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“This is the point during the summer when I start planning my fall fashion mood board. The pics I’ve pulled all seem to have one thing in common: Socks! I haven’t bought socks—or thought about socks—in a long time. I started wearing tights again, but this feels like a much bigger step, to wear socks meant to be shown off. How do I figure out which socks to wear—and which shoes to ones to wear with them?” —Barefoot and shook
For many years, bare legs were the hard and fast rule both in fashion and in life. We all wore those little invisible sock liners under sneakers (you know, the ones that always end up scrunched up into a most inelegant ball inside your shoe). We went bare-legged with heels in every kind of weather. Socks were dorky. But then, naturally, the Bella Hadids and the Hailey Biebers of the world started pulling up in pulled up socks like it was the turn of the century again.
So, of course, socks are now very much back in fashion. To break down when—and how—to wear them, I reached out to Georgia Groom, a British transplant who has carved out an impressive styling career in Toronto. I’ve admired Groom’s work for a long time: she infuses her wide-ranging editorial and advertising work with wit. In 2018, Groom and fellow creative Vanessa Magic launched Inclusive Stylist, an initiative to encourage more diversity in commercial stylists and promote mentorships of emerging BIPOC stylists.
Groom is unabashedly pro-socks. This is one of those rare trickle-down trend revivals these days that we can trace directly to designers. Balenciaga and Gucci, she says, have been using socks as standout accessories on the runway. “Prada and Dries [van Noten] have always loved that look,” she says. “They do it with a little more of a luxe vibe—think a sheer stocking with a kitten heel.”
Groom says the revival makes sense, as a response to the years we’ve just been through. “I think people want to be seen again in their clothing,” she says. “We want to create a stir, to go out and look good and feel good.”
As always in fashion math, the secret to acing the trend is all in the proportion. Skirts are getting shorter, says Groom, and there are also lots of shorts on the market. Then there’s the return of the ’90s slip dress and the slip skirt. “Socks work well to balance higher hemlines,” she says. “Think of a slip with a knee-high gym sock and sporty slides. That’s a great summer look right now.”
Moving forward into fall, Groom is incorporating socks with chunkier shoes and boots. This is a way to avoid what I raise as my own fear of the sock look: the naughty schoolgirl. No grown-up woman wants to look like she’s impersonating someone skipping math class. “If you’re nervous, keep it simple and start with a basic black or navy sock,” says Groom. For her part, Groom says that come fall, she’ll be wearing “knee-high black socks with a black pleated skirt, probably with some brown mixed in.” This is also not a moment for the novelty sock, she adds. Sleek and sophisticated is the way to go.
“I also feel dressing is a little post-gender now,” Groom says. “I don’t want to say androgynous or unisex, as the words seem dated, but that’s why we’re seeing men in skirts right now. It’s the socks that help them to wear it well.” Groom says she didn’t love Brad Pitt’s recent red carpet skirt-and-socks look, but she points to Oscar Isaac in a Thom Browne skirt suit—and black socks with sporty white stripes—at the Moon Knight premiere as an example of successfully pulling off the trend. “It feels like a way for men to be a bit more adventurous, but the socks keeps them grounded and masculine. Isaac inhabited the look, it didn’t look like a costume.” You want your socks to act as punctuation for a look, but you don’t want to look like you’re recklessly playing dress-up.
The good news about this trend, says Groom, is that “you can try this look without spending a lot.” She specifically calls out the socks department at Simons for standing out among its department store rivals for selection and quality.
She adds that no matter how much you spend, you should make the effort to care for your socks or they’ll end up a schlumpy, lumpy mess. “Put socks into a little laundry bag, wash them, rinse them out,” says Groom. “As a rule, don’t put socks in the dryer, it will melt the elastic and the colours fade.” This look needs to be crisp to work. “If you buy a really nice pair, rinse them in the sink like your granny did. Use soft detergent and throw them over the towel rack to dry.”
That care can extend to sharing a love of socks as a gesture of friendship. Groom says that she invested in a pair of Gucci socks for a friend who was beginning a directing career: “Now they’re her lucky socks, they peep out from her outfits.” That’s the best friend gift idea I’ve heard in awhile.
Shop the advice
Go luxe, sporty, sheer or classic
Simons classic knee socks come in navy, black, white and grey and cost $13.99 (on sale right now) for a set of three!
If you’re looking to invest in the sock trend, Gucci’s logo-forward pairs (available in this beige, plus pink and navy) are a stylish choice.
Rethink the knee-high as a fashion statement. These sheer Spanx would pair well with a loafer or chunky oxford.
These sporty Balenciaga socks are surprisingly easy to wear: Try them with your favourite white sneakers or a sleek slide.
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