Why do Premier League players cut holes in their socks?

When you’re playing elite sports, every margin you can grab could be the difference between success and failure. The lines are so fine. How has this led to millionaire football players wearing socks with holes cut in the back? Socks their grandparents would be ashamed to see them wearing? The answer is more straightforward than you might think.

Why do Premier League players cut holes in their socks? Some Premier League football players will cut holes in the back of their socks ahead of the game. It can look unsightly, but they do it to relieve pressure on their calf muscles, increase blood flow and reduce the risk of cramping up during the game. Professional players wear a brand new pair of socks for each match and the material, nylon, a tight plastic material can initially be tight and restrictive.

How long have Soccer Players been cutting holes in their socks? Is there any scientific merit to it? What do Premier League kit men think? Why don’t they just design football socks with holes in them already?

When did football players start cutting holes in their socks?

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal, Premier League) and Jude Bellingham (Dortmund, Bundesliga) came to prominence for having holes in the back of their socks during the Qatar World Cup in 2022. They were far from the first players to follow the practice. Cutting holes in football socks gained particular attention in the 2018/2019 season when Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were frequently spotted with their socks pockmarked by holes. They had been team mates at Tottenham a couple of years before, so may have started the practice even earlier.

In November 2017, then,Valencia player Ezequiel Garay was asked to leave the field of play to  change his socks by the referee after he deemed his hole-strewn pair to be against the La Liga sporting dress code.

Are players allowed to cut holes in their socks?

As professional football players will never wear the same pair of match socks twice, there is no kit based reason why they can’t cut holes in them. (Having managed, coached and captained many amateur sports teams in my time, I wouldn’t suggest trying it for your rec league team though!)

Roma manager Jose Mourinho lashed out on Instagram about the growing trend, imploring the powers that be to take action and ensure we had “beautiful socks for the beautiful game”.

However, the official Laws of the Game don’t currently have an opinion on it.

‘Socks’ are listed among the basic compulsory equipment for every player, along with a jersey or shirt; shorts or tracksuit trousers; shin guards, and footwear.

The referee has the power to ask a player to leave the playing area to correct his equipment if there are any infringements of this law, but the laws of the game do not specify what state of repair any equipment has to be in.

Sorry Jose.

Is there any science behind cutting holes in football socks?

Why don’t football players wear performance compression socks during matches?

Compression socks have a graduated compression, giving more pressure at the bottom of the leg than higher up. For best performance they should be supplied to fit the measurements of each wearer’s leg, so they can help enhance blood flow during exercise, reducing fatigue and aiding recovery. If they are not graduated properly they can have the opposite effect.

The science from this can be applied to football socks. In football, things like compression socks (popular in running and other endurance sports) aren’t used frequently, or at all during the game. The socks supplied for players to wear with their match day kit are regular nylon tube socks. These will by nature be tighter around the calf muscle and create the opposite effect of a compression sock.

So there is some basic science that may support the cutting of holes in football socks. Whether the nylon socks are tight enough to affect performance, or if cutting holes in them prevents this, is something that i’m sure sports science types and sports apparel designers are working on as I type.

Why do Premier League players cut their socks in half?

Before players started cutting holes in the back of their socks, many were already cutting them in half and wearing two different pairs of socks, with the joint masked by sock tape. This isn’t so much of a fad as a practical solution. Football players cut the bottom off of the team socks and wear different sports socks, designed to grip the inside of the football boot on their feet. Placing the top of the team sock, higher up the leg, so as to match the rest of the team. The join between the two socks is then masked with Football Sock Tape.

The theory behind this is to replace slippy team socks with better fitting socks with more traction on the inside of the boot. Giving players better grip as they cut and turn on the field.

For some reason a lot of pro players wear white grip socks, when their team socks are not the same color. This has created a bit of an iconic look, however, players at lower levels may fal foul of a sharp eyed ref. Also, don’t cut your team socks that you have to hand back in after the match, the person in charge of the kit is not going to thank you.

Why don’t NIke and Adidas just supply football socks with holes in them already?

This is a great question and I’m sure one that the product designers that supply Premier League teams are already working on. I’m sure everyone would be happier if professional players had a product purpose built to reduce fatigue and aid recovery, rather than just having the players cut them up ad hoc with scissors before a game.

I’m sure soccer parents across the globe would thank them for getting rid of the trend as well!


Life long Portsmouth Fan and have followed football since 1993. Is there a better sport on earth?

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