Best Travel Dress Socks
Travel dress socks, or performance dress socks, can be an essential part of your travel kit. What are the best options to bring less, and help you travel light?
Introduction To The Best Travel Dress Socks
As I continued down my rabbit hole of travel clothes, and making sure I've found the best of them to report back here, I moved on from the best socks for travel (Darn Tough, merino; trust me), and got a little more niche in my search. Daily drivers are great, and I could wear them with my oxfords/brogues if I really wanted to, but what happens when you need true dress socks? Maybe it's more of a business trip? But, you also don't feel like bringing a pair for every day? That's where I was.
Even on my personal trips, especially to a world class, modern city, I like to head to a nice restaurant. Some of them, require jackets. That's just a fact. That means I typically bring a pair of dress shoes that will fit in when in London or New York. Those tend to be acceptable everywhere if you use that barometer. And while I CAN use my Darn Tough socks in those, it's not really what they are made for. So, I figured there had to be some travel dress socks or performance dress socks, right? I mean, "performance" fabrics are the rage right now, and for good reason. I've said this many times, but true performance fabric will help you get more wears, and bring less clothes. Most clothing gets dirty due to bacteria, not just because you've worn it. Performance fabric limits this and extends the life. That smell? It's generally bacteria, usually. Prevent that, your clothes smell better and you can wear more than a normal fabric. Handy.
The cupboards were actually kind of bare in this research. But I did end up narrowing it down to a couple of test cases.
This is my review of the Mack Weldon Silver Treated Dress Socks and the Ministry of Supply Atlas Performance Dress Sock as what I feel are the best travel dress socks for most people's needs. Both these pairs of socks were purchased with my own money and I had no communication with either company for this review. As always, the opinions here are solely my own.
Mack Weldon Silver Dress Socks Overview
This company probably doesn't really need much of an introduction, they are very well respected and pretty well established now as a quality clothing maker. Mack Weldon is a company founded on reinventing men's essentials. They use innovative fabrics to get this done. That means, a lot of their stuff is great to consider for your travel kit.
These dress socks for example. They look and feel like any nice, well made dress socks. But, they are hiding a trick up their tube. Silver. Yeah - silver. That's where the "performance dress socks" comes in. See, silver treatments on clothing work to prevent that troublesome bacteria we discussed earlier from growing. Talk about science huh? I mean don't just believe me, go ask the military. They use it too. Mack Weldon is using X-Static in this case.
Beyond that, the socks are a high quality pima cotton. They are an extended crew sock, so they are going to come up and sit on top of your calf, like a traditional dress sock.
The socks come in a wide range of colors and patterns, so you should be able to find some that go with most pant/shoe combinations. I chose the pattern you see here as I felt it was pretty versatile combo for jeans or pants and different colored brown shoes.
Priced at $24.00 USD, it's not out of range of other premium quality dress socks.
Ministry of Supply Atlas Performance Dress Sock Overview
The Ministry of Supply Atlas sock is not really your typical sock. The company is driven to produce scientifically better products, and also happens to be carbon neutral. So, they take their footprint seriously on our planet. That's appealing to a lot of customers. Their focus is more on what I'd call business casual clothes, but that means it's a perfect place to find these socks.
In this case, we're looking at a different material than the Mack Weldon's. A recycled polyester/cotton blend. The new polyesters in today's world can help with anti-odor on their own, but they can't fight it completely. These have an even crazier trick than Silver. Coffee. You read that right. The Atlas socks are made using a coffee infused threading - these help work to neutralize odor naturally. Further, it's made from reclaimed coffee (i.e. waste product). The polyester fabric is made to act as a wicking agent, too.
The socks also offer some strategic padding in places of high pressure, and some claimed ventilation as well. They come in many different color ways, both solids and crazier.
At $15.00 USD, they come in at a lower price point, which is interesting considering the methods they are using. Generally, greener products cost more. But, you won't find me complaining.
The Mack Weldon Silver Socks Review
I was pretty excited to try these, as dorky as that sounds. I mean with all these kinds of travel clothes popping up, I was stoked to find a pair of dress socks that I could use in my kit. Now, I know dress socks don't typically take up THAT much room in your bag. But, if you can take 2 instead of 5/6? That's probably enough room saved to put your Bluetooth speaker in there instead. See what I mean?
So my testing environment as not the norm. We're travel free right now due to the world wide shut down during the COVI-19 epidemic. I had to manufacture my tests as best as I could. But I think it worked. I wore these socks every day for 5 days. I wore shoes and sneakers for a full work day period even though I was WFH the entire time. I kept them on when I walked to the food store as needed. I'd estimate I wore them from 9am to 7pm nearly each day. Mostly with shoes/sneakers. So, I did definitely sweat in them. You could feel it when I took them off. I draped them over a chair over night, like I would in a hotel. This is still a travel dress sock review, afterall.
The results? Honestly, they were pretty smell free the entire time. Part of this will of course depend on your personal chemistry. Some people just produce ungodly foot funk. Some, really don't. Thinking I'm one of the latter? But regardless, the silver tech works, as I've used it in other products, like the Bluffworks Threshold T. So maybe you only get 3 days of hard wearing. But on a trip? That could be the only socks you need.
What else I liked - the full calf wear. Part of it is because this is what I'm used to. Part of it is that I feel they stay up better and pretty much can't fall down if a good quality material and elastic. So, I liked this quality, too. And, since they are pima cotton, they feel like any traditional dress sock. They don't feel "performance". Many people will like that. I found these to be the more comfortable of the two in that sense.
What I didn't - they are pima cotton. "AW, didn't you just say that's a good thing?" Well, yes I did. But it's a two sided coin like many things in life. In this case, while it makes them feel like a traditional dress sock, it also means that as a TRAVEL dress sock, they might not be the best option. That's because cotton can take MUCH longer to dry if you need to wash it, or get stuck in a rain storm and soaked through, or hell, you just sweat buckets all day long (consider getting that looked at if so). This is something to consider while trying to find the best travel dress socks you can. Here's a shot with both a tan and a brown shoe.
The Ministry of Supply Atlas Dress Sock Review
For this test, same thing as above. In fact, I think I did a full six days for this pair, so I squeezed an extra day out of it.
The material used in this sock definitely makes it "feel" more like a performance dress sock. That's just the way it goes with non-cotton fabrics. You can typically tell based on the feel of the stretch or the "strength" of it. You can't really "stretch them out" in the same way you can with cotton. In that way it just feels different. Not a bad thing, but telling you like it is.
How'd they do with the patented Always Wander Smell test? Really well. I'd like to tell myself you can pick up a bit of coffee smell in them, but I'm sure that's just the effect of knowing it's there. Sort of like when you read a wine label or the server tells you what "hints" are in there and suddenly you can pick up the blueberry notes from a hidden lake in Maine. The way your brain works, you'd pick up a hint of Santa's underwear if they told you it was in there. So who knows, just what I seemed to find. After six days and another air-out, I probably could have kept going. But sensibility got the better of me, and I called it quits. There was a little bit of worn sock smell, but I wouldn't say they "smelled".
What I liked - the performance, the innovative fabric and eco-conscious company, and the high-performance fabric that will allow it to dry quicker if you need to wash them in your room or get rained on.
What I didn't like - in this case, the crew length. I prefer my dress socks to be full-calf. I always feel like crew length socks are going to fall down. (To be clear, these ones did not do that. It's just a mental feeling based on the length I get). So, I'd like to see an option where Ministry of Supply makes a calf-length version.
I want to at least note some other options out there. I'll be honest, I did not really find that many. For one, my favorite, Darn Tough, offers a crew length merino sock. At the time of testing, I didn't really like their options. They were only crew length, and were honestly kind of boring. I like a little flash in my dress socks! They can also still look a bit "hiking-y" if I'm honest. Which, again, you might dig. That's totally OK, just something to note and one reason I didn't go for them. Recently, they seem to have released a bunch of new designs, so maybe they realized the gap there. I might have to revisit - I'll report back in blog post once I've done that. Being merino and Darn Tough, you can be confident in their performance.
Another brand out there that offers "performance dress socks" is Tommy John. Tommy John makes, to be honest, some of the most comfortable under garments you'll ever try. I've sworn by their "Second Skin" undershirts for YEARS. Their Go Anywhere socks don't seem to offer anything "performance" other than being polyester. I'm sure there is a spin on the fabric they use, but for that reason I passed them by. I will say there is a chance that they are wicked comfortable, because that's TJ's jam. Their fabrics are SO soft. I used to have some of their boxer briefs too, years past. Take a look at these for yourself too, so you're not pigeon holing yourself on just my article.
Final Thoughts On The Best Travel Dress Socks
There it is. A subject that, I know trust me, is not that exciting. But, it's very practical and important when trying to wander as smartly as you can. The less you can pack, and the less you need to do laundry, makes your trip that much easier and you can worry about more important things. Like, which taco stand to eat at. That's much more important.
In terms of performance, I'd say both the Mack Weldon Silver treated socks and the Ministry of Supply Atlas socks did well. Was pretty much neck and neck for me in this. And that's a good thing. More choice is always better.
The deciding factor therefore will be more personal choice in the other bits I mentioned. Like a more traditional cotton feel and over the calf? Go with the Mack Weldon. Like more performance materials and quicker drying, but don't mind a crew length? The Ministry of Supply Atlas socks are the winners. The color ways will drive your choice, too, I'm sure.
For me, my pick is the Ministry of Supply Atlas sock. Hopefully in the future, they'll do a full-calf length version, but overall this is my pick as the best travel dress sock.
No matter what, adding something like performance/travel dress socks to your travel collection will help you in the long run to pack less, and ultimately be more comfortable on the road while you wander to and fro. Both can be bought directly from each company's website:
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