I am finally sharing my opinion on this. It was in the '80s that the police drama Miami Vice made wearing mock turtlenecks with a blazer and no socks look hip (see that's an 80's term too.) I don't know precisely when it resurrected, but it was about more than five years ago that it crept up and reading about the dapper men of Pitti Uomo (the leading global trade fair dedicated to menswear and contemporary lifestyles held in Florence, Italy) that surely was going to be a big trend. While it looked hip and fash, there were bound to be significant mishaps along the way.
Companies are now relaxing their office dress codes as with the times, but the debate of socks-no socks is getting trickier. As an image and brand consultant for corporate clients, they always ask the question, is it appropriate? Well, that's the key - appropriateness. First, I encourage them to drop the term dress code, as it is more traditional that equates to being strict and stuffy. Nowadays, no one wants to be told how to dress up. I use the term Corporate Style Guide, which in case most companies do have their style and culture to express. Second, appropriateness refers to the industry, occasion, and even weather. Thom Browne, the American designer, credited with the trend, says that he doesn't go all the way bare but wears no-show socks; and when the temperature dips, he reverts to wearing high socks again.
So let me share the tips to navigate this trend tastefully.
1. Be informed about your corporate style guide.
There are industries like banking and finance, hospitality, and legal industry that adheres to more traditional business wear. That means socks is a preferred requirement. The style guides are usually direct in specifications, and going another route can hurt your brand image.
2. Rules of socks.
I usually discuss this in our workshops and its pretty simple: Socks is an extension of your wardrobe, so match it with your pants. This way, you will appear to look visibly taller with the extension. When you can't find an exact match, at least go for the same hue. If you are wearing black, make sure it has not faded that it looks dull and tired. Shoes want to get noticed too so if you match your socks with your shoes, they fade away in the background and makes you look like you’re wearing booties.
The higher, the thinner, the more it is for formal or business wear; the thicker, the shorter, the more it is for casual or sportswear. Avoid wearing white socks with leather shoes, not only that that ship has sailed, there are many color choices to choose from.
For colored socks, pick from the color of your pants and from there it will be easy. For prints or pattern, go in moderation. Don't appear clownish or foolish in your design; remember socks shows your taste level.
For bold colored socks, make sure the outfit is on point. Sharp, simple tailoring or solid outfits sparks up with a bright colored or printed socks. Remember the more colorful and bold the color and print, the more you draw attention to your outfit.
Don't be matchy, matchy. Don't match your socks with your tie, pocket square or, watch!
3. Appropriateness of the occasion.
Call me old-fashioned, but I'd advised against no socks on a formal event, weddings or tuxedo. Wearing bright colored socks to a funeral is also a no-no. It's not a time to be fashionably expressing oneself but to show respect and reverence to the occasion.
4. Know the right kind of shoes to wear without socks.
The loafer is the easiest type of shoe to match with going sockless. It's the most basic to wear for casual to semi-formal outfits. A tassel loafer in suede or leather works best in casual looks. The penny or Gucci loafer work best for your semi-formal style.
Boat shoes, slip ons, and sneakers are best for smart casual and casual attire. For semi-formal occasions, the shoe styles to consider are oxfords, brogues, derby, and loafers. Remember all these shoe styles can be done fabulously with socks too! Here’s a link to check out all these shoes .
It's a shame to see men who want to go with the sockless trend, pick out the wrong pair of shoes, or match with the wrong outfit. You see part of going with the direction of no socks is a strong sense of individual style, confidence in knowing the basics and mastery of execution.
5. Length of trousers.
Get the cut and length of your trousers perfect. Go with slim (not tight fit), tailored or tapered pants. Mind the fit in areas of the seat (butt), thigh and calf. The length should finish just at or above the ankles. So consider cropped pants, turn up, trouser roll or pin roll. Joggers are always casual or rolled up dark denim works for business casual attire.
Additional essentials to keep in mind:
If you are not all barefoot, no show socks are the best option. However, if you are:
1. Wash your feet - the very reason why your shoes (and feet ) stink is due to the bacteria called brevibacterium which eats up the dead skin sloughing off your feet. Make sure that you wash your feet with anti-bacterial soap, dry your feet (and in between toes!) thoroughly to avoid bacteria.
2. Use foot powder or spray to absorb moisture and keep your feet fresh.
3. Since it is not advisable to wear the same shoes every day, make sure you air them or use shoe trees that fight bacteria from forming.
Especially here in the Philippines, where the weather is hot and rainy days can bring about moisture, wearing socks (even the no-show) is hygienic.
How long will the trend last? I don't know, but what I do know is that there is an increasing mode of self-expression, which includes focusing on socks. Retailers, fashion and music influencers are dropping hundreds to thousand dollar socks, all part of making a personal statement.
I hope the men get real with this fashion shortcut and understand that they should get it right and not just wing it. It's about paying attention to details. Your clothing makes a statement, so make it count. You are not only representing your brand but your corporate brand as well. Who knows, one day, as in fashion, maybe socks can find its way back again.