OTC Recommends: Viccel Socks

I tend to get a lot of e-mails from vendors touting their products and advising me that they have the perfect whatever-it-is for the OTC reader.

While there are a number of brands that have earned the OTC seal of endorsement, far more than you will ever know never made it past my desk. When Kemal from Viccel Socks first contacted me I was not sure what to expect. And when a short while later and red celphane wrapped brick of socks arrived at my door, I was ready for anything. As it turns out their focus is not on packaging, it’s on making socks, and they make some damn good ones at that. (That being said, it wouldn’t hurt to spruce up your product presentation a bit.)

At first glance, Viccel socks do not possess the flair and lifestyle marketing qualities that attract attention; and that is its hidden advantage. Because Viccel makes some great dress socks, in fact some of the most comfortable I’ve worn. They were kind enough to send me a selection of mid-calf and over the calf socks and I’ve been testing them out for a few weeks.

One of Viccel’s big selling points is that, apart form a small amount of elastine in the ribbing at the top of the sock, they are 100% American mercerized pima cotton – absolutely no synthetics. this means that that socks breath much better than nylon-laced hosiery and naturally whisk moisture away from the foot. Even the elastine is separated from your skin as it is wrapped inside the cotton fibers.

Another hallmark of this Turkish company are the intensely vivid colors imparted by their Indantherene dyes, which is not affected by perspiration, meaning that under even the most rigorous use, these socks keep their original color. Indantherene dyes are also resistant to light, washing and chlorine. The bright red and pink socks they sent along will keep their colors for a long time – I just have to find the guts to wear them.

So, how did they do? Wonderfully. I especially like the over-the-calf socks and will definitely be getting more of those. The mid-calf length socks are just fine, though in my case they don’t stay up quite as well. I wear them, and certainly recommend them, but if it’s business socks you’re looking for, the over-the-calfs are outstanding.

Viccel has a special offer for Off The Cuff readers: a 20% discount off their already reasonable prices. Please use THIS LINK to ensure that you receive the OTC discount.

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New York-based British Apparel recently contacted OTC with the news that, along with its Italian partner Punto, they had developed the world’s first, 12-month, year-round cashmere socks. And, they are machine washable. Would I like to try out a couple of pair?

Of course I did; not only because I’ve wanted to check out cashmere socks ever since I sold them at $175 a pop for Ralph Lauren way back when, but also because I really wanted to see if they are in fact machine washable. One of the biggest pet peeves I have about these kinds of luxury items is the maintenance factor.

According to British Apparel’s press release, these new socks are, “Hailed The Coziest, Comfiest Socks Ever. British Apparel’s Revolutionary New ‘All-Season Cashmere Collection’ Snubs All Temps, Cuddles Feet In A Cocoon Of Pillow-Soft Cushioning Year-Round. Then, just toss ’em in the washer!”

Cashmere of course is the holy grail of cold weather style. Light and pliable yet warm and silky soft – the last few years have seen every company from Brooks Brothers to Costco hawking their cashmere goods.

Quality and durability wax and wane depending on the maker and some claims while impressive are a little impractical. Anyone who has worn a single- or double-ply cashmere sweater to the office can probably tell you that triple-ply is only needed during arctic expeditions.

But winter is still cashmere’s ideal clime and the idea of year-round cashmere socks intrigued me. According to BA, their Punto-made cashmere socks are “Mother Nature’s ultimate shock absorbers.”

With that impressive claim in mind, off I went to the daily commute. While I was no less tired at the end of my test week, I have to admit that my cashmere ensconced feet felt great. In fact, what struck me was that they felt so good I never really thought about those socks I was trying out. Not bad at all.

As great as cashmere is, cashmere socks have two well-known problems: one, their fame as winter’s one-trick pony, and second, their reputation as being frail and fragile – suitable only for hand washing.

Those two Achilles’ heels have apparently been resolved because I’ve shuttled my Punto socks from washer to dryer several times after days of use and they are just fine. Mind you, I followed the care instructions but I nonetheless pretty well beat them up.

What makes it work? Essentially, Punto’s new collection is a hi-tech blend of yarns that combine three hybrid versions of everyday yarns – cashmere, super-soft cotton and a smidgen of hi-performance nylon for stretch, elasticity and long-wear durability.
So, technically, they are not cashmere-only socks, no doubt leaving some purists appalled, but I have no problem with a little modern tinkering.

The collection’s 18 colors come in a dress weight and are available in the taller and dressier, over-the-calf silhouette as well as the shorter and sportier, mid-calf height. Retail prices for the socks will run in the range of $55 to $65, respectively.

To buy your own pair, please visit British Apparel’s website and online store.

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Summer Argyle

I have always tended to think of argyle as an Autumn thing.

To me at least, argyle’s fundamental overlapping diamond motif has a certain heavy warmth which reminds me of bundling up on crisp mornings to walk the dog. Maybe it’s the historic pattern’s Scottish heritage or its current prevalence in sweaters and thick socks, but it just makes me think “warmth.”

This is not a bad thing, just a stylistic association that I never much thought about. Then, a few weeks ago, my friends over at Smart Turnout, a favorite OTC brand, let me know that they were adding argyle socks to their already extensive and colorful lineup. A short while later a pair of the RAF argyles (shown above) arrived at my door.

I have generally tried to avoid touting lots of brands on OTC, mostly because I like what I like and have never tried to be shopping resource. I don’t want to have to run through 18 options for great khakis when I like Bill’s Khakis and that’s that. Like Bill’s and Smart Turnout, several keep popping up because they make excellent products that reflect OTC’s own brand and sense of style. With that in mind, my cold weather argyle philosophy went out the window once I pulled on these socks.

One of my beefs with argyle socks is that they always seem to feel a bit stiff and bulky. The weaving process often leaves the sock’s interior a tad bumpy and, to me, unappealing. These are smooth and seamless without any sense of bulk. I fact I’m wearing them right now and feel comfortably summery.

As a fan of regionally crafted goods, it’s also nice to hear that they are a truly English product – from the raw material to the hand finishing.

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