The Controversy Continues: Are Socks and Sandals a Look for You?

fashion beauty runway the controversy continues are socks and sandals a look for you

Ah, yes. Summer is right around the corner and, in Canada, that means sandal season is upon us. Which brings us closer to the dreaded, ultra-polarizing, topic of sandals worn with socks. Which is so divisive! Some definitely on-trend style professionals think it’s ultra-cool, while for others it’s cringe territory all the way. 

So let’s explore. And then you’ll decide it’s it for you. Or not. Cool? 

Fashion Keeps Recycling Itself 

The look is not new. In fact, socks with sandals go way back… to the era of the Romans, some 2,000 years ago, who wore them for practical reasons: to prevent blisters, protect against sunburn, and help keep feet clean. Additionally, traditional Japanese tabi socks (meaning split-toed) have been worn with thong sandals since the 15th century. In the 1950s and 1960s, children’s closed leather sandals with socks were the norm in most European countries and, to some extent, in North America. 

After that, pretty much nothing got in the way. With the result that Teva sports sandals were mainly worn barefoot to tread on beaches, chunkier platform styles without added textiles were for city sidewalks, and stiletto sandals were worn over nude feet for cocktails and big-ticket outings.

We’d have to wait until the late 90s for V to start popping up unexpectedly paired with athletic socks after many soccer practices. During the Y2K era, a fresh iteration of the look took off, but far from the fields and into downtown cafés and even — gasp — events. 

In Germany and Eastern European countries, slides and socks are notoriously popular for older men; to the point it’s even become a folkloric joke. 

Then something odd happened during the 2016 ready-to-wear collections when Miuccia Prada sent down the runway ultra-luxurious velvet platform sandals paired with different types of hosiery: from nylon bobby socks to argyle knee-length woolen socks. And we all know the Italian design powerhouse is known for bringing back from the brink fashion statements that are on the verge of being unpalatable, like the original ugly chic, which made headlines in 1996 cementing in the process Prada as one fashion brand that had power, vision and stamina. 

OK, some will say: that was for women. 

But in 2018, after David Beckham was spotted wearing red socks with Birkenstock sandals in British Vogue, it was dubbed the last vestiary taboo. Maybe the proliferation of norm core looks had something to do with the fact that this odd — and some would say downright ugly — combination would come to be accepted widely, after having been debated from every possible angle. 

Normcore? Yes, you know, the fashion movement that made anti-fashion attitude and elements transubstantiate into coveted expressions of style. Think dad shoes and jeans of the 1990s (and dressing like Jerry Seinfeld!) which suddenly became ultra on trend. And it 

obviously played a role into making sandals and socks a fashion thing.

Crocs have had the same effect in the last few years, morphing from being perceived as solely practical footwear, to ugly, to a big fashion statement. Canadian makeup artist and educator Marika D’Auteuil is known for proudly donning her Crocs when onstage. With or without socks. 

fashion beauty runway the controversy continues are socks and sandals a look for you 2

OK, Fine. But Should You Wear Them? 

Like anything else in fashion — or in life — deciding what to do or wear is something that’s entirely up to you. But if you do need a little nudge to help you make up your mind, take a look at what these two talented Canadian beauty and fashion experts think about the idea of wearing sandals with socks. 

Hairstylist Stéphan W, owner of Stéphan W atelier hair salon, a man of amazing taste who has a penchant for Dior saddle bags, says the pairing of Birkenstock sandals with socks is insufferable. 

“I know it’s very popular for young guys who are sporty and want to be comfortable above everything else, but I can’t stomach this look. For me, it just means: ’I’m lazy and I didn’t even want to make an effort’. Since the pandemic, the idea of dressing up has definitely evolved. People want complete freedom when it comes to wearing what they want. We’re also seeing many more of what I’d call semi-sweatpants to go to work. Decorum is sliding. Personally, I only wear sandals on holidays or at the cottage. And don’t even get me started on Crocs, which I find completely atrocious.” Well, that’s pretty clear!

In the other, opposite, corner, we find fashion stylist and fashion show producer Sophie Lanza who’s always loved the look. “I remember doing a photoshoot for Clin d’Oeil magazine and the fashion editor not being thrilled with the high-heeled sandals and little anklet socks I was showing. But you need to think outside the box in fashion. I find that the look is very cute. I also find that a woman who wears this has guts. It says a lot about her; about her willingness to take fashion risks and being totally OK with them.” 

“Au contraire!, says Stéphan. I think women who wear socks with sandals — even if they’re high heels — end up looking juvenile and not fashion forward. Despite it being cute, I always feel it’s like trying to balance a look that’s too matronly with something that’s too childlike. But at least the toes are covered.” 

In the final analysis, like everything that evolves around fashion and style in this era of anything goes, it is individuality and personal choice that are the biggest beacons to be followed. The rule is there are no rules. So whatever you decide to choose, flaunt it with passion and let you be you. That’s the most important! Socks or no socks…