growing a minimalist wardrobe: socks.

November 21, 2016

growing a minimalist wardrobe: socks | reading my tea leaves

Sock weather. I always have a hard time admitting that it’s here. I guess I just like my feet to feel free is the reason. But then suddenly it is here and I need something to keep my feet from going numb. Would that I could have bare ankles all winter…

In the spirit of staying warm and cozy—and as ever pushing my agenda that socks make some of the very best holiday presents out there—here’s a list of thoughtful companies making superior socks. It’s worth noting that almost all of the companies on this list have been up to creative and inspiring ways to keep manufacturing in the US—in many cases reviving hosiery mills in places like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana—while also thinking about their larger supply chain and using sustainable materials sourced from thoughtful places. Socks can be a hopeful thing, too.

While I haven’t worn socks from all of these places myself, these are all companies that I have on my radar for the next time I need to revamp my sock collection (or buy Christmas presents).

American Trench: These guys have a big collection of classic socks knit in a family-owned mill in Pennsylvania. Their women’s sock options are slightly more limited than their options for men, but I love the look of the Shiprock Stripe in Merino and Cashmere and the Boot Socks in Wool and SilkMade in the USA.

B.Ella Socks: These socks are made in New Jersey from imported fibers and they’re primarily sold wholesale through other retailers. Lots of folks swear by their cashmere blend socks (those beautiful snowflake socks pictured were a Christmas present last year). (Full disclosure: I have found that their socks are very beautiful but that they tend to slip a little bit and they do require a bit of special care to keep their shape.) Made in the USA.

Conscious Socks: GOTS- and Fairtrade-certified cotton socks made in India and sold to support specific charities working on causes ranging from poverty to the environment to disease and education. Imported. (Ed note: Updated this post on Nov. 29, 2016 to include this company.)

Darn Tough: These socks are made in a family-owned mill in the Green Mountains of Vermont. They specialize in performance socks—shop sections include activities like hiking, trekking, running, skiing, and biking—for myself, I’d probably choose from among the Solid Basic Crew Light socks to stock my drawer. Learn more about their mill right hereMade in the USA. 

Maggie’s Organics: Classic (and tie-dyed, but of course) socks made from Fair Trade Organic cotton purchased direct from farmers in Nicaragua and Merino wool from farmers in Argentina. All of their socks are knit in mills in North Carolina. You can read more about their sustainability measures right here. For folks looking to stock a whole sock drawer, it’s especially nice that these folks sell their socks in packs of 3 or 6. Their Organic Cotton Crews look just right to me. (Also: Baby socks!) Made in the USA. 

Mitscoots: This Texas-based company now makes a range of products, but they started out with socks made from American-sourced cotton in North Carolina mills. They also have a social component: For every pair of socks purchased, they donate a pair to folks in need. Even better, they work with placement agencies to employ the transitioning homeless. You can read more about their mission here. While some of the styles are a little more bold or sporty than I’d typically opt for, there’s a big range. I’d choose the Brown Women’s Socks or their wintry Snowflake Socks. (Also: More baby socks!) Made in the USA.

This Night: These socks are made in Pennsylvania from US-grown ring-spun cotton. Owner Kate Williamson sent me a pair to try last spring and they’re really wonderful. Thick but not too thick, stretchy, but not too stretchy. For folks who love graphic socks, this is a good place to head. As for me, I like the simple stripes the best. Made in the USA.

PACT Apparel: PACT sells all kinds of organic cotton basics, socks included. I’d navigate to the Women’s Cotton Crew Socks myself—but as a small-footed person I’m curious about their one-size-fits-all model. (We’ve also loved their cotton baby socks.) You can read more about the company and their commitment to GOTS-certified organic cotton, hereImported.

Zkano: These socks are made in Alabama from certified Organic combed cotton and low-impact dyes. Knit in a GOTS-certified facility. I really love the look of their thin-striped Olive socks (especially the Olive Crew Socks Striped Red) and the slouchy Rose socks (especially the Rose Slouch Socks in Oatmeal). Made in the USA.

As always, if you have favorites to add to the list, please do!

If you need more minimalist wardrobe reading, head right this way.

(PS. Maybe you don’t need socks at all! And truth be told, these guys sound like they have all the socks they need, but if you’d like to donate other cold-weather items to the courageous folks spending cold days and nights outside protecting sacred lands and water supplies in North Dakota, head here.)

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  • Reply Susanna November 21, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I also love getting and giving socks! Great list! I’d also recommend: There seems to be quite a sock revival going on.

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 21, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Fascinating! Run by the same woman that started Zkano (knit in the same factory, too!)!

    • Reply annie November 21, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      i JUST bought socks from LRSM! they are so cute and comfy, and packed beautifully, and made in the USA, so hell yes. <3

  • Reply Erin November 21, 2016 at 11:20 am

    I was actually just thinking this morning how I needed to revamp my sock drawer.

    I have a favorite pair of socks from LL Bean from back in the day when most of LL’s stuff was made in the US. They are fleece (originally marketed as “sandal socks” from when it was cool to wear socks with your Reefs or Tevas) and are over 20 years old. They are loud and ugly but warm as anything. Thought I lost one last weekend after a trip away but, thankfully, it was just left in the dryer. It would be really nice if all my socks were so wonderfully made and had the same longevity!

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 21, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Ha! So great! I believe their ragg socks are still made in the US, too!

  • Reply Kate November 21, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Thanks so much for your kind words about THIS NIGHT, Erin! I’m so glad you like your socks!! 🙂

    • Reply Kate November 21, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      One little fact that is new since I sent socks to Erin this past spring: For every pair socks sold on, THIS NIGHT will donate 50 cents to the Boys & Girls Club of Reading, PA (my hometown and where these socks are knit). It provides wonderful after-school and summer activities for the kids and teens of Reading, which has a very high poverty rate, and is a really great organization!

      • Reply Erin Boyle November 21, 2016 at 3:10 pm

        Thanks so much for adding, Kate!

  • Reply Roxanne November 21, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Speaking from personal experience, Darn Tough socks are absolutely wonderful and their longevity is impressive! xo

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 21, 2016 at 11:47 am

      So glad to hear it!

    • Reply Marion November 21, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      I love Darn Tough socks! They will even replace your socks if they get holes in them after a few years (but they’re so well made, you really have to rough it to get holes in these socks). Their yearly factory sale is awesome too, if you’re in the area in November.

    • Reply Amanda November 21, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      Darn Tough also has a lifetime guarantee, which is awesome!

  • Reply danielle November 21, 2016 at 11:59 am

    What a great day to write about socks! Today I am snowed in and my mailbox was just taken out by the plow. I too would have bare ankles year round but Central NY does not allow. I especially love my socks by lisa b. She makes great clogs as well.

  • Reply Julia B November 21, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve heard Farm to Feet is good for hiking and sport socks and made in USA.

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 21, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Wonderful! Thank you!

      • Reply Annabelle November 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

        I can vouch for Farm to Feet – they are workhorse socks!

        (I would add that proper care for the textile helps them go the distance!)

  • Reply mado November 21, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    your posts are always spot on! I’ve been trying to decide whether to make an exception to my new clothes fast for socks…

  • Reply Therese November 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    My bandmate and I SWEAR by Kate Williamson’s THIS NIGHT line of socks for warm, comfy and durable studio wear (where shoes aren’t allowed!) We have tons. Since it’s gotten a few degrees colder, my grey striped knee/boot socks are essential, but my check (in navy with lilac) always get compliments. There’s just something about the amazingly snug and comfortable fit that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. I’m about to buy a bunch for family for the holidays.

  • Reply Laura November 21, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you!! I love, love, love that you share your research on sustainable clothing, etc. You’re one of the only bloggers who do so, and I really appreciate it.

  • Reply Amanda November 21, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you! My partner desperately needs socks and now I’m excited to tuck some fancy ones in his stocking. I’m thinking about Darn Tough because of the durability and the special place Vermont holds in our hearts. Yay!

  • Reply Kim November 21, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Last year as a gift for my sister-in-law and her boyfriend, I got them warm gloves, scarves, and socks. My SIL told me her boyfriend was so enthusiastic about the socks (camp socks from J Crew outlet), and that “the pair of socks was his favorite gift all year.” Because of that, and because I myself would love to receive socks as a gift, I’ve resolved to get everyone on my list a pair of comfy socks this year and start a holiday tradition. My husband jokes that I am a 23-year-old grandma, but I am very excited that you’ve posted about sustainable socks right before I do my Christmas shopping! I can’t wait to make some more thoughtful choices this year as I buy gifts.

  • Reply Rachel November 21, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Over the last couple of years, I’ve shifted to only buying ethically made or used clothes. Your minimalist wardrobe articles have been a huge help in my shopping.

    I’m a fan of Pact apparel and would love it if you’d include in your post the fact that they’re Fair Trade. That’s a big selling point for me and makes them a pretty unique company. Thanks for all that you do.

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 21, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Hi there! So glad to hear it! PACT does mention that their underwear factory is Fair Trade, but it’s not totally clear that their socks are! (When you click on individual items in their shop you can see which certifications the different products have!) Happily they do mention throughout their website that regardless of certifications, they’re always sweatshop-free.

  • Reply Shannon November 21, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Socks are the best gift! My mom and I exchange pj’s and socks almost every Christmas. Maybe I’m biased, being from Wisconsin, but I highly recommend Wigwam – made right in Wisconsin, plus they use domestic wool! I especially like this lightweight merino wool pair:

  • Reply Genevieve November 21, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    I 100% advocate socks for holiday gifts too! Nice socks are a great luxury, even if, like me, you would rather be barefoot except when it’s too cold. I nominate LL Bean’s made-in-the-U.S.A. ragg socks, especially these tall ones: They are affordable (I like fancy socks, too, but it’s nice to have some that aren’t too precious). I also like that they come in several sizes. I get really annoyed by being sold “one size” socks for lots of money.

    For knitters out there who haven’t tried making socks, I just made my first pair and I recommend it! It was fun and they are so much more beautiful than any other socks I own.

  • Reply Ingrid November 21, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I love socks! They are my favorite item of clothing! Thanks!

  • Reply Miranda | Miranda's Notebook November 22, 2016 at 4:42 am

    I’m definitely in need of some cosy socks, so will have to check out these links. I think lovely socks make a fabulous Christmas gift / stocking filler too! Miranda xxx

  • Reply Lynn @ The Not Dead Yet Blog November 22, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Every year some of my favorite relatives get me socks for Christmas. I’m sending them a link to your blog, just as a gentle hint. I love socks.

  • Reply Maia November 22, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    I LOVE This Night socks! They are so fun, comfortable and beautiful and are my favorite accessory. As a teacher I rarely have time to get dolled up or think about my appearance in the morning–my collection of This Night socks make every outfit special and bring a smile to my face (and feet)
    They’re also the perfect gift. At this point, all of my friends have a pair and since there are so many styles to choose from (from classic to eclectic) there is a pair for any special person on your list!
    Do yourself a favor and order some ASAP!!

  • Reply Alix November 24, 2016 at 11:45 am

    My family loves Smartwool socks (especially for skiing). They are a larger company owned by the VF Corporation, but have fairly transparent sustainability initiatives and most of their socks are made in the USA

  • Reply Elizabeth December 10, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    Thanks for this great list. I love This Night socks! They are beautiful and cozy. They fit better than any other sock I’ve worn. They hug my feet, aren’t too tight, and don’t fall down. They have been well received as gifts I’ve given as well.

  • Reply GerriAnn Constantino December 30, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Erin, I must tell you. I ordered beautiful socks from Darn Tough, the Night and Miscoots after reading this blog. Darn Tough and The Night are fabulous, beautiful, friendly and excellent customer service. Unfortunately I have encountered nothing of the sort with Miscoots. My order was placed the same day as the other two companies yet Miscoots contends after taking my money and not sending my socks the excuse they have never encountered this problem send us all emails you received from us. I did, also sent them my PayPal account charges and they are still hemming and haawing. Not a good company. I had to threaten with reporting to attorney general for them to finally inform me my order is being shipped yet not providing a tracking number. I just thought you and my fellow readers should be aware.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      So sorry to hear that you had a negative experience!

  • Reply sam-c January 26, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    I need some new socks. Out of all of these, which would you say are the brand that stays up the best. (Sadly, one of the things that can screw up my day is a sock that is constantly sliding down my ankle and into my shoe, especially if I am doing a lot of walking that day)

  • Reply Jenny/AdventuresAlongTheWay March 31, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Well, I promise I have no affiliation with Pact.. I’ve have been wearing their socks and undies since 2012. I’m a size 6 women’s shoe size and the Pact socks work great for me. The most recent black and grey utility crew socks have a white pact logo on the left sock only. I don’t love this, but practically speaking, it’s always covered, even when I wear my booties with a skirt and the top sticks it a little bit. I liked it better before when there was no logo on the socks. I haven’t yet thrown away any of the pairs from 2012, but I have darned some holes in some of the older ones that have seen a ton of wear…

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