Socks seem to be everywhere right now, even on the red carpet. But is it really possible to wear them as a grown-up to work and other public situations without looking like a schoolgirl? — Yael, Bronx, N.Y.
Socks are, as far as I am concerned, one of the most undervalued, and enjoyable, accessories available. Though socks have long held a place of honor in men’s wear as one of the few acceptable ways to express personality, they have played a less meaningful role for women.
That may be because for decades socks were associated with lower- and middle-school uniforms. Being able to shed them in favor of stockings (or hosiery) was thus a sign of adulthood, like moving from being a child to becoming a full-on sexual being and getting your legs out: You have graduated beyond the sock! So socks never attained the fashion status they deserve. But that may be changing.
There have always been a few sock champions among the fashion glitterati, most notably Miuccia Prada, who, at age 74, has made something of a signature of wearing short socks with her pumps. Other proponents include Gwyneth Paltrow, who wore sheer black ankle socks with her black heels and black pants to the Armani couture show last week; Billie Eilish, who wore pink ankle socks with her Mary Janes and Willy Chavarria look at the Golden Globes in January; and SZA, who wore lacy white anklets with her pointy black heels to the WSJ magazine innovator awards late last year.
To join their ranks, you simply need to get over the psychological hump of associating socks with the powerlessness of unformed youth, and your own past, and see them for what they are: comfortable, practical and useful in multifarious ways to build an outfit. Then wear them with that in mind.
Socks can add a pop of color, or a delicate grace note, to a look. They can change a silhouette, elongating the foot if worn in the same color as a shoe and effectively transforming your footwear into an ankle boot. (There’s a reason designers invented sock boots.) Or, if worn in a contrasting color, they draw attention to the shoe, like a punctuation mark. Also, they prevent blisters!
I don’t think it’s going too far to say that socks can be a clever form of self-care, a fast, relatively accessible way to make yourself feel good.