Over the holidays I was gifted some wool socks and tights, and I thought it might be useful to review them. Wool is of course an essential part of winter cycling apparel, but there is something so nice about fluffy socks even beyond their practical applications. At least for me, wool socks might just be the "comfort food" of clothing.
So here is what I got:
. merino tights in black from J. Crew,
. cashmere blend leggings in charcoal from Victoria's Secret,
. cashmere blend over-the-knee socks in olive from Sock Dreams,
. merino over-the-knee socks in charcoal from American Essentials,
. merino mid-calf socks in black and white from J. Crew.
In terms of warmth, all of these have stood the test of winter temperatures so far. Keep in mind though, that the colder it is and the less active your feet are, the more layers you need to wear. We were doing a photo-shoot in the snow a couple of days ago, and after 1 hour my feet began to freeze in my boots even though I was wearing both a pair of wool tights and a pair of wool socks over them. For cycling, I have found just one layer plus boots to be sufficient so far, but your experience may vary.
While all the tights and socks I got did a good job at retaining warmth, they varied dramatically in sizing and quality. In terms of sizing, be aware that the Victoria's Secret cashmere blend leggings run a bit large, while the J. Crew wool tights run very small. I have long legs, so I typically wear M/L tights. These J. Crew tights were a "Large" and they are too small on me. I can wear them, but the fit is off and the wool is a bit overstretched in the leg area. If their largest size is too small on me, who the heck were these designed for?.. The Victoria's Secret leggings I got in size S, but these things are huge and XS would have been a better fit. All the other socks were true to size. I should add that both the Sock Dreams and the American Essentials over-the knee socks stay up pretty well, compared to others I have worn.
In terms of quality, I am dismayed to report that the J. Crew tights and socks underperformed all the others. The tights tore at the back seam while I was pulling them on for the first time. I examined the tear and it appears to be a result of faulty stitching. Easy enough to sew up, but does not inspire confidence in their quality. As for the J. Crew socks, they pilled and "fuzzed up" horribly after the very first time I wore them, which was disappointing. The other socks have held up fine so far. I wonder whether the "fuzzing" has to do with the quality of wool, the type of wool, the processing, or some other factor?
Wool tights, socks, leggings and legwarmers are absolutely great in the winter and can be worn in different combinations to keep you warm during different degrees of cold. All the items reviewd here are extremely affordable, and I would recommend them all except for J. Crew. Sock Dreams in particular seems to be a good source as they sell socks in different lengths, as well as leggings and legwarmers, at reasonable prices. If you have a favourite wool sock supplier, please do chime in. We could all use more "comfort food" for the feet!