Shots of David Beckham, alongside his wife Victoria and brood, were unveiled this week by British Vogue, with the former footballer-turned-fashion-mogul wearing what appears to be leather sandals with red socks.
It follows in the dubious sandal-steps of American rapper Kanye West, who stepped out the other week in a pistachio-shaded suit by his friend Virgil Abloh’s first offering as head of Louis Vuitton menswear, wearing matching sliders with socks. Gentlemen, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Socks and sandals might just be the most vilified corner of the men’s style arena, a barometer of taste that sees them relegated to the sartorial desert.
It’s the nil points of the men’s footwear roster, a combination that’s synonymous with your 1970s geography teacher on an orienteering weekend in Fort William: painfully uncool, with fusty sock-covered toes peeking out beneath a velcroed performance sandal. There’s evidence that the Romans were the first to pair socks with sandals, but today the stance isn’t quite so noble.
However, fashion has long taken the unloved and agonisingly anti-chic and turned it into something desirable. That's never more evident than with Miuccia Prada, who in the 1990s looked to geek chic - awkward checks, boxy shirts, ‘ugly’ Seventies curtain prints - and re-packaged them into high-fashion items. And the designer did the same with socks and sandals, championing them as a viable choice on her menswear catwalks, worn with outdoors attire or suiting.
The combination has also become catnip to the street style contingent; the fashion-show goers who have made a business out of being photographed in their peacock finery. Perhaps these rarefied creatures know something we don’t. I have a friend in the fashion industry who swears by sock and sandals; lightweight and breathable but practical too.
Which begs the question, should you ever consider the most maligned menswear pariah of all? Context is everything in these dangerous terrains, and a few guidelines should apply. If you don’t work in a creative industry, are more of a chinos and shirt guy than anything ‘experimental’ and count deck shoes as daring, don’t give socks and sandals another thought.
But if you’re particularly keen on dipping your be-socked toe into these waters, it’s best to steer towards the less functional and more fashionable versions, alongside some high-quality socks instead of the old faithfuls from the back of the drawer. You may mock for now, but Beckham’s clairvoyance in the world of men’s style has been proved time and time again; time will tell if we follow in his socks-and-sandal-clad footsteps.
This article was originally published in the Telegraph UK.