What are Argyle Socks?

Knitting Argyle requires mastering intarsia techniques.
Knitting Argyle requires mastering intarsia techniques.

Socks of all types protect your foot from blisters, keep your feet warm and dry, and allow you to express your special fashion sense. The word appears to come from the Latin, soccus, a term for a soft shoe worn by comic actors during the Roman Empire. Since then, socks have become everyday garments. Socks today come in hundreds of colors, fabrics, styles and patterns-from the most casual to the most dressy. Argyle socks fall into the casual category. Argyle socks have diamond shapes that run up the outer side, or sometimes just around the cuff; most argyle socks are multi-colored, ranging from muted to the most riotous color combinations.

Socks protect feet from blisters.
Socks protect feet from blisters.

Argyle socks first became popular with the masses in the U.S. in 1949 when the president of Brooks Brothers, John Clark Wood, brought them to the states for a new casual look. He became aware of the sock pattern when he saw them on a golfer during a golf tournament he attended in Scotland. As the story goes, argyle patterns were first formed when Scots clansmen cut their traditional tartan plaids on the bias for use as foot coverings, thus creating the unique diamond pattern on the side of the sock.

Knitting patterns for argyle socks became popular, and they remain so, but most people these days purchase their socks of any pattern through retail outlets. With the advent of commercial knitting machines, knitting socks fell out of favor except with those hobbyists who still enjoy the challenge of the complex argyle pattern.

Argyle patterns on socks, and other clothing items such as sweaters and vests, go in and out of vogue through the years. Argyle socks have long been associated with duffers - the classic golfing outfit that comes to mind is a cap, golf shirt, knit vest, knickers, and of course - argyle socks.

There is some discussion among historians of clothing as to where argyle socks originated exactly. While many fashion scholars attribute the argyle pattern to people living in the county of Argyll, or Argyllshire, in west central Scotland, still others belie that conclusion because of the difference in spelling. Regardless of the exact location, most all fashionistas agree that argyle socks were first worn in Scotland - and that argyle socks will continue to be popular casual accessories for years to come.

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Discussion Comments


I always wondered where the pattern on mens argyle socks came from -- if you actually sit down and think about it, it's really quite an odd pattern.

Now that I know though, I can totally see the Scottish influence. I am so glad I know this now -- this site is fantastic for my repertoire of party conversation starters.


Did you know it's actually not that hard to knit argyle socks. I know, everybody's aunt has that really crazy over the calf wool argyle sock pattern with eight colors and four needles required just for the heel, but there really are decent patterns out there for real people too.

In fact, you can even get yarn that is dyed according to a computer generated pattern that automatically appears in the argyle pattern when you knit it! The computer figures out the gauge and where the color should change, and then they dye the yarn accordingly.

It's a great short-cut if you're in a hurry but still need something impressive looking, and it's also a great project for beginning sock makers.

Almost any knitting store will have that kind of yarn, or a pattern for you traditionalists who want to do it the hard way.

And then you can get the satisfaction of knowing that your argyle dress socks are much, much better and personal than those of anybody around you -- just keep your knitter's pride to yourself, "outsiders" find it hurtful (just kidding!)


While I love a good argyle sock for men, I think that the cutesy female versions are a bit silly. I mean, honestly, pink argyle socks? As cute and all as they are (I suppose), I think it looks almost like a costume.

I've got nothing against womens argyle socks in general, but I just don't like the novelty ones. Besides looking silly (I think), they always look a bit cheap to me.

That's just my opinion though...

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    • Knitting Argyle requires mastering intarsia techniques.
      By: apelavi
      Knitting Argyle requires mastering intarsia techniques.
    • Socks protect feet from blisters.
      By: roblan
      Socks protect feet from blisters.