Sock it to me hipsters

Eddie Millett 2 October 2014

Attempting to apply logic to the dizzy highs and criminal lows of fashion has always been a bit of a mug’s game. Bacon as evening wear? You’d have to be Gaga. Dungarees? Is it time for arts and crafts class? Are you panning for gold? No? Go right ahead, Topshop ruminant. So far, so niche. How about something as ordinary as the white sock, then? 

Well, if you’re the kind of person who whiled away the dying rasps of summertime having the time of your life on the Isle of Wight, or at Carnival in Notting Hill, or just skulking in Brixton and Aldgate (with sincere apologies for my inexcusable cultural ignorance of anywhere outside Zone 2), you’re pretty likely to have seen someone sporting what seems to be the latest on-trend look: rolled black jeans, black Kicker trainers, and crucially, a pristine pair of white Nike sports socks peeking out from between the two, drawing the whole ensemble together. 

What’s going on here? Has everyone run out of dress socks? Or are they all undercover superheroes, pre-socked and prepared to fight crime in the streets of Camberwell? When M&S’s Back to School range are flogging black socks at £4 for 5, I find it a little hard to believe. Perhaps they’re all too busy discussing Hayek’s Road to Serfdom and the latest from ‘Netanyahu: Live at the UN’ to bother caring what colour the cotton barrier between their shoe and their feet is? But if so, why always white?

Of course, it’s much cleverer than that. It’s a carefully constructed critique of societal norms, a stark monochromatic transgression that threatens the very fabric of fashion. Look at my f**king red trousers done by lefties, you might say.

This isn’t the only way that the simple sock is making its presence felt, though. In May, The Telegraph, that well-known arbiter of style, bemoaned the advent of “dark sartorial times” with the rise to prominence of another transgressive look: socks and sandals. Long-derided as the identifier of German tourists and vegan social workers, it has now been appropriated by hipsters hosting ‘socks ‘n slides’ parties in the lofts of East London to celebrate the unlikely pairing of pool slippers with sport socks. There are even Facebook groups dedicated to the trend.

And typically, big business is there to pick up the profits, with Debenhams reporting a 68% rise in the sale of socks and sandals  – although there’s no way of knowing who’s pairing the two and who’s tucking them into their Kickers.

So there you have it. Winter is coming, and when all that’s left in your sock drawer is a glistening pair of white ones, gloatingly reminding you of all that running you were planning to do after Fresher’s Week, you can stride out, inappropriately socked, safe in the knowledge that the fashion cosmos is imploding about you. Long live double denim, brown shoes after 6pm, and socks and sandals!