For socks that stay up a bit better, or have a thicker feel, we turn to ribbed socks. Ribbing is made by alternating knit stitches with purl stitches, in different proportions depending on what effect is desired.

Unlike flat knit socks (think t-shirt style material, or any smooth knit sock), ribs offer a lot of visual variance and a different kind of fit, thanks to the different combinations of knit and purl stitches that can be used.

Types of ribbing

I’m no knitter, so I know there are lots of variables to ribbing that I’m going to miss. But I also know most folks aren’t knitters either, so let’s look at the ultimate basics of what ribbing is together. Alternating knit stitches and purl stitches creates a fabric that looks more or less the same on the inside as it does the outside!

On the left: Bastia Comfort Top Crew
On the right: Ribbed Knit Leg Warmers

This combo of stitches is what helps name the ribbing. You see simple 1x1 ribs (meaning the pattern is one knit stitch then one purl stitch and repeat!) on most cuffs and broader proportions (say four knit stitches then three purl stitches and repeat!) on thick sweater socks. Each has its own great use and benefits in fit and looks.

1x1 ribs and 2x2 ribs

Probably some of the most seen ribs, these skinny pals are a key component of most cuffs, and their tiny texture adds a little extra stretch and grip where you need it: at the top! The 2x2 ribbing of the Bastia Comfort Top Crew, with the gentle elastic top, is a great example:

Without a cuff, these socks wouldn’t be much different than our Roll Top Crews. But with the ribbing, they’re far more prone to stay where you want ‘em!

How cuffs work and what kinds of cuffs are out there is a whole other dip into the wild world of knitting, but it should suffice to say that ribbed cuffs are the most common by far—because they work!

Wide Ribbed Socks

Big, thick ribbing is a strong signifier for sweater socks. It also seems to generate thicker, snugglier fabric, but I’m not a knitter so I can only give my subjective views on that. I don’t know how wide ribbed stuff feels all snuggly and warm, but it does. It’s knit science, I’m sure.

Anyway, the Super-Long Ribbed Leg Warmers and Ribbed Knit Leg Warmers look like they have a 3x3 rib pattern knit in a thicker yarn, for big, flat, wide ribbing that scrunches beautifully (but doesn’t have quite the hold-up of other combos).

Socks with wide ribbing (either because of yarn or rib size) offer some of the best scrunch and slouch, and some serious stretch!

False Ribbing

Now, you’ll have to promise not to tell anyone, but the Cotton Slouch Socks and the Ribbed M Stockings? They’re not actually ribbed! Their distinctive texture, with thick ribs running from ankles to tops, is actually a kind of mock ribbing.

See, when you look at the back of the either, you don’t see the inverse of stitches the way you do with true ribbed fabric. Technically, they’re not ribbed!

But, mock ribbing is, honestly and to most people, ribbing. It even does the same stuff, offering stretch and texture for a better fit. If we were going to split hairs about pedantic descriptions, instead of trying to make socks easier to browse and understand, we wouldn’t have some crew socks in the midcalf socks category, just because of how they’re named.

And we’d be side-eyeing the folks who’ve found our site via “waist high socks” a little harder (they’re called tights, y’all).

Why ribbed socks rock

Whatever combinations are used, the result is a stretchy fabric that is better at following the curves of your legs, thanks to ribbing’s tendency to keep those knit stitches snug together unless stretched. The delightfully expansive nature of ribs means that ribbed socks will follow the narrower curves of your ankles while comfortably across the broader areas of the leg, like the thigh, unlike flat knit socks, which can often be looser at the ankle unless they have a lot of built-in stretch (like our Extraordinaries!). The M Stripes (on the left, below) and the Striped Knees (on the right) are good examples of the loose ankle flat knit problem.

Since the stretch of the ribs follows the shape of your leg, thicker ribbed socks can be champs at staying up, even on slip-prone legs! We particularly love our (mock-ribbed) M45s and Ribbed M Stockings for this.

Even 1x1 mock ribbing can offer a little more stay up and stretch, our Americana Thigh Highs are a great testament to that!

And it’s not just thigh highs that benefit from the stay-up-ability of ribbing! When you think of your basic, department store socks, a lot of times what you’re picturing are ribbed midcalves. That ribbing is what helps keep such a short sock (that ends, honestly, in a weird spot on the leg) up!

Stance knows this, which is why so many of their styles have a ribbed body of the sock (both mock and real ribs!). That’s Stance’s whole game—taking the basic, tried-and-true sock forms and injecting major style and comfort into them.

On left: Salty Midcalf (true ribs)
On right: Indicator Midcalf (mock ribs)

There are lots of variations and lots of benefits to ribbed socks, and just as many possible interpretations of the style! If you’re looking for socks with a better fit, that are better at staying up, or have that sweet and snuggly sweater style, then ribbed socks are right up your alley!