Vetements kickstarted the latest wave of logomania with the launch of a DHL T-shirt 18 months ago. Now the label has repurposed that must-have fashion moment for the feet. Meet the DHL sports socks, the hosiery of now.
We are coming out of a fallow period for men’s socks. With ankles staying stark and unloved while we focused on the ups and downs of trouser hemlines (see last autumn’s floor-sweepers or the current season’s penchant for cropped trousers), socks have been forgotten. But change is afoot. At the recent menswear shows, socks were seen pulled up to the knee with shorts at Prada or grazing ankles at Versace; gym socks were bright white and logo-heavy at Wooyoungmi; Lanvin, meanwhile, even took a punt on tube socks.
Socks haven’t enjoyed this much attention in a decade, since the backlash against American Apparel and its “tube socks and no knickers” advertising coincided with a spectacular falling-out between misogyny and socks. But now they are more visible than ever, pushing against those hemlines with newfound vigour and sometimes usurping them entirely: socks pulled to calf-height with a pair of shorts, like Jonah Hill, is no longer “stoner at the 24-hour garage” look, but a sign of being youthful and carefree, and having effortless charm. Shia LaBeouf, too, has been embracing his inner dork, tucking sweatpants into socks to show them off. On catwalks, socks have become a fundamental part of the accessory arsenal.
But these looks aren’t restricted to the safety of the shows, or the unquestioning acceptance that it’s “just something celebrities or fashion people do” – they’re pounding the pavement near you. Big Brother contestants two summers ago were braving socks with sliders or sandals, which for decades had been a fashion crime restricted to tourists trying to find Edinburgh Castle, usually while actually standing outside Edinburgh Castle.
So is this really a comeback? Courtney Blackman, editor of menswear style magazine Candid, believes mankles have had a good run but it’s time to move on. “Over London fashion week, men’s exposed ankles were still prevalent, but socks were definitely back in the mix,” he says. Lou Dalton, KTZ and Phoebe English all pulled off Blackman’s favourite sock revivals.
Could it be that, like the hemline index, socks are a reaction to the world around us? Blackman reckons there is something in it. He says: “In times of austerity, you still need socks, right? If you treat yourself to a pair of designer socks, it’s not as guilt-ridden as a larger, high-ticket item.”
He continues: “If you can’t afford the £500 Vetements hoodie, a £50 pair of socks can ease you into the brand.” An easy, inexpensive – at least compared with other gateway items such as T-shirts or bags – way to make a statement, all the while pretending you don’t like the attention? Very 2o17.
Justin Trudeau understands the power of a good sock. If you want to know where the Canadian prime minister’s heart lies, look to his ankles. At Toronto Gay Pride Parade, he wore rainbow-inspired socks inscribed with “Eid Mubarak”, and on “International Star Wars Day” he sported a mismatched pair featuring R2-D2 and C3PO. Forget virtue signalling or hashtag slacktivism, it’s your chaussettes that need to get radical if you want to score political points as an Instagram-ready liberal. That said, Trudeau’s critics unkindly say provocative or playful socks are no replacement for statesmanlike gravitas. But it’s a start.
For anyone who struggles to convey personality, socks allow that chink of humanity to shine through – no mean feat when you’re watching two middle-aged, besuited politicians shake hands and sign a treaty. While I may roll my eyes at the blatant showboating, I’m certainly here for it – the black socks so beloved of other politicians are best left to pallbearers and headmasters.
As the world around us changes at a rapid rate, the adage “pull your socks up” has never been more relevant. And as Blackman says: “Socks are great conversation-starters. When have you ever had someone come up and say: ‘I really like your ankles; where did you get them?’” Exactly. Socks are a welcome distraction – in times of trouble, only a fully adorned ankle will do.