When Ed Moy worked at the White House as special assistant to George W. Bush for presidential personnel, he was known as a socks afficionado.
“Strong statement on those socks,” he recalls Bush telling him one day during a meeting in May 2001 as he was sporting one of his colorful pairs.
As a sock connoisseur, Moy may have been an exception back in the day (along with George H.W. Bush) – but in recent years he’s been joined by millions of American men who fancy a good pair of fun-looking socks.
The socks industry is now booming, driven mainly by men wanting trendier and more colorful dress socks rather than just a plain old utilitarian garment. The socks category has grown into a $5.6 billion industry as of the 12 months that ended August 31, outpacing growth in the overall $206.7 billion apparel market, according to a report by The NPD Group, a data company. The socks category grew 8 percent the year before and 5 percent in 2012.
While athletic socks were the hot spot for women in the past year, men are focusing more on dressy socks and using them as a fashion statement. On average men spend more for a pair of socks than women do.
“Transforming a traditional item into a trendy fashion piece is the movement that has penetrated menswear overall, from clothing to footwear and everything in between, including socks,” said Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, in the release. “Higher priced socks have become the new normal for men.”
He added, “Men are driving the growth in this category because over the past few years, socks have become yet another outlet for expressing the extra splash of pattern and color they seek.”
For beginners, Moy, who also headed the U.S. Mint, recommends purchasing several pairs in a few basic colors. “Socks can help you add some pizzazz in a conservative environment,” he told The Fiscal Times.
His favorite places to purchase socks include Jay Kos and Paul Stuart, although they tend to be expensive, he noted. Paul Stuart dot pattern cashmere blend socks sell for almost $60 a pair. A more affordable but just as fashionable option is to shop at specialized online store Dapper Classics.
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