Great question! The answer is, of course, it depends. When you are picking items of clothing, whether a tee shirt, a pair of high waisted yoga pants or a button-down shirt that goes from work to casual, one of the key indicators of which one is better, cotton or polyester, involves multiple factors. First, let’s review the basic features and benefits of each material.
Polyester is a manufactured fiber that is strong, resists shrinking & stretching. It is: Quick Drying ~ Abrasion Resistant ~ Resists Wrinkles ~ Durable ~ Lightweight ~ Strong ~
Cotton is a natural fiber that is typically grown as crops to be harvested. It is: Breathable ~ Hypoallergenic ~ Soft ~ Absorbent ~
Now having a basic idea of cotton vs polyester, think about who will be wearing the socks. This may be all you need to know to make this decision. If the person wearing them has any specific needs like intense activity where the quick drying feature is a must have because they tend to sweat a lot, then polyester might be the right choice. It may be, however, that the person who will be wearing the socks has allergies or sensitivities that limit what comes into contact with their skin. In that case cotton, being a natural fiber, is most likely a better choice.
People buy and wear socks for a variety of reasons. You may have to wear specific shoes to work and want what will keep you most comfortable all day. You may have been told you need to wear compression socks. It may be that you wear shoes and not wearing socks doesn’t work for you. Some people even wear them with sandals. It may be the weather and you want to keep your feet warm in below zero temperatures or cool on the hot, humid days of summer.
If you are looking for socks for everyday wear with casual shoes, cotton is soft and comfortable. A basic white cotton sock comes in a variety of lengths. There are over-the-calf cotton socks which are great with men's sweatpants for a night of binge-watching TV on the couch or getting some chores around the house done. There are cotton ankle socks or cotton no-show socks for wearing with shorts and sneakers.
Whatever you are doing, if you have to wear shoes and want to keep your feet from being too cold or too hot, and if you want durability, versatility and prefer natural fibers, cotton socks are a great way to go.
Polyester socks are a great choice if you need socks for activities that tend to generate sweaty feet and wet socks. When you are doing hard labor, exercising, running, hiking, playing ball, or out on the golf course, polyester socks are durable and strong and they resist abrasion as you pound the pavement or hit the links. They are lightweight and quick drying which can help keep you comfortable all day.
Keep in mind that sports, exercise and hard labor may not be the only reason you might get sweaty feet. Maybe you have a job interview or are making an important
presentation. The same properties that make polyester great active socks can benefit you in situations that may not be as arduous but can also cause excess sweating. You can keep your (feet) cool and avoid being distracted during those high stress times in polyester socks. As they wick away moisture they will prevent strong and unpleasant odors because no one wants to be worried about that while you are trying to land your dream job!
These are basic guidelines but there are other things to consider when deciding if cotton or polyester socks are better for you. First, 100% cotton socks are harder to find and more expensive. Cotton is a more expensive fabric than polyester and is something to be aware of if you are on a strict budget. If you are environmentally conscious as well, the organic cotton business is booming but also affects the price of products significantly.
Another option is to purchase socks with blended fabric. Both cotton socks and polyester socks are offered in a variety of fabric blends to offer more features and benefits. One example is cotton socks blended with nylon or spandex to help them maintain their shape. This is a common practice among all garment fabrics in order to offer the best that textiles have to offer in styles you will want to wear. Socks are also available in wool, cashmere, silk and bamboo and a variety of blends with those fabrics.
When choosing what types of socks to wear, once you have determined what you will wear them for and the specific features you are looking for in a particular pair, you will have an unlimited number of options beyond all cotton socks or all polyester socks.
Think about other things you wear, like your favorite tee shirt or blouse or the go-to knit dress you reach for again and again. If you like the look, feel, and performance of the fabric as you wear other items in your wardrobe, consider socks made of the same material.
Shop for socks at retailers where you trust the company to provide you with good quality, great fit, value and exemplary customer service. Your feet are an asset you want to protect and take care of with the best product to fit your needs.