If there's one trend I'm glad died over the past decade, it's the practice of peacocking through socks (pea-socking). The first half of the 2010s was plagued with an approach to socks that viewed no pattern or color as too obscene. I myself embraced the movement as a young, impressionable man who read pre-Will Welch era GQ.
Fortunately, this ostentatious display has been largely pared back, but it's still led to the continued survival of screen-printed graphics and brands like Stance, which has never seen a piece of intellectual property it didn't like. The moment I knew it had gone too far was when I was sent, unsolicited, a pair bearing Hillary Clinton's likeness back in 2016.
But just because socks have quieted down doesn't mean you can't indulge. The key is to focus on quality instead of novelty, with just a hint of character. If someone notices, cool; if not, the socks aren't the main draw to begin with. We've put together a list of pairs that fit the bill, from slight elevations of your standard white athletic sock to a pair of pure indulgence via cashmere.
Noah Two-Tone Stripe ($24)
Grownup streetwear darling Noah also does socks with its core logo, but the block letter "N" gives it a collegiate feel alongside stripes outside your standard offering of blue and red.
Kapital Smiley Cotton and Hemp Blend ($40)
The flourish on the heel remains hidden while wearing shoes, so no one but you will know about Kapital's signature smiley face. Keep the boost to yourself, and treat your feet to the thick blend of Japanese cotton and hemp.
Mannahatta 5 Colors Mix Crew ($27)
Also made in Japan are these Dippin' Dots-esque pair from the impeccable Lower East Side boutique Mannahatta. Like most apparel, all you really need to know is "Made in Japan."
Acne White Banana ($29)
Why a banana? Why not? This graphic is more fun than your standard athletic crew and it's small, subtle, and best of all, embroidered.
Gucci Off-White Knit ($120)
There's nothing subtle about anything that bears the name "Gucci," but this pair is less conspicuous than the all-over monogram print. It also proves that an anchor is a cheat code on just about anything.
Elder Statesmen Yosemite Ribbed Tube ($175)
If Gucci isn't enough of a splurge, Elder Statesmen applies its cashmere specialty to a pair of socks you'll never want to take off. Just be careful — they may be addiction-forming.
Wacko Maria White High Times Edition Skater ($40)
Never trust a person in Huf weed socks, the black Air Force 1 of its territory. But if you must display your devotion to the ganj, go with this High Times collaboration with Wacko Maria.
Anonymous Ism Tie Dye Cotton Crew ($28)
Yes, another Japanese brand. But this one specializes in socks, and this uneven tie-dye takes advantage of negative space to sit alongside the trend instead of fully running with it.