Jul 28, 2017

THE FAIRER SOCKS

  • Socks when no-one cared about socks
  • The UCI's view on sock length
  • Jacques Anquetil and his stylish shorties
  • Bradley Wiggins goes long
  • ...and the he goes short.
  • Chapeau! socks
  • Suitable for the bike and the café
  • Stylishly fill up your water bottle

Socks used in competition must not extend above the middle of the leg. Ankle socks are also allowed unlike long socks.

These are the words of the UCI, the governing body of professional cyclists. So that’s clear then, no need for further discussion — socks can be any length from ankle all the way up to half way up the calf. End of story.

Ah, but if only that were true. Socks are just the latest in a series of topics for us cyclists to argue about. From the complete consternation when a triathlete abandons the very idea of socks to the embarrassment of pairing black socks with white shoes, cyclists aren’t so much divided as diced on the subject.

Socks used in competition must not extend above the middle of the leg. Ankle socks are also allowed unlike long socks.

These opinions on taste and style can often be traced back in history, taking style cues from the greats of cycling past. We can take guidance on cap luft from De Vlaemink and sunglasses tips from Coppi but who do we take sock length advice from? Surely a cursory glance at some old photos will tell us the ideal sock length. If we’re sticking to the rule that ‘it was always better in the old days’, then this is a clear cut case.

Drum roll please. The answer is 7.5cm and white. In other words a cuff sitting cleanly above the ankle. Search for a photo of Jacques Anquetil and that’s what he has on, same with Merckx, Hinault, anyone you care to test. Steve Cummings carries that baton today. The style kings of history say short, so the answer is short, right? If only it was that simple. We can’t only look to the past, if we did we’d all be wearing wool jerseys and drinking brandy on the club ride.

So what’s next, well let’s look to science — can that provide the answer? Is there some aerodynamic or physiological benefit to sock length, specifically a long sock? The UCI are clear on this matter too; “It is forbidden to wear items designed to influence the performances of a rider such as reducing air resistance or modifying the body of the rider (compression, stretching, support)”. So in other words, no long compression socks or, in lots of cases, no shoe covers unless for weather protection.

Bradley Wiggins is a keen exponent of scientific marginal gains so he should know his stuff. Wiggo wore socks with 15cm cuffs for his 2015 hour record, an attempt where every little detail was considered, so surely long socks equals fast legs. But the same man wore no socks at all when winning his 8th Olympic gold in 2016. Come on, Brad. Give us a chance!

History can’t help, science isn’t definite so why does length matter so much? Well, perhaps it doesn’t. From our own experience and speaking to other sock manufacturers we found a definite trend towards the longer sock, but perhaps trend is the word. From our point of view we have our own personal preferences but what’s more important to us is how the sock looks. Colour choice, pattern options and how well it complements our kit are far more important factors than length.

We asked a few cyclist friends for their opinions and got the following replies — 

“It's a pair of socks. F***ing get over it.”

“The next time you hear some wannabe jaffing on about ‘pro sock length’, show them Steve Cummings’ shorties”

“If you get confused for a triathlete, you're doing it wrong”

“12cm cuff gives the best ratio of sock / leg / shorts. That or bust.”

“So long as you're wearing some, that's enough.”

“The longer the sock, the more pattern.”

“I couldn't care less. I think I have anything from 4cm to 9cm. Who knows.”

“I don’t know what the optimal length is —
but I can just feel when they're too short or too long”

“I can’t speak to anybody wearing really short socks”

Not quite a broad spread of views, but the love for long socks is definitely not universal. Taking into account history, science and the style choices of the icons we respect the only conclusion we can make is; it's up to you. A pair of socks is another way to show your personality, to complement your kit in whatever way suits you. Riots of colour and pattern or pared down blocks of white or black, the choices are endless. They keep your feet warm and stop you sweating into your insole. You can make puppets out of old ones, or pin cushions for your mum's birthday. Don't let anyone tell you what length to wear, the rules will change again and again anyway.

We're yet to be convinced on sockless, so in the meantime — fill your boots with our selection of footwear.

FILL YOU BOOTS WITH CHAPEAU SOCKS