As gentlemen, we adhere to a basic uniform. And why shouldn't we? Our adolescence is inundated with uniformed institutions: prep school, team sports, part time jobs, church. It's only a matter of time before we push against those very foundations erected to mold us into men. While some act out in the face of authority figures, on fellow classmates, or by skipping class altogether, others opt for a more passive aggressive rebellion—that of the sartorial kind. They toy with the details of the very uniform itself, such as the frivolous sock—ditching them entirely.
Function should illuminate form. The longevity of the men's uniform hinges on this very principle. Losing your socks isn't as much a betrayal of this precept as one might think. Come the cool of autumn, it's your ankles that actually keep you cool amid the umpteen layers of wool, cotton, and cashmere preppies run around in. On a commission last fall to photograph Alan Flusser, he mused I was the best dressed photographer he had ever met. "You should wear some socks though," he admonished. I listened. After all, the man wrote the book on style...several of them actually. I ducked into Brooks Brothers that very day and walked out in a pair. My implicit compliance lasted all of one day.
With pants, socks come off as deliberately thoughtful. And while colorful, offbeat socks non-verbally communicate its wearer doesn’t take himself too seriously, they should never be confused for a go-to-hell disposition. Just as there is no go-to-hell shirt, so too for the sock. Bare ankles firmly whisper, "I don’t give a damn." And that statement is all the more punctuated with pants that look like you outgrew them last year.
"Socks, wear them only to weddings...and then, well only if it’s your own.”
—Rand, Making the Grade (1984)
There’s a nonchalance about it—a passive rebellion to the uniform you’ve graduated to for the office, weddings, black tie affairs, Sunday best, et al. The more formal the occasion the more blatant the indifference. Ankles are the go-to-hell sock.
*previously written for of Rogues & Gentlemen.