Vertical stripes are strange. They can be thick and bold or pinstripe thin, or they can be just suggested by vertical bands of pattern. What they definitely are though, is striking. And sometimes difficult to find because of how they’re knit.

Years ago, Sock Dreams had the hardest time finding vertical stripe options and keeping them in stock (they were a vital part of the Steampunk look of the late 2000s), but now we’re rich with vertically striped socks and stockings and vertical striped tights to suit far more styles and tastes!

The Anatomy of a Knit Vertical Stripe

Striped socks are a staple, horizontal stripes, anyway. And top stripes too. It’s a lot easier, in the process of knitting, to create horizontal stripes. You’ve got to switch colours very regularly when you’re knitting if you’re making vertical stripes, which is a bit of a deterrent, even if you’re just a knitting machine and not a person—since a person still has to set up that knitting machine.

If you look inside a vertically striped sock, you can see the loose threads from where the yarn is swapped between colours. In this pair of Dreamer Vertical Striped OTK, the black yarn crosses over the coloured stripe. This makes sense when you look at the sock, since the pattern is (vertically): black/colour 1/black/colour 2/black, etc.

Split image showing the outside of a sock with a vertical stripe on the left and the same sock's inside on the right. The inside of the sock shows loose coloured threads on the sides of the stripe, with the black threads crossing over the stripe.

Those loose wisps of yarn have to go somewhere, in most of the Dreamer Sock vertical stripe styles it’s hidden by the opacity of the sock itself and worked into a distinct pattern on the sides of the stripes. On sheer stockings with opaque vertical stripes, however, you can’t hide those wisps.

Split image. On the left is a close shot of a sock alternating black vertical stripes with colours. Where the black and coloured stripes meet are almost tiny chevrons, which are individual knit stitches. On the right are sheer beige stockings topped with a black satin bow. The opaque black pinstripes on them have loose fuzzies you can see through the sheer space between them.

Don’t worry though. It may look messy up close, but once you step back, you can’t see anything but dramatically striped legs!

Types of Vertical Stripes

There are a lot of words for different types of stripes, but it’s always interesting applying woven fabric pattern terminology over to knit goods like socks. And you throw surface design language in there and there’s almost a word for every stripe width: pinstripe, hairline, chalk, pencil, candy, Regency, awning! Of course, there’s variation and contention between the definitions of all those as well.

When it comes to legwear though, vertical stripes tend to fall into three categories: pinstripes, wide stripes and pattern stripes.

Pinstripes

The most basic definition of pinstripes is that they’re widely spaced and very thin (often 1/30th of an inch!) and created by a single warp yarn. Knit stuff doesn’t have warp yarns though, and a lot of legwear pinstripes are printed, so the definition becomes flexible.

Split image showing two types of pinstriped socks. On the left are grey over the knee socks, with black pinstripes. The space between them alternates between a little over a half inch and an inch, making a visual groupings of two very thin stripes. On the right are black thigh high stockings with grey printed pinstripes.

Things like the Cotton Inklined Knee Socks, with uneven but wide spacing between thin stripes; or the Pinstriped Thigh High, with printed stripes, are both examples of pinstriped socks, even if they don’t meet the exact definitions of the pattern on woven fabric.

Wide Vertical Stripes

Now these stripes, they do what they say on the tin. They’re wide and they stripe.

Two images side by side. On the left, a model shot from above from the thighs down, wearing baclk thigh highs with vertical rainbow stripes, with the cool spectrum on one leg and the cool spectrum on the other. On the right, a model shot turning to the side, wearing sheer thigh highs with opaque black vertical stripes.

On left:Dreamer Nocturnal Rainbows
On right: Sheer & Opaque Vertical Stripe Stockings

The only variation in wide stripes is how wide they stripe and what they’re striping—far more “sheer & opaque” vertical stripes are wide than medium or narrow.

Pattern Stripes

And then there’s “vertically striped pattern.” It’s pretty common in openwork and net styles, since the stripes are easily created with the pattern of the knit itself, instead of yarn colours.

Split image showing two examples of vertical openwork pattern, both are close shots to show detail. On the left are black thigh highs with a wide lace cuff. Their pattern is lacy vertical stripes separated by thin threads. On the right are white knee highs with a wide cuff, alternating wide bands of open floral knit lace with thin vertical stripes that alternate between tight and loose.

From left to right: Lurex Cable Net Thigh Highs with Stay-Up Lace Top, Nordic Trouser Socks

As for the rest? They take a pattern and run it vertically down a sock, instead of around, or they have a primary design element that’s vertical. It’s often bold and just visually fun, since so much knitting goes around instead of up and down.

Split image showing three examples of socks with vertical patterns. On the left is a red anklet with dark yellow vertical floral motifs and thin vertical stripes alternating. In the center are knee highs that are primarily black but have a Swedish traditional-inspired vertical pattern of purple and teal, with black hearts. On the right are green midcalf socks shown from the back, so you can see the wide yellow vertical stripe down the back, flanked by two shorter white stripes.

On left: Cecilia Crew
Center: Mackenzie Knee High
On right: Dreamer Team Spirit Sock

Of course, there are also tonnes of socks that take all three of those things and mash them together into glorious mixed of all the variations. Striping two colours of yarn, but also in openwork? Super normal. Vertical pattern stripes on one part of the sock and pinstripes on the other? Been done a bunch.

Not that it matters, because vertical stripes will always be striking, in whatever form they take.