Does the thought of adding colour to your wardrobe spark anxiety and images of Ian Poulter?
Do you live in a neutral zone where navy is the norm, asks Archie Hume of A Hume Country Clothing? Are your socks threadbare, or boxfresh and bobble-free?
My many years in menswear have taught me that socks say a lot about a man.
The Neutral Zone
There’s a habitual element to the black, navy or grey sock wearer. The man whose sock drawer is an exercise in minimalist discipline, who possibly chooses to wear dark neutral socks because he takes assurance in the serried rows of identical socks. The order and ritual of wearing the simple option that allows him to focus his attention elsewhere. The very idea of opening a drawer with shades of bubblegum coloured socks is unsettling.
The Colour Blocker
Then there’s the colour blocker. The man who also appreciates implicity but doesn’t want to be seen to take himself too seriously. Who is quite happy to splash a bit of bright, eye-catching colour around his ankle region so long as it isn’t too fussy. He’s quite capable of matching socks and a tie for workwear, or socks and a jumper for the weekend. He cares about these things, but not too much.
The Pattern Merchant
There are patterns and there are patterns. Really, it’s all a question of degrees on the flamboyance spectrum and there are several sub-categories to the patterned sock wearer.
The fearless sock pioneers are few and far between. Men who walk in their stocking soles where other men fear to tread. Think Jon Snow or Justin Trudeau, their sock choice puts them both far out there on the flamboyance spectrum and is in contrast to their otherwise conventional wardrobe choices (ties apart in the case of Jon Snow). In this instance the socks are an indicator of non-conformist tendencies – an acceptance that the rules are there but don’t expect them to go unquestioned.
Understated spots, stripes or quiet Argyles are safe territory for those on the more restrained end of the pattern spectrum. The majority of men sit comfortably here, happy to express a little fondness for a pleasing array of muted stripes, a heritage appreciation for the Argyll or an inoffensive spot. Something that demonstrates thought and care without involving too much risk.
Within the drawers of every one of the sock character types there should be room for a few pairs of comfortable, traditional, hand finished socks made from the finest yarns. Socks reserved for off-duty wear. Rustic FairIsle and Donegal patterns, strong cable knits with a home knitted feel, softest cashmere, alpaca and merino wool and hand linked toes, for wrinkle free comfort. Theses socks say you know how to appreciate time out and value quality. But be warned, these socks are likely to be coveted by other members of your household and will disappear from your sock drawer faster than cash at a fairground.
It’s worth taking into account that many of the socks that end up on a man’s feet are the result of a gift. So next time you judge the man next to you wearing the cartoon pug socks be aware that he might be sporting them to keep his six-year old daughter happy. In situations other than this, the wearing of novelty socks is unwise. What the novelty sock hopes to say about the wearer is ‘Hey, I’m fun.’ The problem is being fun should be a response to the social cues you receive from others. Seeking to be seen as fun all the time comes over as childish and off-putting. Let your socks say something else about you and save fun for the things you say yourself.
What a man wears on his feet can betray his sporting allegiance even when he’s not actively engaged. A glance at the rugby-inspired brightly striped gap between the jeans and shoes of many young men is a good clue to their rugby loyalties. They declare sporty proclivities without ever breaking sweat.