Men's Fashion Socks Drive Billions In Sock Sales

Socks are "making a move from commodity to fashion piece," says market research group NPD Group. The foot garments now represent a $5.6 billion industry.

The big boom in men's fashion is happening in socks, according to market research firm NPD Group.

Sock sales grew by 2% into a $5.6 billion industry in the 12 months ending August 2014, outpacing growth in the $206.7 billion global apparel market, the firm said in a statement today. Men drove the trend, as "over the past year years, socks have become yet another outlet for expressing the extra splash of pattern and color they seek," said chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen.

Socks have become a way for men to express themselves in recent years though they might not yet be the "new 'necktie,'" as NPD suggested. The trend has given rise to multiple sock subscription services such as Foot Cardigan and Sock Panda, and Nordstrom sells socks that cost as much as $80 a pair. (That's for Alexander McQueen creations.) Retailers like J. Crew sell many of its men's socks for $14.50 to $35 a pair.

About 73% of men wear socks almost every day, versus 41% of women, NPD says. Men also tend to spend more on socks.

This represents a missed opportunity for the retail industry, Cohen says.

"Retailers and manufacturers should find ways to reinvigorate this category for women by setting a new fashion statement, one that treats socks as an accessory, something special, and not a basic commodity," he said. "If women will wear shorts with tights in colder weather and boots during warmer seasons, they will find more room for socks in their wardrobes."