An Ode to One’s Socks
In Homer’s Iliad, Achilles was the supposed undefeatable champion and without a doubt the greatest warrior on the battlefield of Troy. This indestructible strength was not genetics, but the result of his mother immersing him the river Styx as an infant. The river was the crossing point between the land of the living and the land of the dead and thus gave him immortality. Yet there, of course, was a sticking point. His mother, though virtuous in thinking, neglected one very insignificant yet crucial detail. As she immersed Achilles in the magical water she forgot to bathe the left heel with which she held him by. Though this seemed a trivial oversight, the later consequences proved fatal for Achilles who, in the final battle of the Trojan War was mortally wounded by a poisoned arrow that struck his left heel.
The myth teaches us two things. Allegorically, that everyone has a weak spot and more importantly to a discerning Undandy, that one should never forget the importance of one’s heels. Amongst many other more significant details of his character and outward aspect, a well-heeled gentleman should know the importance of a good dress shoe sock.
Moving on from our Greek mythology lecture to Roman history, it was the Romans who first started to wear socks, fashioning the rudimentary garments out of animal hair and skin. In the 1600s, with the invention of the knitting machine, socks could now be made from the decidedly preferable material of wool. The invention of nylon in the 1930s allowed the humble sock to finally override its functional beginning and take its first steps into the fashion arena.
Although ever fulfilling a practical role of being a necessary garment for one’s personal hygiene, socks are subtly considered in pertaining a person’s sartorial prowess and there are some serious style rules in formal wear. Now first and foremost, one’s dress shoe socks should never finish at the ankle, and should extend to above the top of the calf. Just as with ladies before the arrival of the flapper skirt revolution, a gentleman’s bare legs were not to be exposed. And I quite agree, it is rather ghastly to see a flash of a chap's exposed hairy leg under the boardroom table.
Texture is a great way to raise your sock stakes, albeit in a slightly more inconspicuous mode. Season and occasion suitability should also be taken into consideration with regards to one’s sock denier.
Now here’s where things get a little muddier. Should one match one’s socks to the trousers? A gentleman cannot put a foot wrong if he does. Take classic stalwarts of men’s fashion such as Sean Connery as James Bond shown above who kept formal wear formal to great effect.
The traditional school of thought that a colour contrast should never be seen, in my humble opinion, is frankly hogwash. Others may disagree but such rigidity only applies to the conservative few who don’t like to push style envelopes. A bold colour or pattern (avoiding the novelty print of course) can really set apart a gentleman from the herd and brighten up an otherwise dull ensemble. I’m a personal fan of an argyle or a rich shade of burgundy with a dark navy suit in colder seasons. A Consumer Research study conducted in 2014 indicated that wearing colourful socks, for example, made the wearer seem more intelligent and creative, ‘Especially in Western cultures that place a high value on individualism and independence, resisting group pressure can be perceived as a brave and bold gesture.’ In conclusion to this research, a proverbial green light is shone to adding a little more colour to your sock drawer. But under no circumstances apart from your gym attire should white socks be worn. Even Aryton
Senna couldn’t pull that off and that man was a serious legend.
Socks and loafers too, are always a nul point. Although in the ‘50s and ‘60s socks with loafers was a perfectly reasonable pairing, in this day and age, never the twain should meet. And I don’t think I need to question anyone’s rationale or insult their intelligence, by not mentioning socks and sandals.
Therefore, gents following our discourse on one’s socks, I hope that they no longer will be considered merely practical vestments of your wardrobe. And unlike fated Achilles, never let your heel be your actual weak point when it comes to your sock game.
Here’s to good health, good principles, and above all, this time, good socks!