In shock sartorial news this week, the Victoria Racing Club finally changed its strict dress code to allow men to go without socks in the member’s area of Melbourne’s Flemington racecourse.
There was a time when women were obliged to wear stockings, but that seemed to disappear a few years ago, as we all got used to seeing female race wear interpreted as mini dresses and spray tans.
An article this week credited the sock-less look for men in suits as being invented by American designer Thom Browne way back in 2004, but I think we might have to ask Italy about that.
Hipsters did not invent this. European men have been wearing loafers, dress shoes and smoking slippers with formal suits and no socks in Italy, Spain and the Cote D’Azur forever. It’s chic, chic, chic.
Nothing could be more elegant than a man in a beautifully cut pair of trousers showing a bit of tanned ankle.
Thom Browne in fact suggested a more extreme, much shorter length of trouser, so that more of the ankle and calf showed, but this is a tricky look. It can look cool; it can also look like a bit childish and silly, as if you have grown out of last year’s school pants.
A very fashion savvy colleague of mine who is now in his 50s has never worn a pair of socks (apart from with his sports shoes). An impeccable dresser, he always takes his cues from the Italians. Each time he buys a new suit he takes the trousers to a tailor to be tapered and shortened to show just the right amount of ankle.
Most style of dress shoes can be worn without socks – lace ups, monk strap, loafers (an invisible low cut sock is recommended for hygienic reasons).
Desert boots are a little trickier. My son and I spent quite some time trying on various lengths of skinny pants with desert boots until we decided that it looked odd, and that a lower cut shoe that showed the ankle bone was preferable.
I’m still trying to work out where the desert boot looks best. You need a longer 60s-style trouser. Or khaki shorts or chinos. Maybe it only works on Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient.
Now, one would think that socks and sandals would be out of the question, a daggy bird twitcher ensemble that would be critically panned but oh no, the fashion gods now see it differently.
Socks and sandals are in, as houses such as red-hot Gucci celebrate the geek look. Athletes, in particular NBA basketballers have popularised an extremely peculiar look, the ugliest long socks known to man worn with a nylon slide, from Adidas, Nike, etc.
The ballers cannot be underestimated when it comes to trendsetting, but it may be their general swagger that pulls it off.
Socks, sandals and shorts are a look to be attempted with caution. With or without binoculars.