If you think of socks as plain white covers for your feet, you obviously haven't been shopping lately. There are a number of types that can be divided by appearance, function, and construction materials, from lightweight dress versions appropriate for office wear to house socks which are designed to keep the toes warm and snug around the home. Many types can be found in department stores and specialty shops, and ambitious knitters can also make their own.
Some socks are designed for specific functions. Athletic socks, for example, are usually made from cotton or other materials which will wick moisture away from the foot, keeping feet dry during athletic activity. Many athletic designs are also snug, and designed to go just to the ankle, allowing circulation around the calf while wearing athletic shoes. Hiking socks are an example of a heavier construction which goes up the calf, designed to protect the foot during grueling hikes with thick layers of insulating material, while ski socks keep the feet warm, wick moisture away, and fit snugly inside ski boots for greater comfort. Athletic stores are usually a good source for these varieties in a range of styles.
Dress socks are designed for formal wear by men, with women usually wearing stockings or hose, although “trouser socks” for women are available. Dress sock designs are thin, and usually made from materials like silk, cashmere, or wool, with a subdued pattern and color which will coordinate with suits and dress shoes. House socks, made from thick, warm materials like terrycloth and fleece, are suitable for men and women, and they can be worn plain, or worn inside house slippers. Some can be microwaved or frozen to heat or cool the feet as needed.
Novelty socks include things like toe socks, with a special pocket for each toe, and bobby socks, children's socks that were especially popular in the 1940s. Socks can go to the ankle, calf, knee, or hip, and they may be patterned or plain, and made from silk, cotton, wool, nylon, hemp, and a variety of other materials. Most are knitted, to provide flexibility, but they can also be woven or crocheted.
Some people enjoy wearing novelty socks printed with colorful designs, ranging from dinosaurs to sushi. Adventurous wearers may sport novelty designs under staid work shoes and pants, while others may proudly display radiantly colored footwear in sandals or paired with shorts, skirts, and other garments which make the top of the sock more visible. Other novelty designs may have ornaments like bows or embroidery, with embroidered versions also being a part of some school uniforms.