The first time I saw a girl wearing socks with heels was when I was living in London two years ago. I was drinking a glass of lukewarm Sauvignon Blanc in a pub in Shoreditch when an Alexa Chung-a-like sauntered by in her chintz-floral dress, boyfriend cardigan, peep-toe platform sandals, and socks—socks!—with those doily ankle finishes, the kind I wore when I was in first grade (only mine had mini pearls). It was, dare I say, revolutionary.
My entire shoe-related sartorial “don’t” life flashed before me: and every phrase I’d placed a “don’t wear socks” before (“with sandals, with heels, with ankle boots”) was suddenly called into question.
This is the way with any good trend with staying power—and check the street style blogs—this trend has staying power. It feels just the right side of bold-yet-achievable, the sort of thing that’s been right under your nose the entire time, lurking in your closet, asking you to reconsider your “rules.” It is the I-never-thought-of-that-color-for-nail-polish of feet, with a low-risk, high-payoff for ladies who aren’t slaves to fashion but enjoy dipping a toe in.
Every girl who wears a pointelle sock with her favorite pumps is, deep down, if she’s honest, harboring a lingering doubt along the lines of “is this okay?” beneath her “I’m ridiculously cool” poker face. Which is what makes it so thrilling. And, by my estimation, so chic.
I’m not saying it can’t go wrong—it definitely can. But I’ve found that if you consider the personality of your shoe and match it to the weight of the sock, it’s pretty much a no-fail situation: Girly-girl pump? Super-light pointelle sock. Oxford brogue with chunky heel? Mid-calf trouser sock. High-rise ankle boot? Roll-down friendly wool camp sock. I rest my case.
(Photos: Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images N.A., Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe, Samir Hussein/Getty Images Europe)
Above, Olga Sorakina, Rihanna, and Oliva Inge add fuel to the socks with heels fire.
Challenge. While there is, I'll concede, some edge-of-your-seat thrill in observing the heels-and-socks wedding, when it comes down to it I don’t relish the thought of playing Russian roulette with my wardrobe. What's next? Chunky sweaters under camisoles?
It's possible that my visceral reaction stems from my identification as a tomboy in my youth, having been heavily influenced by my two older brothers’ "style" choices. (Read: two-tone baseball knee-socks with everything. All.The.Time.) Amazingly, there is one picture that's surfaced—now on lockdown—in which I'm wearing those black patent-leather mary-janes with sheer eyelet socks, folded down. Not amazingly, I looked miserable. And even though I've amped up the girly factor since then, the socks still read 'little girl" to me.
On the flipside, the combo also triggers a childhood memory of my neighbor Bernice, a charming lady in her nineties, whose signature look involved nude sheer stockings falling down over her mules (bless her heart).
Okay yes, Alexa Chung does pull it off. But I'd argue that she's someone we look to for ideas: a sartorial laboratory whose experiments aren't always suited for the general public. She's not someone to emulate in an everyday capacity down to the last sock, in a style-by-fire version of The Hunger Games.
Make no mistake, adding a girly touch here or there is something I can definitely appreciate. Perhaps a bow on the heel? Or lace tights? But ladies, there are limits.
When it comes down to it, as a stylist, I tend to view the socks-with-heels phenomenon as a misguided attempt to add "a look" as a means of saving an outfit that isn't working. Add it to the list of overly used red herrings in fashion editorials, including but not limited to, knit hats, hippie headbands, and OTT pattern-mixing.
I say leave the socks on the runway, London's High Street (on occasion), or to those whose job it is to test-drive: those quirky street style stars you look at and say, ”Aw, that's cute. On her.”
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