We frequently get asked for our thoughts on the best material for dress socks and, in this article, we'll share everything you need to know. While much of this comes down to personal preference, there are some fundamentals that will help guide your decision. Without further ado, let's dive in.

What are Dress Socks Made Of?

Dress socks are typically made of a blend of natural and synthetic yarns. The natural yarns, most commonly cotton or wool, provide comfort and breathability while the synthetic yarns enhance functionality such as stretch.

Importance of Natural Materials

Dress socks knit primarily with natural materials are significantly more comfortable than socks that contain a high amount of synthetic fibers. Why? Synthetic fibers do not breathe as well as natural fibers and can cause your feet to sweat, leading to discomfort and potential podiatric health issues. When shopping for dress socks, always take a look at the material contents and opt for socks that have a majority of natural materials.

The most common natural materials found in dress socks are wool and cotton, with bamboo, silk and cashmere all being slightly less common. In terms of synthetics, you’ll most frequently find polyester, rayon, polyamide, nylon and spandex.

examining cones of yarn and dress socks in knitting mill

Impact of Materials on Cost

As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for; this sentiment certainly holds true when it comes to dress socks. The best men's dress socks are made from the best materials.

Natural fibers are more expensive than synthetic fibers, as their price is determined by agricultural harvests. For example, merino sheep are only sheared one or twice per year and can produce a limited amount of merino wool. Man-made materials such as polyester are significantly less expensive as they are mass produced and readily available.

Wool vs Cotton Dress Socks

cotton boll and handful of raw merino wool

We’ve established that natural fibers are more comfortable, so when choosing between wool or cotton dress socks, which material is best? Again, this is largely a matter of personal preference but there are clear distinctions between these two fibers that can help guide your decision:

  Merino Wool Cotton
Which is softer? X
Which best manages moisture? X
Which manages odor best? X
Cooler for hottest temperatures? X
Warmest for cold temperatures? X
Which feels lighter?

It is important to note that when we discuss wool dress socks, we are referring to merino wool which is very different from traditional wool that you may think of as itchy and scratchy. Merino wool is much finer, making it softer and smoother.

Merino Wool as a Dress Sock Material

Merino wool is most renowned for its ability to manage moisture and fight odor, making it an excellent material for dress socks.

grey dress socks for men

Pros of Merino Wool

  • Unrivaled breathability
  • Excellent at keeping feet dry
  • Naturally odor resistant


While it may not be the most pleasant topic to discuss, your feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of your body. Properly managing this moisture is vital in keeping your feet comfortable and healthy. The materials in your dress socks will either contribute to the problem or can serve as a remedy.

So what is the best dress sock material for managing this moisture? Merino wool dress socks offer an unsurpassed level of breathability and moisture-wicking that will keep your feet dry throughout a long day.

Moisture Management & Odor Prevention

Merino wool absorbs sweat and pulls it away from the skin so that it can evaporate. Merino wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture while still feeling dry to the touch, making it ideal as a material for dress socks.

Not only does this moisture wicking help to get sweat out of your socks, but it also combats odor; odor-causing bacteria requires a damp environment. Finally, merino wool fibers have a natural, antibacterial coating on them that further assist in eliminating odor.

Shop Wool Dress Socks

Cons of Merino Wool

  • More prone to attracting lint
  • Requires extra care

To learn more about merino wool as a dress sock material, be sure to read our list of 6 reasons why you should wear merino wool dress socks.

Cotton as a Dress Sock Material

Cotton tends to be the most common material used to manufacture dress socks, primarily due to its soft texture.

olive green cotton dress socks folded inside dark brown penny loafers

Pros of Cotton

  • Silky-smooth for luxurious feel on skin
  • Very durable and easy to launder


In the textile industry, the terms hand or hand feel are used to describe the feel and texture of a fabric. Cotton is renowned for its soft, smooth hand which makes it a great fiber for manufacturing apparel. If you’re looking for extremely soft dress socks, cotton will be the best dress sock material for you.

But, not all cotton is created equal. There are three primary grades of cotton: short staple, long staple and extra-long staple. The staple length refers to how long individual fibers are within the cotton and are a good benchmark for quality.

Shorter staple fibers are easier to grow and thus more cost effective, however, they have a rougher texture and aren’t as durable. While more expensive, longer staple cotton will be more comfortable against your skin and will last longer. Our cotton dress socks are produced using extra-long staple cotton which produces a buttery-soft sock that is incredibly comfortable.


Another benefit of dress socks made of cotton is that they are easy to care for. We always recommend washing your dress socks inside out in cold water with low heat drying. While merino wool tends to attract lint and be a bit more difficult to launder, cotton is the easiest dress sock material to care for.

Shop Cotton Dress Socks

Cons of Cotton

  • Not as colorfast as wool
  • Can retain moisture

If you’re interested in learning more about dress socks made of cotton, be sure to read our article on what to look for in cotton dress socks.

Find Your Perfect Pair

Whether your preferred dress sock material is merino wool or extra-long staple cotton, you’ll find your style here at Boardroom Socks. We have arguably the largest selection of dress socks on the internet and invite you to find your perfect pair.

Shop Boardroom Socks

If you have questions or need further guidance, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to assisting you!

Nathan James
Nathan James

CEO, Boardroom Socks

Nathan is an eighth generation textile professional, passionate about producing quality hosiery right here in North Carolina. His favorite dress socks are our burgundy merino wool socks. You will also frequently find him wearing our no-show socks. Outside of the office he enjoys fishing, reading and exploring Charlotte with his wife, son and Golden Retriever.

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