Contoured and durable fits, higher needle-counts and good-looking style hit the sock drawer.

Sock brands are tightening up designs for awesome contour fit and compression, as well as introducing styles that bring performance with personality. Thank runners and bikers who are demanding high-tech hosiery to accompany their hi-tech footwear. The thin and tight socks bump up feel and support during activity and are at the forefront of what today’s new sock-making machinery can churn out. Companies are excited about finer knits, yet also better durability that can hold up against abuse. We spoke with several leaders in the sock space to get the full rundown on the most up-to-date tech and consumer trends. Performance and Personality A trickle-down of a broader apparel trend, socks are experiencing crossover use. In everyday settings, like a walk to the park or playground, consumers reach for a pair of running or hiking socks that they love for their comfort and durability. “We designed the Hidden Comfort as a running sock, but once people get into the sock, they wear it for everything: tennis, golf, the gym, etc.,” said Tanya Pictor, vice president, marketing-specialty for Balega. The brand was one of the first to oppose thick, bulky sock design when it entered the market in 2003, she explained. At the same time, people want to show off their own style while also being comfortable, so it’s increasingly important for functional socks to integrate fun elements of fashion, and vice versa. “People want to show off their individual style. People are wearing cut-off jeans — like the boot-cut height — or are cupping them to show off individual style.” said Peter Kearns, performance merchandising director for Smartwool. “They want to show off their own subtle personality, which you see in a casual environment.” Breaking down the barrier of the technical look with fashion can also draw in customers that may not be solely attracted to a high-end performance sock. “Next year, we’re launching more products that are in the lower price point to capture average customers and have it appealing from a look standpoint, not just performance. Not everyone wants to wear knee-high socks,” said Michael Potter, North American Director of CEP. To help encourage the crossover sales, CEP will remove the word “compression” from the packaging, Potter explained: “The word ‘compression’ on the package pigeonholes the product. It’s a psychological thing. People might think the sock is too high-end, or think ‘I’m not injured,’ and then not buy the sock.”