Browse all

The long-lasting issue of socks with sandals

The prerogative of hippies and German tourists or a forbidden fashion treat?

The long-lasting issue of socks with sandals The prerogative of hippies and German tourists or a forbidden fashion treat?

The first decade of the 2000s was a simple and naïve era: Paris Hilton was about to invent the selfie, music videos came out on MTV and clothes were bought at the neighbourhood shop. But even in that kind of digital prehistory, where it was difficult to communicate even with those at the other end of the city without a cell phone, there was only one point in common, one topic that everyone agreed: the sock didn't go with the sandal. Before sportswear became a phenomenon in its own right, the white sponge sock lived only in the changing rooms of gyms and soccer fields – just as before 2015 about shoes had specific roles: formal shoes were for work, sneakers for leisure and slippers for the beach. In this precise universe, the sandal was the prerogative of two social categories: with velcro, it was for children, in leather for the Franciscan friars of the local parish. The matter was closed here. Then came the tourists from Germany. Pale mythological entities equipped with glasses with double lenses, checked shirts, backpacks with more pockets than can be conceived and, at their feet, a sandal is worn with a sock. The greatest schism of European culture since Martin Luther had taken place. 

After years the thing is a bit of fun: that was the era of cursed fashion items such as sneakers with wheels, jeans with writing on the ass or shoes with a bright sole. In that world made of colours, rigged mopeds and Nike Shox, with kids mimicking the baggy and tacky outfits of 50 Cent, that white sock worn with proud arrogance in a sandal challenged our understanding. The issue was neither the sandal nor the sock, but the juxtaposition of the two. The question, jetted and inevitable, was: «If you have to wear a sandal with a sock why don't you put on a closed shoe?» The truth is that the combo of sandal and sock is in many ways better than a regular sneaker for hiking in the mountains - which is the real reason why the Germans inaugurated this style. They did not know, those tourists, that they were actually inventing the gorpcore aesthetic, so much so that today, in full gorpcore wave, the sandal goes only with the sock. Anyway, if we'd want to retrace its history, the first official clearance in the fashion of the dynamic sandal/sock duo came from Miuccia Prada, who introduced a "high" version (the sandal was a dizzying heel and the sock was as tall as tights and covered in crystals) in her show FW09 by Miu Miu although similar combinations already appear in 90s Prada fashion shows such as the SS94 or in Raf Simons' SS07. 

L’attribuzione a Miuccia Prada è importante dato che fu proprio lei a fondare il concetto di ugly chic in occasione della collezione SS96 di Prada: «Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. Maybe because it is newer», she said at the end of the show. A concept that would then be explored more deeply twenty years later, with Demna Gvasalia and her debut from Balenciaga who introduced to the world the Triple S, the "ugly" sneaker that precisely with its cheeky excess, its almost grotesque appearance that questioned the entire category of "beautiful" in mainstream fashion. And with the subsequent trend of streetwear and logomania, the white sock was doubly cleared: firstly as an item capable of giving a sporty feel to almost every outfit; secondly, as an additional location for branding. And here exposing the branded sock went from being simple underwear to an object to show off. 

When streetwear really generated athleisure, that is, those garments that are sporty but with the relaxed "leisure" look, the sock entered the fashion world in its own right. At that moment the ugliness attributed to the sandal/sock combo turned upside down and became nonchalant. In the case of an experimental brand such as Maison Margiela, then, the sock was integrated into a version of the Replica sneaker with the panels cut off, Valentino and Rick Owens collaborated with Birkenstock, while Kim Jones and Thibo at Dior produced a transparent footwear line to combine with branded socks. The list of examples could continue: from the famous Suicoke sandals to Justin Bieber's latest campaign for Crocs in which the singer's habit of leaving the house in slippers and sock is elevated to an aesthetic point of the entire capsule. It is the magic of athleisure: whoever cares the most, who does not care about kitsch and is comfortable with himself and others wins.