One of the best-dressed men of the 20th Century, Esquire’s esteemed George Frazier, once gave his foolproof way of judging an outfit. “Wanna know if a guy is well dressed? Look down.” Which is all very well if you’re in 60s Manhattan and you’re judging someone on the quality of their buffed wingtips but in the summer things become more difficult. Not only do British men have to tackle inclement summer weather but they also have the fact that going without socks doesn’t come naturally to us.
Sockless style at Pitti Uomo in Florence in June
Pioneered by well-dressed Italians in the 70s, corrupted by Yuppies on both sides of the Atlantic in the 80s and 90s and then, thanks to Instagram and a thousand men emulating Thom Browne’s shrunken silhouette, going sockless has become the choice for a modern generation. As one menswear title put it last year, sockless calves in heavy leather shoes are now the unofficial uniform of Pitti Uomo, the annual menswear trade fair/peacock convention that takes place in Fortezza Da Basso every June. So how do you do it with success?
1. Assess the damage
Indulge in a bit of man maintenance to make sure your feet and ankles are in good condition. If your sun-starved calves haven’t seen the light of day for a while, a bit of tan doesn’t go amiss particularly if you’re pasty (St Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan is a good starting point).
A sockless Tinie Tempah and Lewis Hamilton front row at London Collections: Men
2. Don’t bare all
There are men who just plonk their feet into a pair of leather shoes and have done with it. These men are woefully mistaken - unless you own thousands of pairs of shoes (and everyone of them is leather lined), the damage to limb and shoe alike isn’t worth the risk. “I usually wear no-show socks for the 'no socks' look; for comfort and so as not to ruin my shoes,” says Kieran McBride, director of buying at Fenwick Newcastle. “I wear Calvin Klein for fit, quality and comfort. I have them in basic colours, black, navy and white.”
3. Take your cue from the catwalk (and the front row)
While this season some designers noticeably returned to the sock drawer (Paul Smith being one), your best bet is channeling some of the key hosiery-free catwalk looks. Consider the breadth here: low key, wearable cool from Margaret Howell, Giorgio Armani’s relaxed tailoring and Z Zegna’s trainers all show how sharp a mankle can be. Also follow the lead of front row fixtures Tinie Tempah and Oliver Cheshire. Tempah is as gifted sartorially as he is verbally - and even if you’re not disturbing London with Jess Glynne you can replicate his style. Cheshire shows that a suit doesn’t necessarily require socks to finish it off: a killer monkstrap shoe needs no distractions.
Oliver Cheshire at London Collections: Men
4. Put your best foot forward
Boat shoes, loafers, moccasins, trainers - even chunky sandals with thick soles - can be worn while showing off your ankles. Just don’t wear Oxfords: they can look a little clompy. If you’re unsure, start with a classic horsebit loafer (Russell & Bromley’s are worth a look). Also, something of a footwear fallback for many, Espadrilles have much to recommend them - and they’re more versatile than you think, “I have suede espadrilles - I love them,” says McBride. “They're a bit smarter than a canvas option and easier to wear with a trouser rather than denim”. Invest in a luxury or a brand new skate shoe for perfect summertime wear. Opt for all white if possible - and Converse, having been in the business since 1908, are never a mistake. Note: If you wear them with a suit you’re going to need to get your ankles out or else it’ll just look like you’re a rebellious sixth former.