Sock Wars: It’s True, Gen Z Hates Your Socks

Written By Erica Prush on June 3, 2024

Summer is officially underway, and with it comes the natural host of questions: Where will I be going on vacation to enjoy the sun? What will I wear while on the beach? And, for the love of it, should I show my ankles or not?

Okay – while we aren’t all focused on how on fleek our ankles are while enjoying summer, it’s a fact that the debate whether to sock or not to sock is in full swing. Crew socks with slides? Totally toes-out? No-shows with thong sandals? (It happens, trust us.)

We’re delving into sock fashion preferences across the nation, exploring state preferences, the generational divide, and Gen Z’s recent disdain for ankle socks (who knew?) to figure out just what this summer’s sole success will mean.

Key Takeaways

  • Crew socks absolutely dominate in states like California, New York, and Texas.
  • Millennials love no-show socks, while Gen Z favors crew socks.
  • No-show socks are seen as out of fashion by 44% of Millennials and 68% of Gen Z.
  • 65% of Gen Z feel pressured to stop wearing no-show socks.
  • 64% of Millennials approve of open-toed shoes, but only 43% of Gen Z do.

State-by-State Sock Preferences: Who Wears What?

Make no mistake: America’s sock preferences reveal more than just fashion choices – they offer a window into the quirks and characteristics of different generations. After all, the type of socks people wear can tell us a lot about tastes, lifestyles, and even societal style pressures. So who wears what on their tootsies in each state?

The No-Show Bunch

If you can’t see them, they aren’t real! Tell that to no-show socks. They have quite a following across the country, particularly in a host of warmer states (not shocking): Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and Oklahoma (among others).

These minimalistic socks are perfect for those who prefer a sleek look that provides comfort without compromising style, especially in climates where socks constantly rubbing on calves in the heat sounds terrifying. The downfall? When they creep below your heels and bunch under your arches.

The Ankle Advocates

Ankle socks have their own loyal fan base in states like Delaware, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Wyoming, where the weather is often unpredictable and can bounce from one end of the spectrum to the other. They strike a balance between visibility and subtlety, offering enough coverage and comfort while still being discreet enough for multiple shoe styles.

The Crew: An American Classic

Crew socks are, bar none, the most popular choice across America, covering a diverse array of weather regions from the California heat to the North Dakota cold. On the long list of other states that prefer these classic, half-coverage socks are Arizona, Illinois, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

This classic style provides comfort and versatility – we all love a good cuff roll when needed, right? — making it a staple in millions of wardrobes for all seasons, most styles, and many types of people. Slides, sneakers, that dress-casual work event: crew socks have you covered.

Knee-High Curiosity

While not surprising they’re at the bottom of the favorites list, it says something that New Hampshire stands out as the lone state where knee-high socks are the most popular. Perhaps it’s the chilly New England winters or wanting to embody a distinctive, vintage look, but knee-high socks have found their niche there.

Generational Sock Showdown

Now, let’s sock hop across the last several generations and see how preferences shift across different age groups.

Not shockingly, Baby Boomers tend to favor dress or boot socks. This choice definitely highlights their formal fashion sensibilities (get it, 1964!) and the practicality of wearing one type of durable socks. Plus, showing off your calves back then in certain places? Forget about it!

Gen X prefers ankle socks, a choice that aligns with their reputation for a no-fuss approach to fashion. Ankle socks are versatile and functional, fitting seamlessly into the busy, nonchalant lifestyle of this hippie-esque generation. And millennials? They’ve got a strong preference for no-show socks, preferring a clean, polished look where the “sock peek” is not part of any worthwhile fashion sense This trend also mirrors a love for comfy sneakers and casual footwear.

The newest generation to influence fashion trends, Gen Z, favors crew socks – but are you surprised? This style’s resurgence among young people is no doubt because of the growing popularity of loungewear as streetwear and an emphasis on retro aesthetics. Crew socks offer both ease and boldness, aligning perfectly with Gen Z’s eclectic, quirky style.

Foot Fashion: A Collision of Preference

When it comes to what’s considered out of fashion, a significant 44% of millennials think no-show socks are a no-go, and a solid 68% of crew-sock-loving Gen Z’ers agree. Add a few inches and make them ankle socks, and a respective 23% and 59% believe they are, still, just not “in” any longer. Who knew feet could be in control of what’s cool and what’s not?

And open-toed footwear? They’re seen as a big thanks-but-no-thanks by 29% of millennials, but by a hefty 53% of Gen Z, showcasing a clear generational divide when determining whether toes are cute. And the belief about wearing them in public (as if you’d only wear them around your house?) makes the separation clearer, with 64% of millennials okay with it and only 43% of Gen Z’ers in agreement.

Social pressure – that’s right – also plays a role in how we display our feet. While nearly all other generations are a mixed bag dependent on state, over half of all surveyed Gen Z’ers think no-shows, ankles, and knee-high socks are inferior to the almighty crew. With the rise of character and brand socks being an integral part of this generation’s fashion impulses, it makes sense to have a bit more cotton-poly-spandex blend to work with.

One Style Does Not Fit All

Whether you’re a no-show sock aficionado in Alabama, an ankle sock fiend in Wyoming, or part of the Gen Z crowd stepping into Golden Girls crews, it’s certain that socks are a small yet mighty part of our culture’s overarching personal style (even if you’re still rockin’ the knee-highs under a skirt).

So, the next time you grab a hastily-balled pair of socks out of your drawer, don’t forget to ask yourself: will these help me look my most fashionable? If not, wear them anyway. It’s working for Gen Z.


This survey was completed in May 2024 among a survey pool of 2,000 Americans with a median age of 34, with 57% of respondents identifying as women, 40% as male, and 3% as non-binary.

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Written by
Erica Prush

Erica is a Content Strategist with over 5 years of experience in marketing, media, and public relations. She has worked with top brands such as United Way, Staples, and Forbes Advisor, and her work has been featured in major publications including The Washington Post, Business Insider, and Psychology Today. She holds a degree in English from Binghamton University.

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