Sock It Up: How The Worst Christmas Present Became The Hottest Fashion Accessory
When I think back to Christmas Day, the thought of receiving a pair of socks was the epitome of an eye-roll. A sympathetic smile would then be thrown at the Auntie who never quite understood that an 11-year-old girl probably shouldn’t also be given a matching Playboy perfume. Such are the odd ways of family seasonal gifting. In hindsight though, maybe they did know what they were getting up to. With the socks anyway.
There was a time when even the idea of having your socks higher than your shoe and skin boundary would cause enough shame to delete your newly made Twitter account and run to the hills. Where once laid the mysterious, yet annoyingly slippery, non-show sock has now become the cosy home of the socks you want people to see – pulled all the way up and preferably Gucci.
Indulging in the world of luxury socks is the new entry point for introducing high-end products into your wardrobe. Whether you choose to express this luxury through a touch of logomania with Burberry, Versace and Thom Browne, or prefer the softer quality of The Elder Statesman’s pastel-hued cashmere. The next pair of socks you buy just might be the most expensive part of your outfit. At Prada, you will set yourself back £325 if you decide to get a customisable woollen-blend pair with a detachable crochet red heart. Love comes at a high price after all.
But what happened to start this shift in our morning mentality? When socks first came into existence, sometime in the 8th century BC, they resembled a pair of Maison Margiela tabi boot. At the time, they were made from animal skins and tied around the ankles. The now-iconic style of isolating the big toe from the rest was initially made for use with summer sandals. For centuries since, socks remained at the core of a personal wardrobe, a necessity and a protection. More recently, the fashion industry has recognised a potential in considering socks as a glimpse of personal luxury. As a result, the way we buy socks changed too. We don’t just blindly get the plainest, simplest pair – we shop for them, and therefore want to show them off.
This shift in considering socks as styling items allowed space for other materials, apart from cotton, cashmere and wool, to be introduced to the underwear drawer. Silk, tulle, velvet and even leather are all being used by luxury brands when creating their own take. Using this newly established space gives designers the freedom to explore how socks can fit into their brand’s already created DNA.
Thom Browne SS20
While the fashion industry catches up, it’s important to acknowledge those who considered socks a garment before us. In the 1990s, skateboarding was at its all time high. Speciality brands and sponsorships followed. If you happened to be watching King of the Road, a Thrasher skateboarding competition founded in 2003 and now hosted on Vice, you would be able to see the majority of the skaters wearing socks branded by their competition team. Skateboarding brands such as season two winners Enjoi saw a gap in the market for designing merchandise for their brand with t-shirts and accessories. Viewers spend a huge amount of time each episode watching close-up shots of feet flying and gliding along rails, socks become a subconscious piece of each challenge on the show. As a result, these brands and television teams now host a wide variety of socks on their websites, allowing non-sponsored skaters – or spectators like yourself – to feel included amongst the chaos. As with everything else, the trend slowly trickled down from the niche and into the mainstream. Avril Lavigne sang Sk8ter Boi, and everyone rolled their eyes.
Pulled up, bunched low, plain, patterned, matched or odd, we mustn’t neglect the gap between our ankles and knees. To help you out with the idea of socks as fashion items, we’ve chosen our favourite luxury socks to start your day off on the right foot:
Backstage photography by Jason Lloyd-Evans