Socks and sandals: on the front lines of the style war

In the battle against bad fads, fashion lovers are split over the S-and-S combination.

No one knows when the first clash took place.

But the war between pro- and anti- sock-and-sandal wearers has been waging for decades.

The casual observer might have been led to believe the battle was being slowly but surely won by the anti-S-and-Sers.

The combination has historically been ridiculed. Stereotyped as the inelegant wear of granola-crunching hippies, the S-and-S duo has been treated with either shameful secrecy or open sarcasm.

But take one look at some of the hottest runways of the season, including Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, and you may get the feeling that things are about to change.

For Cameron Kippen, podiatrist and author of the blog Foot Talk, the recent comeback of the socks and sandals look is no surprise.

“Fashion is cyclic, so eventually if you wait long enough, everything comes back into vogue,” he says in an email, noting sandals have been around for thousands of years.

The practical advantages of the duo may also play a part in its viability as a popular fashion trend.

“Socks may prevent blisters, so it could be seen as a sensible precaution,” says Kippen. “Or people with foot morbidity [which includes disease and other complications] may not be able to go sockless and need the protection they offer.”

Additionally, he says the actual production cost of a sandal itself may be helpful for its popularity.

“The mass production of sandals is far cheaper and much more profitable than traditional shoes, and hence the appeal to retailers,” he says.

Similarly, fashion lover Sally Ho says the look is coming back for both men and women. The practical advantages of both socks and sandals are a great bonus for her.

“I really like sandals,” she says. “And when it gets too cold, socks are a good way to incorporate them into my year-round wardrobe.”

Though she admits there is something somewhat unattractive about the look, she says this is part of what makes it so interesting.

“When something’s a little ugly, it attracts me because I think it looks a little unique,” she says. “I think beautiful is boring.”

She points to the history of the fashion industry to prove what was once ugly may not stay that way forever.

“When skinny jeans came back [into fashion], some people laughed at it because it looked so ’80s,” she points out. “But now everyone is wearing them.”

But don’t think everyone’s been won over already. Despite the appearance of the look on some of the world’s most fashionable runways, fashion lovers like Carmen Yeung have yet to cross over to the other side.

“I personally think it’s really tacky,” she says. “When I think of socks and sandals, I think of really ugly sandals and sports socks. It’s just a no.”

Indeed it seems to be this same sentiment that drives the creators of the website, the self-proclaimed “home of socks and sandals the world over.”

Here, though the ridicule is tongue-in-cheek, it continues despite the recent trend.

Similarly, Yeung, who is open about her love of fashion and new trends, says this is one look she will never adopt.

But her dislike of the look goes much further than aesthetics. To her, clothes speak volumes about the wearer, and what the S-and-S look says to her is unappealing.

“I think how you dress is how you feel about yourself, it’s about your confidence,” she says. “When you dress more put-together, it reflects on your life. [Socks and sandals] are just sloppy.”

Yeung says this type of irresponsible dressing can lead to blunders that can catch up with you later in life.

“The world is based on first impressions,” she says. “It could be your boss in the future [who sees you wearing them.] When I dress well, I’d be ready any time to go [for an interview]. I don’t need to go home and change into my good clothes.”

Similarly, Dan Bandurka, who has long prided himself on a keen fashion sense, says his disapproval of the combination goes further than just looks.

“In the seasons where I want to wear sandals, it’s typically warm. So socks aren’t really needed,” he says. “Conversely, if it’s cold enough to wear socks, you shouldn’t be wearing sandals. It just doesn’t really make sense to wear them together.”

Dan Bandurka admits he will wear the combination – though only in secret.He will, however, admit the practical aspects of the awkward looking partnership.

“[I’ll wear it] when I’m barbecuing or taking out the garbage, because then I’m alone or with a few close people around. It’s more convenient [than putting on shoes].”

Though he is not a fan of the look, he admits he could change his mind one day. Bandurka says the appearance of the look on catwalks in the present may lead to the development of the look in the future.

“Right now, I can’t really see it, but that’s given the traditional style of sandals. Maybe there’s a new way of looking at it that would make it all work,” he says. “But not with the combination we know now.”

For now, he prefers the duo to stay separated.

“Sandals have a purpose, and socks have a purpose, and they’re very opposite,” he says. “It’s water and oil, really.”

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Posted: Oct 12 2008 5:06 pm
Filed under: Features