By Andrew D. Luecke and Max Berlinger
There are certain fashion taboos that are widely considered inviolable: pleated jeans, toupees, fanny packs, and, at one time, socks with sandals. But recently, high-end designers have embraced the look once reserved for clueless American dads on vacation in Rome, and put socks beneath sandals. It looks to become only more popular. In order to bring readers a nuanced-or, really, any-understanding of this phenomenon, we, Esquire Digital's style editors, debated whether the union of socks and sandals is ever appropriate, and if so, how to pull it off.
Andrew D. Luecke: Socks with sandals are the vanguard of a new movement in men's fashion, one that promises more freedom of personal style and a more relaxed sense of propriety.
Max Berlinger: Yeah, but they look ugly and dumb.
AL: I completely disagree. A lovely leather sandal provides a nice sophisticated grounding for a vibrant sock. It creates visual texture, allows for a dash of color, and adds a hint of whimsy to anything from a resort outfit to a summer suit you can wear to work on Fridays.
MB: It's wishy-washy. Either show your feet or don't. And beyond that, because you're wearing these two antithetical things together, it strikes me as very conspicuously styled. Not like, Oh, I just have good taste. It's like a trick, like, See!? See what I'm doing here!?
AL: Well, we all style ourselves to some degree, and I don't think there's anything wrong with showing it a bit. Plus, it tells the world that even though you care enough about your appearance to pick out a nice pair of socks, you don't take yourself too seriously. It's a cool look, but it's not intimidating.
MB: It's also right at the heart of this whole normcore trend, which means that it's going to just be this sort of hanger-on thing by the time one does it. And why, exactly, is youth culture so obsessed with taking these aggressively unattractive things and making them cool?
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AL: I don't think it's unattractive, but it is a reaction to all this superslim-leather-and-denim hipster stuff. Men have, again, grown tired of being constrained, and this is a way of feeling and displaying relaxation. And it's not just youth culture. I mean, super chic designers like Carven showed socks and sandals at their spring/summer 2014 fashion shows, and that's coming out of Paris, where menswear really is refined and elevated. You just need to balance the right amount of relaxation and luxury.
MB: Who did they show it on? Let me guess: willowy eighteen-year-olds. But okay, enlighten me: How would you, Andrew D. Luecke, propose that someone like myself wear it?
AL: Very carefully! No, really, I'd take a nice pair of leather slides, throw on some chinos, and add some chunky pastel socks. Boom: instant easy luxe. It's an adventurous look that's going to open up any man to new experiences, like maybe taking Molly and hooking up with one of those fire-breathing Burning Man women. Who wouldn't that?
MB: Not I, good sir. But I commend your dedication to looking like the townies in Ithaca, where I went to college.
AL: [Laughs.] Exactly! It's taking that free and easy American look and elevating it with your own wit and good eye. It's completely democratic fashion that's open to anyone, which is an answer to those who say fashion is too snobby and only for the elite. It's a positive social movement, not just a fashion trend. Who are you to stand in the way of social harmony?
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MB: I'm just a guy who thinks there's an order to things, an underlying utility to clothing. As in, when it's warm and you're in the appropriate setting, you wear sandals. When it's cold, you wear socks. But to wear them both at the same time... well, that's just madness. What next? Tank tops over turtlenecks? Shorts over pants? SPF and self-tanner?
AL: Max, SPF and self-tanner exists.
MB: I give up.