Bamboo, Polyester, Nylon, Spandex

Wool, Cashmere

Hiking and outdoor

Wool, Merino, Bamboo, Polypropylene

Polyester, Cashmere


If you’re ever in doubt as to which material would be best for your new pair of socks, do feel free to revisit these tables for a brief one-glance summary. Otherwise, it’s time we get into the real nitty gritty and start discussing in more detail…

Types of fabric and material for socks

As promised, here’s a list of the more popular sock materials, some pros and cons associated with each, and a few recommendations courtesy of the Pantsman:

Cotton

First up is the most commonly used material for the manufacture of socks: cotton. Produced from the fibres of the cotton plant, cotton is versatile, durable and an excellent material for your everyday socks. 

Pros

  • Durable and natural material
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Quick-drying and machine-washable
  • Holds colours well - great for variety
  • Good for cushioning

Cons

  • Absorbs moisture easily and can shrink if heated too much
  • Keeps your feet colder if they get wet…
  • …And weigh more if they get wet
  • Can be expensive if you go fully organic

So, cotton is excellent for everyday wear and tear, but if you’re planning on some serious sport or your feet are prone to getting a bit sweaty, then cotton may not be the best choice for you.

If you do find that your feet get sweaty, don’t fret! Cotton and polyester blend well to provide a bit of extra moisture-resistance for a very versatile and comfortable sock, so make sure to check the labels if this applies to you. 

If you’re looking for some cotton socks with added strength, durability, and lustrous finish for an extra touch of style, then keep an eye out for mercerised cotton socks, such as these socks from BOSS. For a more athletic look, try these from Tommy Hilfiger.

Wool

Wool is the second most commonly utilised material for sock production and it certainly ain’t baaaaaaaad… because it comes from sheep. 

Wool socks quality can be quite variable depending on several factors ranging from the breed of sheep the wool is taken from to the time of year that the sheep was sheared, however, much like cotton, it has very few disadvantages and is great for general wear. 

Pros

  • Great for colder weather, insulation, and comfort when lounging at home
  • Holds its shape well and difficult to wrinkle
  • Wide variety of dyes, while colour remains bleed-resistant
  • Excellent moisture absorber, while remaining breathable
  • Extremely soft (if high quality wool)
  • Natural material

Cons

  • Low quality wool can become itchy and uncomfortable
  • Not recommended for machine-washing (though it is possible)
  • Can be prone to developing holes if severely distressed
  • Not very lightweight (especially when wet)
  • Bad for warmer weather
  • Animal product

Wool is definitely an excellent choice of sock for chilling at home or for day-to-day use during the colder months. 

So, basically all the time in the UK. 

But, if your feet are prone to overheating or sweating, wool is best avoided - especially if the weather heats up.

Merino wool

Merino sheep wool is some of the softest and finest quality wool going. The individual fibres of Merino wool are much finer than most standard types of wool, leading to this softer texture that minimises on itch and maximises on sustainable comfort. 

 Pros

  • Incredibly soft, high quality wool that should never become itchy
  • Wicks sweat and keeps your feet feeling fresh
  • Wrinkle resistant 
  • Temperature regulating and lighter weight than other wools
  • Biodegradable natural product
  • Repels sweaty odours 

Cons

  • Animal product
  • Not recommended for machine-washing
  • More resilient than most wools, but can still develop holes

Merino wool is an excellent sock for wearing both for lounging around the house and out and about on a long walk or hike. Check out these Walkie Light Socks from FALKE to see what Merino wool is capable of.

Nylon

Nylon is a synthetic material that is usually blended with other fabrics to create some durable and highly elastic socks. 

Pros

  • VERY stretchy, durable, and lightweight
  • Pretty cheap and widely available
  • No animals harmed
  • Not bad for keeping in the heat

Cons

  • Susceptible for pilling (little balls on the surface of the sock)
  • Better when blended
  • Man-made and not biodegradable
  • Not very breathable

Like several of the materials on this list, nylon is man-made and not biodegradable, so not a great choice for you environmentalists out there. HOWEVER, they are very durable, so you’ll definitely get some great wear out of socks containing nylon. A very versatile material for versatile socks.

Polyester

Another synthetic material, polyester is made by producing a chemical reaction between acid and alcohol. But polyester socks certainly won’t make you feel like a drunkard! 

Polyester is excellent when blended with other materials and is particularly useful for creating athletic socks and garments due to its durable qualities. 

Pros

  • Resilient and durable
  • Holds its shape very well 
  • Cheap and easy to add colour
  • Quick drying, machine-washable, and stain-resistant

Cons

  • Liable for cultivating fungi and bacteria if they get too wet too often or go unwashed - so make sure you wash them regularly!
  • Not very moisture absorbent and can cause sweaty feet to smell 
  • Not very breathable
  • Man-made and not biodegradable
  • Better when blended

Basically, look after your polyester socks, wash them regularly and they’ll last you a long time! Don’t let the bacteria and the fungi win and you’ll be a much more fun-guy in return (and hopefully tell better jokes than us!).

Polypropylene

Polypropylene is relatively new on the sock scene and not well-recognised yet. It is, however, very moisture resistant as it contains traces of plastic within. This makes them dependable and durable without sacrificing comfort.  

Pros

  • Very resistant to water
  • Stretchy, lightweight, and breathable
  • Easy to clean and stain-resistant
  • Soft

Cons

  • Man-made and not biodegradable
  • Susceptible to pilling
  • Don’t heat them too much - the plastic component can melt...

Another great synthetic. Just make sure you don’t go walking across hot coals with them or anything like that. In fact… never do that full stop.

Spandex

NO CAPES! 

Now you’re either thinking about a great superhero movie or socks with capes… Which would look incredibly strange. 

But on a serious note, yes, you can make socks from spandex. While they won’t give you superpowers or the motivation to jump into an 80s fitness video, they will provide you with a polyurethane-based sock that is very elastic and resilient.

Pros

  • Elastic, resilient, lightweight, and durable
  • A snug, form-fitting appearance
  • Holds its shape well and wicks moisture
  • Breathable
  • Great for sports

Cons

  • Man-made and not biodegradable
  • Poor heat retention so no good for winter
  • No superpowers...

Bamboo

Excellent for Giant Pandas and for your feet! The pulp is pulled from bamboo stems and refined into a very soft and durable material for your socks. Bamboo is a bit of a wonder plant as well, as it grows very quickly and requires very little water. This makes it incredibly environmentally friendly, sustainable, and increasingly popular as a material for socks. 

Pros

  • Durable, lightweight, soft, and absorbent
  • Wicks moisture and highly breathable
  • Has a natural stretch and keeps its shape well
  • Surprisingly good at thermal regulation - so great for cold and warm days alike
  • Hypoallergenic and contains an antimicrobial, which helps keep your socks and your feet smelling great for longer
  • Kind to the environment

Cons

  • Can be prone to pilling
  • Won’t attract Giant Pandas for you to befriend

Bamboo is an all-round excellent material for socks, suitable for almost any occasion or need, and with very few downsides. 

This material is a personal favourite for the Pantsman and his choice to keep his feet company every day. Take a look at this lovely pair from BOSS

Cashmere

Much like wool, cashmere is extremely soft and great for giving your feet a bit of decadent comfort. Often mistaken for wool, cashmere actually comes from a goat’s coat, which can often lead to a softer feel than wool as goat hair is much finer in texture. 

Pros

  • Soft, comfortable, and cushioning
  • Lightweight
  • Great for colder weather

Cons

  • Hand-washing only! 
  • Quite delicate, so don’t abuse these socks
  • Animal product 

Cashmere is the go-to sock for when the Pantsman is lounging at home. He takes the greatest care of them and they do the same for him. 

Never do anything sporting in your cashmere socks. They are definitely not suitable for strenuous activity. Their comfort for the home, however, is second to none. 

So, what’s the best material for your socks?

The answer really depends on you and what you’ll be doing in them! For all-round goodness, we at Pants and Socks would suggest either cotton or bamboo. They’re durable, comfortable, and will see you through everyday use without issue. 

Cotton and bamboo are also excellent for warmer or cooler weather (and thus useful for UK life where the weather can turn on a sixpence). They also come in many fashionable styles, so are easy to recommend to almost anyone!

If you need advice in the future, check back with this article and take in the tables at the top of the page for some on-the-go advice for the best sock materials for your needs.

There is no ‘worst’ material for a sock. Paper, perhaps…? But then you’d look a fool and make a lot of crunching noises while you’re doing it. So maybe stick to established materials, eh?

Previous article
Next article