It’s the holidays, and stylish fellows are full on rocking their very best. Fair Isle sweaters, (Raffa Molina makes a killer), corduroy (everything from vests to shoes), wool blazers and satin bombers are giving life to all those daily rotations. But one item has me more excited than I have a right to be…the sock. Once the province of unwanted Christmas gifts for dad, socks are no longer the footnotes of a man’s closet (yeesh, I did write that). Except for a few foot (stocking) fetishists out there, socks don’t get nearly the love they deserve. To rectify that, I’m here to tell you why the right socks will change your life.
Socks are joyful things. Compared to the other pieces in your closet, socks get just a flash of screen time. As a result, they exhibit a middle child’s need to be noticed (see Paul Smith or Happy Socks). They long to be a distinctive part of your ensemble, even if it’s only you who can feel and see them. But fashion’s wave of simplicity has shrunken these fellows down into our collective brogues, loafers and Air Force Ones. Sure, no-show socks sometimes boast whimsical design and solid craft but try as they might they lack the sprezzatura of a great sock.
A Lesson Learned
I came to understand the significance of men’s hosiery on a winter visit to Chicago some years ago. I had all my gear in tow, but not enough socks. An insufficient pair lurked in the back of my drawer and somehow got picked for the road team (sock truism: only the socks you don’t love seem to evade the black hole of socks). My clean sock options dwindled in concert with the days on my trip and I was left to do battle without my sartorial propers. The only thing worse than when your feet are cold is when they’re wet and cold. As the slush of Chitown seeped into my non-waterproof boots I learned a lesson. You neither look cool, nor feel good with wet feet.
I never forgot that trip. Later on, I invested in a heavier weight of wool blend socks that we’re appropriate for Chicago winters and San Francisco summers (à la Mark Twain?). As my investment grew, so did my interest in socks and the craft of making them. And I learned you never look cooler or feel better with feet clothed in warm, soft socks.
Quality Men’s Socks
I went to Japan – not purely for socks, though that’s as good a reason as any. I felt the heaviest soft loom of cotton boot socks made by The Real McCoy’s. 100% wool socks itch my feet so I either look for wool blend, another hybrid or cotton. I began investigating Fair Isle and the cool patterns of Chup, another Japanese maker. Chup, a brand of Glen Clyde, Inc. founded by Mitsuru Hashimoto, launched in 2009 and made its debut at Pitti Uomo in 2013, the same year they partnered with J. Crew.
The designs of Chup socks are inspired by various tribes and made with Japanese yarns. Woven on a machine that produces only 20 pairs a day (partly because it hand links at the toes), a very high degree of care and attention is paid by master craftsmen who ensure each pair is of the highest quality.
The fine foot coverings of the British company Pantherella, the Canadian sock brand Mr. Gray (which sources its fabrics from Japan), the kick-friendly athletic socks of Carhartt, the luxurious mainstays of RL, the supima and cashmere of Loro Piana. Stylish gents like Paul Feig, Russ Westbrook and Joseph Gordon Levitt set great examples for rocking men’s socks with authority.
With every new F/W collection come new socks (or at least more of the same quality). Let’s show some spirit and don some interesting and comfortable socks to mix up your sophisticated “naked” shoe look. It will give a bit of warmth, change how you feel, and in turn, change your quality of life.
Except for sandals…let’s not wear socks with sandals. Stop that.