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Men — mysterious, often emotionally closed-off creatures who have difficulty both expressing needs and accepting kind gestures — are notoriously difficult to shop for. This difficulty only increases with familial distance. Father, husband or brother? You might have a decent shot at figuring out what they want. Cousin, uncle or brother-in-law? Good luck. Fortunately, after years of wondering, I’ve finally figured out what men really want. It’s socks. Darn Tough socks, to be specific.
How did I come across this elusive information? Why, from real, living men themselves — specifically, multiple ones in my own family who asked for Darn Tough socks for Christmas last year. I had never heard of Darn Tough, nor thought of socks as a particularly desirable gift, until nearly every man in our family group chat included Darn Tough socks in their Secret Santa wish list. At first I thought it had to be some kind of joke, before eventually deciding that every man in my family must just be super lame. What could possibly be so special about these damn socks?
As it turns out, however, people really do just like these socks.
If you don’t know what Darn Tough is — because I didn’t until every man in my family asked for them — it’s a Vermont-based company that specializes in making super durable, lifetime-guaranteed merino wool socks fit for all your sock-wearing needs. Think of them like the Sheertex of socks.
The men in my family are pretty outdoorsy, (unlike my city-dwelling self) so they tend to favor the brand’s hunting and hiking socks. But Darn Tough carries a diverse collection of different kinds of socks built for every sock-wearing occasion, from everyday and dress socks, to running and athletic socks, to work and tactical socks. By the way, they’re not just for men, either. Darn Tough also carries full lines for women and children.
To figure out what, indeed, is so special about these damn socks, I reached out to a few of the men in my own life who love them, as well as one woman, because ladies, too, enjoy a quality sock. Naturally, not a single one of them could resist replying “because they’re darn tough” when I asked why they like them so much, but once they got that out of their system, they actually had some legitimately helpful insight.
They’re warm, but adaptable
According to my cousin Jeff, a 30-something in Montana who does his fair share of hiking and hunting in extreme outdoor environments, Darn Tough socks “are the warmest and most comfortable socks,” ones that stay warm even in the most adverse conditions.
“Out here, the people I hunt with in the mountains all wear them in conditions at 10k feet in snow where the risk of losing toes is serious if you don’t have the right gear,” he says.
Moreover, made from “the best merino wool you can get,” these socks will stay warm when the going gets tough. “If your feet get wet, they will stay warm,” says Jeff. The same can’t be said of cotton or other common sock materials.
Even if you’re not hiking in the Montana wilderness, there are times when you need a warm, reliable sock. While tailgating outside for a late-season New England football game last weekend, for example, my sister’s boyfriend said he didn’t have any cold feet problems thanks to his Darn Tough socks. “They do a good job of wicking the sweat away so things don’t freeze.”
That said, these aren’t just cold-weather socks. According to Jeff, they’re “warm when you’re cold and cool when you’re hot, so they work in all conditions.”
They never smell
“They are mostly merino wool, which is a common hiking sock material,” says my sister. “It makes them never get stinky, they never get your feet sweaty, and they are great at regulating temperature. They are also comfortable. No rubbing, uncomfy seams, sagging, etc.”
Jeff confirms that the antimicrobial material means “they literally can’t smell. They always just smell like wool.”
They really are darn tough
I obviously had to make fun of them all for making this stupid joke, but by all accounts, the socks really do live up to their name. According to Darn Tough, the socks are “knit on small needle, fine gauge knitting machines,” an approach that produces “durable, high density stitching without bulk.”
Less bulk means a better fit, which also means the socks will last longer. They’re made from merino wool — “the good stuff” — and reinforced with nylon and lycra for added comfort, durability and fit. The brand also boasts an “unconditional” Lifetime Guarantee, which my sources tell me holds up.
“They are a popular, well-known hiking sock,” says my sister. “They fit the hiker aesthetic you see on fellow hikers and on Instagram.”
And even if you’re not one who really cares about “the hiker aesthetic,” a brand with a good reputation and loyal following is always a good sign.
Again, Darn Tough isn’t just for hiking and outdoorsmen. The brand carries a wide variety of socks for all occasions and activities, in various cuts, colors and patterns. I’ve included a few selections below, recommended by the Darn Tough enthusiasts you heard from above. This year, get the man (or woman or child) in your life what he really wants: socks.
Men’s Hiker Boot Midweight Hiking Sock
Light Hiker No-Show Lightweight Cushion Sock
Number 2 Micro Crew Cushion Sock
Zuni Coolmax Micro Crew Cushion Sock – Women’s
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