Fiona McCade: Sock it to the style gurus

Let comfort reign, let the province of the over-55s become a fashion statement for the young: wear your socks and sandals with pride, writes Fiona McCade

Whoever decided it was taboo to wear socks with sandals has had their dictat well and truly overturned. Picture: Getty

You’ve heard of sword and sandal epics? Well, brace yourselves, because something has appeared on the scene this summer that requires much more bravery than fighting off rabid lions, or attacking Roman legions. I’m talking about a venture which even the toughest gladiator would think twice before embarking upon: the wearing of sandals… with socks.

I’d been reading about this subject for a while, but I didn’t really take it seriously. A few fashion blogs do not a trend make, and just because David Beckham and Bruce Willis do something once, doesn’t mean the world will follow suit. I ignored the Adidas “socks ’n’ slides” Facebook page, because it seemed to have been going a very long time and failed to catch on.

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I smiled to myself when one stylist recently wrote to a New York magazine: “Layering sandals with socks is the perfect way to transition seasons” and when, in spring, Debenham’s announced a 70 per cent surge in sales of both socks and sandals, I didn’t think it mattered much.

After all, there was no proof that the socks would be worn with the sandals.

But they are; oh, they are. For I have seen this phenomenon with my own eyes. So far this summer, I have witnessed several young men parading their sock’n’sandal combinations with pride, and not a hint of irony.

According to the fashionistas, this was the trend of 2013 in Shoreditch, but Portobello beach is not some southern hipster-ghetto. When I see something here, I know it’s happening for real, and doesn’t merely exist in the fevered imagination of some London-centric couture-crazed fad-pedlar.

Of course, none of this would be worth raising an eyebrow over if the men were past 55 and of Anglo or Saxon origin. We expect this sort of behaviour from those particular age and ethnic groups, as witnessed by the wonderful website, but when younger, savvier males are quite evidently wearing socks and sandals together, in public and on purpose, you know that a seismic shift has taken place.

My first instinct is to punch the air and say hallelujah for the victory of liberty over the suffocating dictums of so-called style. With all my heart, I want to believe that men are openly wearing sandals and socks because they want to, because they refuse to be ashamed, and because nobody is going to tell them what to do any more.

I know it’s not the prettiest thing to see, but who cares? Lord knows, if we can put up with men’s three-quarter length pants, we can cope with some socks and sandals.

Besides, I think I understand why this activity has persisted amongst those wild, free souls who never acquiesced to the sneers of the stylists.

As we know only too well in Scotland, a run of good weather can sometimes stop quite unexpectedly, with a sudden tumble in temperatures. But you’ve got your sandals out and you don’t want to go back into shoes, and after all, it might be nice again tomorrow. So, what do you do? You put on your socks, that’s what, and the devil take any detractors. Alternatively, maybe your sandals chafe a tad, and you want a bit of soothing comfort.

Perhaps now the taboo has finally been broken, insecure gentlemen everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief and hold their heads high as they gratefully glide their stockinged feet into the welcoming embrace of their Birkenstocks. For so long, wearing socks with sandals has been the last word in bad taste. It’s been a joke, the epitome of naff; last seen on 1970s Open University lecturers, or the cast of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.

But who actually decided it was taboo? I’m wondering, was it the same faceless set of style gurus who so crushingly condemned the useful bumbag, the ever-efficacious scrunchie, and all those other, harmless pleasures like double-denim, Crocs and leggings?

I’m hoping what’s happening here is that ordinary men are coming together triumphantly to reclaim something they love, which has long been denied to them by the cruel and arbitrary whims of fashion. But I’m not entirely sure.

You see, I had a terrible nightmare the other night, and I’m afraid that somehow, it might be true. In my dream, it is New Year 2013 and four world-famous people are gathered around a dinner table. Barack Obama is there, the Dalai Lama, Bill Gates and Anna Wintour. This august company starts to debate the question: What is the most influential field of human endeavour? But they can’t agree, because each one believes that their milieu is the most powerful.

Obama says: “It’s politics! With politics you can make people do anything you want!” The Dalai Lama shakes his head and says: “Prayer is what changes the world most profoundly.” Bill Gates declares: “Technology is the key to controlling everything.” And finally, Anna Wintour interjects: “You’re all wrong. The most influential thing in the world is fashion.”

“I’ll prove I’m right,” says Barack. “I’ll use my political power, and by summer 2014, I will have brought peace to Iraq.” The others applaud. The Dalai Lama says: “I will pray and by summer 2014, I will have reduced Chinese CO² emissions by 50 per cent.” The others nod approvingly. Bill Gates says: “By the summer of 2014, I will have made Bing the world’s most popular search engine.” Everyone shrugs and offers encouragement. Then Anna Wintour declares: “By the summer of 2014, I will have made it totally acceptable to wear socks with sandals.” “Never!” scoff the men. “It’s impossible! It can’t be done!” And Anna just smiles. Then I wake up screaming.

Never mind. Even if we are being horribly manipulated, at least we’re succumbing to a fashion that’s comfortable. I’ll know for sure that there are dark forces at work if I start seeing people wearing socks with flip-flops. Because, believe me, you need legs of iron to walk in those.