The Expert’s Guide To Caring For Underwear And Socks

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The Expert’s Guide To Caring For Underwear And Socks

Words by Ms Fedora Abu

5 February 2022

Your dry-cleaner is on speed dial, your year-old white leather sneakers are as box-fresh as when you bought them and you’d never dare step out the house without your trousers perfectly pressed. But what about your socks and underwear drawer? Well, that could belong to another person entirely. No judgement here, of course – in such hurried times, it’s forgivable to apply a little less care to what isn’t on show (at least in public). However, just as a splash of fragrance or touch of concealer is a sure-fire route to a quick boost of confidence, it’s far easier to feel properly put-together knowing your foundations are in order.

If you’re the type of guy who doesn’t hesitate to shell out three figures on a pair of TOM FORD boxers and buys cashmere knee-highs by the multipack, then it’s especially wise to learn how to keep those pieces in tip-top condition. Thankfully, we’re on hand with a simple, five-point guide to exactly that.

For added expertise, we’ve enlisted the help of CDLP founders Messrs Andreas Palm and Christian Larson, who craft silky soft sustainable undergarments from plant-based wonder fabric lyocell, and Mr Henrik Ossenbrink, the senior product manager of Falke Men, German-based purveyors of luxury “legwear”. Read on to discover their tips for turning the most chaotic corner of your wardrobe into a KonMari-approved point of pride.

01.

Machine wash (with caution)

If you’re someone who cares ­about – and truly cares for – your clothes, then navigating countless laundry labels can be time-consuming. You’ll be pleased to learn, then, that while other delicate garments might demand weekly trips to specialist dry-cleaners or Victorian-style scrubbing by hand, almost all makers of socks and underwear, even of those crafted from ultra-fine fabrics, advocate simple machine washing. Why? In essence, a washing machine is most effective at giving clothes a thorough clean – and this of course is a department where hygiene is paramount.

Still, there are a couple extra points to bear in mind. Just as washing like colours with like is one of the basic tenets of clothing care, Ossenbrink says that delicate fabrics such as silk, wool and cashmere ideally shouldn’t be mixed with “plain boil wash or coloureds”, as this can create added friction.

Likewise, Larson of CDLP suggests not allowing socks and underwear to languish for longer than a week in your laundry basket, where bacteria can flourish, and washing at a planet-friendly 30 degrees to extend their longevity.

02.

Make friends with a mesh bag

Like two hastily married movie stars, your fancy socks heading their separate ways is often inevitable. Fortunately, there is a quick, affordable and embarrassingly easy fix in the shape of a zippable mesh bag. Not only will this handy tool put a swift end to the disappearing act, it also stops long, stretchy socks from getting tangled, protects against elastic snagging and prevents delicate fibres from getting too worn out by hardier garments (if separating out by fabric is too much hassle).

Throwing in boxers and briefs is also advised – especially if they’re cut from something especially luxurious or feature any sort of embroidery. And for those made with nylon or any other synthetic materials, a dedicated guppy bag should catch any water-polluting microplastics before they make it out to sea.

03.

Dry the old-fashioned way

We’re well aware of the temptation to defer to the dryer with socks and underwear, seeing as they’re the items we run out of quickest, launder the most and tend to require in a pinch. Hold your nerve here, though. The tumble dryer, we’ll remind you, is the arch-nemesis of an elasticated waistband and the quickest way to wreck cashmere, silk or any other sumptuous fabric that you’ve paid good money for.

Instead, both Ossenbrink and the CDLP founders advocate good old-fashioned hang-drying, which makes garments (socks, briefs or otherwise) last longer and should slice your bills significantly.

04.

Whip out the iron (within reason)

Some may say we’re venturing into Patrick Bateman levels of neat-freakery here, but frankly anyone so invested in the appearance of their undergarments that they’re willing to iron them to a crisp is our kind of guy. Let’s be clear, though: ironing is less necessity, more final flourish. Still, if you’ve treated yourself to a pair of beautiful Lyocell boxers, then why not make sure they always look their just-out-the-box best?

“We are total nerds about wardrobe essentials and so we enjoy putting in that extra effort to reach perfection,” says Larson, who suggests turning brief-and-boxer-ironing into a relaxing Sunday morning ritual. “If you [are the same], then it’s best to opt for a low temperature – below 135ºC – because the elastic fibres are sensitive to heat.”

With silk boxers, such as those by the likes of TOM FORD, be sure to turn the iron all the way down – or, better yet, give them a swift once-over with a handheld steamer. However, Ossenbrink advises that socks, no matter how crumpled, are best left untouched.

05.

Fold and store smartly

Ever since Ms Marie Kondo introduced her game-changing, neo-spiritual organisation techniques to the world, we’ve not looked at the art of folding the same way. Her genius trick for socks? Lay them flat as a pair, fold them lengthways into thirds or quarters, and then stand them up vertically in boxes. According to the tidying pro, not only is this far more orderly and easier to navigate, but loosely folding rather than bundling them into a ball releases them from a “state of tension” and allows the elastic to rest.

Falke socks are thoroughly “stress-tested” and should withstand bundling, says Ossenbrink. “But I like to roll them up loosely [like] Marie Kondo and line them up so I can always see what I have and which socks are the perfect accessory for my outfit.”

Ultimately, the virtues of a visually appealing, well-organised underwear and sock drawer shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s the starting point for treating your purchases with the utmost care and respect, as well as the best way to keep stock of your inventory. “Organise them by colour and style, and fold them neatly,” says Palm. “Spend a moment appreciating [your underwear] before adding your next layers to start your day. I promise you’ll never look back.”

Illustration by Mr Pete Gamlen

Top drawer