Friday Group Ride #230

Friday Group Ride #230

Is there a more important unimportant article of clothing than the sock? The poor, stupid sock, just a base layer for your feet, a sweat and odor absorbing sack of cloth, a thing that keeps you from blistering, but gets scant attention paid to it compared to the overbearing shoe.

The shoe. What an oaf.

But socks say something about a person. There is a great scene in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest in which the narrator describes John “No Relation” Wayne, the number one player on the novel’s fictional tennis academy’s A team. He says Wayne, who is sort of “robotic,” is “of the sock and a shoe, sock and a shoe school,” which is a strange way of saying someone is strange. But there it is. The socks, and how they relate to the shoes. It means something.

Cyclists take the business of socks to all sorts of bizarre places. First there is height. Some are strictly no-show with the socks. This is some weird sect of urban messenger who must show as much leg, and subsequently as much tattoo, as possible. Then there are the ankle-heights. Anklers are a retro lot. In the ’90s, we were all anklers, though many of us refuse to admit it now, hiding a whole trove of whimsical ankle-height socks in the backs of our eponymous drawers.

The 5″cuff is de rigueur at the moment, a veritable tower of sock, extending up the calf, accentuating the base of the gastrocnemius. Many cyclists will now happily pretend that this is the only sock style they have ever embraced. This is revisionism my friends. This is Trotsky eliminated from pictures by Stalin. This is Bernard Hinault saying he never promised LeMond the maillot jaune in ’86.

I know people who will only wear black socks and people who will only wear white. They are just smelly foot bags, but we all have feelings about them.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what socks do you wear? Are you a no-shower? An ankler? Do you prefer low-key or high-vis? Do you ever commit the sin of cotton? Who makes the best socks? Wool? They say it’s cooler in summer, but that is not my experience.

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  1. Gene

    I can remember as a youth the old men in my hood wearing shores black socks and patent leather shoes. They looked ridiculous to me. I hate black socks and shorts to this day.

  2. Tim Lane

    Most bike-specific (branded) socks are thin, with the aim (I think) of being cool or even vented. As a result they don’t have any squish in them. For comfort I prefer a thicker, squishier sock which can provide a cushioning fill between my foot and shoe.

    Though they don’t look very ‘bike’ I have a pair of ankle length REI hiking socks which I’m terribly fond of; of my bike-branded socks, the wool ones are my preference.

  3. Pat O'Brien

    I used to wear ankle high. I have slowly replaced them with 5 inch high ones. During the summer, nothing but high visibility, screaming yellow or orange, DeFeet Aerators. When wearing tights, 5 inch high DeFeet Blaze wool in black. With knickers, 5 inch Smartwool in orange. I learned in the Army never to put cotton on your feet. Blister city.

  4. Les.B.

    I have socks of differing lengths. I take 1 second to decide which sock to wear and it’s just on a whim except on long rides I will go for thick bottoms. As far as fashion police and sock length, I can’t be bothered to give it notion.

  5. MarkY

    Defeet are my preferred. Almost all socks are black, but if given the opportunity, I like white.

    Though black does go well with my new DMT Radial (floro yellow and black)….

  6. jorgensen

    There was a time when you would not be allowed to race on the road without white socks. It was in the rulebook, along with black shorts. I keep to that, save when it is raining and the road spray would grime out a white sock anyway. Rain days get black or charcoal grey. Not often though as it (almost) never rains in Southern California.

  7. Aar

    Summer – insanely lightweight, disappear into the shoes. Currently Assos
    Spring/Fall – just lightweight, cover the ankle. No particular brand
    Winter – Smartwool PhD ankle covering on the lightweight side but enough thickness for warmth
    Color – whatever. Prefer white in summer

  8. DavidA

    I am old school in alot of ways, I like black and white socks 3-5” at the most. It comes from my days when I raced in Belgium in the 1980’s and I and a group of British riders rode to a small village to race a kermis. We changed our clothes for the race at a really good local Belgian racer’s house. Freddy’s mom ,after the race was done, opened a deep chest of drawers which had about 300-400 pairs of clean white race socks and asked if we would like a clean pair. a gift from Freddy…..he was racing to turn PRO and had alot of supporters. Always wanted a drawer like that.

  9. Kevin "The Sock King" Avery

    I have no problem saying this loud and proud-I have a wonderful sox life! Tall ones, short ones, black, white & other various colors.

    This is probably very non-“PC” but I have so many sox partners, I’ve lost count. Variety, it’s the spice of life they say!

    Now don’t get me wrong- if the sox is bad, I’ll just forget them, yank off and start over. Wait they didn’t sound right, I’ll change sox partners! That’s what I meant to say!

    Bottom line-if you start the day with great sox, you’ll be smiling the entire ride.

    Now-for a really saucy topic,lets talk about seat posts…

  10. Jim C.

    I like wool socks because I ride in Maine, and I like the way they feel. Thin is a must because my feet are wide. I don’t like socks that show any ankle, because of my, well, New England DNA. Mostly, I buy based on price, because, after all, they’re socks.

  11. Ransom

    I retain and use a fair collection of whimsical ankle-high socks. I also still wear lycra when mountain biking.

    I’m fortunate enough to work in a casual office (this *is* Portland, after all), and while the weather is warm, I wear shorts. I’m up to about three pairs of “modern-height” argyle-print cycling socks which work for work and the ride afterward.

    My real concern as I fall further behind the times is at the other end of the body, and the increasing scarcity of “nice”, sublimated-outside/terry-inside headbands… I fear I’ll be reduced to ’70s-basketball-terry-all-over bands at some point.

  12. Jay Fromkin

    Like Jim, above, I wear Darn Tough ankle socks. I have diabetes and need some padding on my soles. I tried their more padded socks, but they were just too squishy. Their lightly padded socks are perfect for me. Before I was diabetic, I wore Aerators also ankle-height.

  13. Maremma Mark

    Only ankle high, mostly white except for rain days, Santini, Castelli and Rapha make the socks I enjoy wearing the most. And Santini makes a great pure wool white ankle height sock that is perfect for Italian winter riding. I know, I’m a retro geek, I admit it. There are worse things to be however. Since I never cottoned to mister LA and especially disliked his calf high sock look, I don’t own even one pair of those.

  14. Peter Leach

    From the ‘official’ rules of Euro Cool: “Rule 3.The Socks must extend no less than 2cm below the main bulge of your calf muscle, and shall never extend further than 1cm past the primary calf muscle bulge. All socks shall be white in colour with prominent logo placement.”
    ’nuff said!
    There is an unofficial rule in my club, that black socks = a grade higher penalty from the handicapper. Sadly, it is imposed far to infrequently.
    In truth, I don’t really care but all my socks are white and probably fit rule 3 above [even if the logos aren’t necessarily cycling related].

  15. Full Monte

    Black shoes = black socks.

    White shoes = white socks.

    Or, you can wear socks which color-match your jersey with either black or white shoes.

    I’ve dozens of over-the-ankle-by-one-and-a-half-inches bike socks. They are not worn out yet, so I still wear them, even though the current trend calls for taller socks. Given my age, I can claim retrogrouch and get away with it. So you kids, kindly stay off my lawn.

  16. thirdwigg

    High top, black, and wool. When I’m feeling frisky, I’ll rock the DeFeet high-vis pink. Never white.

    I used to like “statement socks,” but I’m past that phase.

  17. Josué

    I go seven inch cuffs with shorts or knee warmers, and will only wear ankle or 5 inch cuffs with below the heel tights because they don’t show. I wear synthetic socks from Rapha, Swiftwick, or Defeet, and have wool socks from Defeet and Rapha. I tend to wear the synthetics on hotter temperature rides, and wool for cooler than 70 degree rides. I will wear a colored sock that coordinates with my kit with either white or black shoes, otherwise it is black socks with black shoes or white socks with white shoes.

  18. Bfeltovi

    I’m all over the place. Black shoes w white socks, black socks, mismatched pairs, etc. Had a DVT last summer so for a while I wore black calf compression sleeves too. Not a great look.

    I confess I still like the no sock look best. Too much Miami Vice, I guess.

    Refuse to do the cotton oversock thing or aero shoe covers. Too silly.

  19. Todd

    It’s amazing how much you can tell about a person by what they wear (cycling gear included). Show me a photo of your cycling shoes and socks and I’ll tell you all kinds of things about YOU- (how fast you ride, pleated or plain front pants, etc.). On a side note- you ever notice that the people out there that do REALLY CRAZY things typically dress really plain? The guy/gal with purple hair and a mohawk might look “weirder”, but they’re not. Please send photos to I dare ya 🙂

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