Betty or Veronica? Jordan or LeBron? Is a hot dog a sandwich? Is the Dave Matthews Band good? These are some of the great debates of modern life. There is one more burning question discussed from the halls of power to the local pub: “Is it ever ok to wear socks with sandals?”
For many years, this has generally been considered a fashion faux pas. Wearing these two types of footwear in combination was usually seen as a sign that you were out of touch with the world of style and trends or that you had just flat given up on any attempt at style. However, there have been recent signs indicating that wearing socks and sandals together might either be coming into style or, at least, that it is not as frowned upon as it once was.
So, should you go to your sock drawer, pull out your best pair of argyle socks and then slip on your Tevas or your Birkenstocks? The answer is a little complicated. Before we reach a verdict on the burning issue of whether socks and sandals are now OK, we will dig into the history of socks and sandals and make the case both for and against this bold fashion choice.
The history of wearing socks and sandals together is not as negative as you might think. People have been wearing socks and sandals together since ancient Egyptian and Roman times. In modern times, it is not only acceptable but encouraged in places such as India and China. In these places, where sandals are more acceptable in professional settings, the socks and sandals combination is actually encouraged.
In Germany and a few other spots in Central and Eastern Europe, it is popular to wear these two footwear items in conjunction. Overall, outside of North America and some parts of Western Europe, no one would look twice at someone wearing socks and sandals. In some situations, it might cause offense if someone is not combining the two.
In places where socks and sandals are despised, no one is entirely sure who initially decided against this look or why. What we do know is that sometime in the mid 20th century it was decided by Western fashion culture that this look was a big “no-no”.
Socks and sandals became a punchline. In popular culture, this look became shorthand for foreign tourists, dads who were decidedly uncool, and old folks who no longer gave a ----. This idea remained in place in our collective consciousness for a good half a century until attitudes started to change in the 2010s. In 2020, you can now at least make a case for both sides of this polarizing issue.
First, we will layout the traditional case for why you should never wear socks with sandals. We will discuss a few reasons here but if you talk about this issue with a true socks and sandals hater, you would be given many, many more.
One reason to not wear socks and sandals is simple and straightforward. It just looks weird. From a fashion perspective, sandals are designed to look good on your bare feet. When you wear socks it throws off the whole aesthetic.
The “weirdness factor” of socks and sandals works on a sliding scale of how outlandish are your socks. White socks and sandals look a little weird and black socks and sandals look a little weirder than that. Once you start getting into purple socks or green socks, it starts to get really weird. For those who either accidentally or on purpose want to crank the weird factor up to 11, patterned or striped socks will do just that.
If you just love covering your feet by wearing comfortable socks – which is totally understandable – there is really no reason to not wear shoes on top of them. On the flip side, most people believe that the whole point of sandals is to air your puppies out! It defeats the purpose of both socks and sandals to wear them together.
Especially on the sandal side, you are going against everything sandals stand for when you wear socks with them. A sandal’s whole purpose in life is to not constrict and inhibit your feet. Sandals give your feet air and keep them cool on a hot day. They also serve to show off good looking or well-pedicured feet. Socks and sandals negate all these benefits of sandals.
Maybe the biggest reason to not wear socks and sandals is that it inspires very strong feelings in many people. To put it more bluntly, many people absolutely hate this look. They think it looks “stupid”, “rube-ish”, or “juvenile”. The people who hate this look are usually not shy about sharing their opinions, so you wear this look at your own risk. If you can’t handle the heat, you don’t want to wear socks with sandals.
In 2015, the subreddit r/AskWomen asked the question, what's the worst fashion mistake a guy could make? There were many responses including statements such as black belts with brown shoes, double denim (aka the Canadian Tuxedo), shirts with dragons, and UGG boots. None of these mortal fashion sins were deemed the worst though. The runaway winner? You guessed it, socks with sandals.
All the above being said, there is now a growing case many are making for socks and sandals more acceptable. Some people even advocate that it is more than just acceptable. In 2020, people will tell you it is actually fashionable to rock this polarizing look. Here is the case in favor of socks and sandals.
Like most fashion trends, celebrities are usually the first to embrace these new fads. Lately, there have been several famous people photographed wearing this once despised look. In 2014, Adidas realized that many professional athletes like to wear socks with their Adidas sandals. Because of this, they started the #socknslides campaign This campaign captured photos of athletes rocking this look including most of the NFL’s New York Giants.
There are a few celebrities who have not only embraced the trend but made it a part of their signature look. The two most prominent of these are David Beckham and Justin Bieber. Beckham, who is now more of a model and professional celebrity, comes from the pro athlete world so this is not that unexpected. Bieber is a little more surprising but he does have a well-known love of pro sports and athletes. So, it is not all that crazy that he is often photographed out with his wife wearing socks and sandals, too.
Fashion often reflects who you are and how you feel. Making a bold sartorial choice shows that you are a confident person who is willing to challenge convention for something you like or think looks good. Wearing socks and sandals is a bold choice.
This look takes some real confidence and intentionality to pull off. If you walk the streets with this look with 100% confidence, it will make other people stand up and take notice. Even the biggest socks and sandals haters will at least have to offer begrudging respect to those who make this statement with authority.
To sum up the case for socks and sandals the best thing to say is, “why not?”. This is the whole point of fashion. Rules were meant to be broken and if you think that socks and sandals feel comfortable or look cool, fashion convention be damned! Just remember, flaunting convention can also garner backlash and you should only do this if you are strong enough and bold enough to truly pull it off.
Of course, where you do it is important, too. After a workout or at a hip summer party, you can take a fashion risk and try out this trend. However, it is definitely not mainstream enough yet to give socks as a groomsmen gift for a beach wedding where sandals will be worn.
There it is. The history of socks and sandals as well as the case for and against. What you really want to know though is, should you do it? Is it advisable to take the leap and go full socks and sandals in this day and age? Well, we are here not only to give you the information but to also render a verdict.
Basically, for 99 percent of the population, this is still going to be a hard ‘no’. You are better off wearing socks as they were intended, with real shoes, and sandals as they were intended, with bare feet. This is the safer way to go but it is by no means uninspiring. You can always find great, fashionable sandals to wear with bare feet and cool, stylish socks to perfectly compliment any outfit with shoes. This has been the fashionable path decade after decade and it will never go out of style.
For the 1% of guys who truly believe they can pull this off, though, go for it! If you have the model-like good looks and confidence of Beckham and “The Biebs” and you want to make a statement that will turn heads, wearing socks and sandals is a very good way to do it. They say that fortune favors the bold and, even in 2020, there is no bolder look than the once dreaded socks and sandals get up.
Some of life’s great debates have definitive answers – Veronica, Michael Jordan, a hot dog is absolutely NOT a sandwich, and Dave Matthews is frickin’ awesome – while there are others that have a little more gray area. The socks and sandals debate falls into the latter category. Sure, for years this was a major fashion faux pas but no one really knows why. On the other hand, while it is definitely more socially acceptable now, the socks and sandals look is still something frowned upon by most and pulled off successfully by a very small few.
If you do decide to take a shot at wearing these two things together, here are a few last pieces of advice. Make sure you have great looking socks. No holes or saggy pairs! Only use this combination with sandals that are not thong-style sandals. Otherwise, this can be very uncomfortable. And finally, always check the forecast first. The last thing you want to do is get caught in a rainstorm wearing socks and sandals because as we all know, there is nothing worse than wet socks!
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