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Trends & Subcultures

14 March 2017

Socks and Sandals:the unexpected style trend

By now, socks and sandals can’t have failed to catch your attention! Whether it's out on the streets or in their Instagram tags, every fashion blogger worth their sartorial salt is giving this trend legs (if you’ll excuse the pun). Socks with sandals have been appearing on the catwalks since 2014, but it’s taken a few seasons to fully shake their previous implications. While still slightly divisive, socks and sandals today call to mind Perspex heels worn with colourful ankle-highs, rather than the eternally anti-fashion tourist in a pair of khaki shorts.

socks with sandals

From normcore tourism…


Once upon a time, wearing socks and sandals was the number one fashion faux pas. It was a sartorial territory occupied only by ardent map-readers and ageing British males. But with the rise of normcore and a penchant for 90s styling, the socks and sandals style became forward-looking – rather than a complete obliviousness to contemporary aesthetics. This dramatic turn from the stereotypical peacock dressing (think Anna Dello Russo) towards “stylised blandness” was compared to “middle-aged, middle-American tourists” by The Cut in 2014. Although not the most flattering description, it nonetheless captures the normcore ethos currently pervading the FROW. 


One could almost pinpoint the eternally stylish Phoebe Philo as the origin of this decidedly normal aesthetic that led to socks and sandals on the catwalk – her Céline army epitomises the ethos of normcore. The label's black satin skater shoes have been the go-to choice of footwear for surviving long Fashion Week days since early 2014. For AW16, Philo sent her models out in languid silhouettes and mannish sensible sandals. And it’s not just Philo. Victoria Beckham, once the poster child for Roland Mouret dresses, frequently takes her end-of-show bow in tailored men’s trousers, outsized knits and trainers. In short, a comfortable outfit. Next season she’ll be in Adidas socks and sliders – promise. 


… To catwalk favourite


It was at the SS14 menswear shows that socks and sandals on the catwalk started to become a regular occurrence. Although Prada and Louis Vuitton had dipped their toes into the style, it wasn’t until Creative Director of Carven, Guillaume Henry, sent his models out in nude socks and block-coloured sandals that the look took hold. At the time, The Telegraph likened the aesthetic to a “sort of 70s-German-tourist-in-the-Rhineland reworked for the high fashion crowd”. Fast-forward to SS17, and it’s a surprisingly versatile look – the Versace show featured moody tones in high-performance fabrics, all finished off with sleek leather Versace footwear. Think a modern-day Gladiator, on tour. 


Although the creative mind behind Carven may have changed, the spirit stays the same – Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud’s Resort 17 collection utilised a Wes Anderson aesthetic with sepia hues and an offbeat granny-chic tone. Why is this important? Outfits were finished off with geometric print socks and heavy-soled sandals. And it worked. Alessandro Dell’Acqua took a similar approach on his catwalk – Rochas sandals in rich jewel tones were paired with contrasting mustard wool socks, creating a contemporary fusion of 60s glamour and tourist practicality.  


Out on the streets


Leandra Medine has been a long-time supporter of the socks with sandals trend. Known for her aesthetically pleasing practice of marrying the practical with the fashionable, Medine’s numerous Instagrammed outfits invariably include a printed sock and heavily embellished sandal. (All while steadfastly ignoring the aforementioned normcore movement.) In 2014, she curated a how-to guide for successfully – and confidently – wearing the look. Whether you’re inspired by Valentino sandals paired with cat-print socks or you prefer the more understated (and far warmer) option of thick ski socks with Tod’s shoes, you know you can trust Medine. 


While women are happy to fly the flag for this trend, the men on the street have been slightly slower on the uptake. However, when American football player Brandon Meriweather stepped out in his sliders and sports socks it was a clear green light. “Everybody that I know wears socks with flip-flops,” the NFL star told For The Win at the time.  Search the hashtag #socksandsandals to find a myriad of outfit inspiration – men's Giuseppe Zanotti sandals are a particular favourite. 


The socks and sandals style trend may have started life as a reaction to the overdressed and over-stylised aesthetic that had been pervading the catwalks – but it has evolved from the slightly ironic, normcore ethos into so much more. Everyone from David Beckham to the Olsen twins has been stepping out in socks and sandals, reflecting how universal the look has become.  Who knows what fashion faux pas will turn into a catwalk hit next – 80s gold lamé, anyone?

sandals and socks