Socks And Sandals: A MeditationS

The other week, after purchasing a fetching-but-sturdy pair of Swedish Hasbeens sandals, I was taken aback when not one, not two, but three different people suggested that the shoes would be "cute with socks." Is it time to take sides?

The socks-and-sandals trend, first spied on the Spring runways accompanying Miu-Miu and Burberry, has divided...well, the sort of population who cares about this kind of things. (Which is to say: the Civil War, this ain't.) And indeed, it has all the makings of classic high-fashion trickle-down hot-button: an on-the-face-of-it terrible idea. "Socks and sandals," after all, hearkens back to things like German dads and the sort of arrogant nerd who also enjoys sporting shorts in blizzards to make some kind of obscure point. It's ripe for dismissal and criticism - to say nothing of the very valid charge that what may look whimsical and fetching on a gangly Latvian teenager is quite another matter on an actual leg, on an actual street, in front of people whose knowledge of the world is not Vacuum-packed in back-issues of Vogue.

The New York Post went so far as to make the "controversy" the subject of a "she-said/she-said" in which dueling fashion correspondents, respectively, excoriated and lauded the trend. The "con" camp dismissed the trend as the purview of "trend slaves" and declared that "there are things that just don't belong together - steak and ketchup, Bobby and Whitney, and socks and sandals. Blech." On the contrary, said her colleague: why not experiment and save the foot from sandal-chafe at the same time?

Personally, I have a hard time getting any more exercised about socks -'n-sandals than about any of the ready-made-whimsical trends that bedeck Urban and the Women Who Love It. Who, after all, is to say it's any more ludicrous than a feathered leghorn, or those weird high-waisted shorts with the detachable suspenders, or, for that matter, the oft-rumored Return of the Overall? Three years ago, we all wore maternity clothes. Three before that, we needed special underpants to accomodate our 2" zippers. When you start condemning these arbitrary trends, it quickly becomes an exercise in futility and that way madness lies.

A few weekends ago, I went on an urban foraging walk in a Manhattan park. In addition to the assorted naturenicks, cranks and eccentrics who made up our group were two very young women, both sporting the latest in accepted eccentricity: brief, 90s-vintage dresses, cropped leggings (in deference to nettles), fedoras, cropped schoolboy blazers, shaggy bangs, and whimsical left-shoulder tattoos. Naturally, each had, upon her feet, artfully-scrunched socks and substantial platform sandals. They didn't look ridiculous; they looked adorable, and very, very young. The fact that they were dressed identically only added to the impression that this wasn't even a style statement, it was just what you wore.

"Trends" offend people because it's a wholesale embrace of the norm - and when it's an alleged departure from the norm, the result, to the nonconformist, is more galling still. But we all fall prey to this to a certain degree, both for good and ill, and there is something a bit bold about admitting it so publicly. Trends are worrisome when they promote something deeper - an inhibition of movement or health or the cooption of poorly-understood symbolism. Socks and sandals cannot be accused of this. Is it the best choice for a nature hike? Arguably not. But that the two can coexist is, for me, heartening.

Now is perhaps the time for full disclosure. I have done it. I have worn white anklets with those Swedish Hasbeens sandals. And if I may say so (I can't say for sure, because I don't have a full-length mirror) I think it looked kind of cute. But there is a cautionary tale in this. One day I was wearing the socks, the sandals, a floral dress and a blazer. I went into an American Apparel to buy a pair of tights, and the manager, all of 20, approached me. "I wondered," she said, "if you were looking for work. Because you have the perfect look for our store." I need not tell you that my horror was matched, that same week, only by being mistaken for a prostitute by two middle-aged Hasids. Or that I have not attempted it since.

Should You Rock Socks And Sandals? [NY Post]

[Image via NYPost]