Sock it to me

Sock it to me

Q. I know I should have asked you this earlier in the summer, but since we still have another month or so of summer, maybe you can respond. I discovered this year that I like to go sockless, but am not sure where, when, and how this is appropriate.

A. The answer to your question is not simple or clear-cut. My personal feeling is that this is a casual style that can look great when it is done well and when it is worn with sporty/casual clothes; it does not go with the usual business trio – a suit, shirt, and tie. On the other hand, I’m sure you will find some very self-assured natty dressers who would consider this advice too conservative. But you asked me, so here’s what I think.

You are right that this is definitely sockless season (for those who consider that there ever is one). This is a great way to give your look a more casual attitude and to enjoy the benefits of the warm weather. It used to be that only high-style dandies indulged in this style; this is no longer true. That said, it’s not as simple as just not wearing socks. I’m glad you included the word “appropriate” in your question, because the style is one where that is a most important factor.

In making the decision about whether going sockless is appropriate, the elements to consider are 1. Where you will be; 2. Who will be there; 3.What else you are wearing; and 4. Specifically, what kind of shoes you are wearing. After taking all these points into consideration, here’s how to do it right.

WHERE YOU WILL BE – For weekends and somewhat casual social occasions, the look is usually fine. It’s widely thought of as a country club style. But for business occasions, your industry and that industry’s corporate culture are important determining factors. It does seem to be a natural fit with such glamour industries as fashion, architecture, and public relations. With banking and finance, not so much. In most staid/traditional business environments, I would strongly advise against it. But a lot depends on the boss. If he is a stylish socks-free type, go for it. If not, limit yourself to away-from-the-office wear.

WHO ELSE WILL BE THERE – Others in attendance should certainly be considered. If you are with people you know and if some of them are Ivy League types who would not be put off by such a choice, then you have my blessing. But, if those around you are more typical blue-collar types, this look could be a show-off sort of display that would set you apart in an uncomfortable way, and would not be welcome. This is true both in social and business settings, but it is especially so in business.

WHAT ELSE YOU ARE WEARING – Obviously, if you are wearing any form of shorts, going sockless is a no-brainer. Beyond that, pay attention. Casual pants from jeans and chinos to dressier trousers all work. Tops from T-shirts and polos to dress shirts and sports jackets are all acceptable pairings. The opposite extreme – a dressy suit, shirt, and tie – seems to call for socks. It is the area between these extremes that requires some thought before making a decision. Going sockless makes any combination more informal. When wearing a well-cut navy blazer or a suit with a dress shirt, but no tie, you need to pay extra attention. If you are a youngish, natty dresser and feel confident in your sense of style, then you can probably pull off the look. If you are an older, hesitant dresser who rightly fears looking as if he is trying too hard, then I would abstain.

WHAT SPECIFIC SHOES YOU ARE WEARING – Not all shoes are appropriate for the sockless look. Going sockless is mandatory with flip-flops and sandals. It makes total sense with all sorts of casual slip-on shoes from relaxed canvas styles to moccasins, from sneakers to drivers, and from preppy boat shoes to leather loafers. I’m sorry to be so rigid, but I really dislike (hate?) the look with leather lace-up shoes; that includes everything from plain dress oxfords, cap toes, and perforated wing tips to all types of boots. Informal colors from white and tan through all shades of brown work best; avoid dressy black. (A helpful suggestion: Buy a few pairs of thin, no-show loafer socks. They add comfort, absorption, reduce odor, and really do not show.)

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