The age-old debate that never gets tiring, mainly because there is no right or wrong answer despite what anyone tells you. Like all things that involve ‘style’ there is a time and place for most sartorial choices and a few common do’s and don’ts. But there is no finite rule when it comes to going sockless or not. There are so many factors that affect the answer and thus the outcome of it looking good or not. So let us take a look at the factors that affect the decision to go sockless or not.
1. Skin Color
Whether anyone wants to admit this or not, there are things that are pleasing to the eye and things that are not. Being pasty white poses are large risk of a strongly contrasting look, which in many cases simply does not appeal. Like wearing white leather shoes with a black suit. It just doesn’t work. Whereas on the contrary, skin darker than a nice tan color never poses that same risk as darker skin blends more easily with most leather colors. So, if you are pasty white, as I am, it pays to know what colors go well with your skin and thus utilize complementing colors as opposed to strong contrasting colors when deciding to go sockless. I tend to wear light colors, in both trousers and shoes, when going sockless as not to create an unappealing center of attention i.e. my ankles. My choice of look should always be to blend, for the most part. Not to contrast too heavily. For those of you darker than pasty white, well you have it a lot easier!
Naturally in one of these pictures you see me breaking the rules, and in reality is that I am trying to tan up the tops of my feet hahaha!
Naturally, the weather is going to play a huge part in whether or not one goes sockless. When I lived in London, I never went sockless. Never. Not only does the menswear culture of England frown on it, but frankly the weather virtually never calls for it. But when I started passing more time than not in the Dominican Republic where every day is above 80 degrees and 90% humidity, I learned real quick that survival of the feet meant being sockless on the regular. Wearing dress shoes and socks was nearly unbearable. Also because my feet swell quite a bit in humidity and those millimeters of sock volume make a huge difference in fit. And so, experiencing both extremes of ‘never doing’ and ‘always doing’ meant that I finally understood that the topic of whether one should go sockless or not, is heavily dictated by multiple factors that are both in and out of our control. To sum it up, it’s not so simple to say ‘yes or no.’
And now being in NYC, where I actually experience both extremes of weather every year, I now get to incorporate the idea a lot more often but also allow myself to be more classic too. As you can see in the photos here, which are all me, that depending on the weather and the outfit, my choice is dictated by these factors that play a great role.
In both your trousers and shoes there are materials that are more complementary to the look of sockless or the look of classic and formal with socks. In your shoes, a sockless look is often seen paired with a suede shoe as the light-absorbing material helps to soften the look of the sockless contrast one might create. Calfskin is more of a grey area. Black calf can be tough. The darker your skin, for me, the better the sockless appearance looks against black leather. For light tan shoes, I think it suits a lighter skin or tan color. Same for your trousers. A heavy flannel would be strange against the bare skin. But linen looks great against bare skin. A shimmery sharkskin suit would look ridiculous sockless, but cotton chinos suit that ‘look’ just fine. Knowing these suggestions helps in whether deciding to go sockless or not.
4. Shoe Style
Last, but not least, is the shoe that you are wearing and how that affects your decision. I have my ideas and preferences. They are not fact. But, for me, are quite practical in maintaining a smart look. I tend to only go sockless in loafers. And mostly in suede loafers. I will do so in leather ones, but it is rare. I will never go sockless in an oxford. It does not suit the look to me as oxfords are a ‘smart shoe’ and going sockless is a casual or informal idea. But I would go sockless in a suede derby, although it is very rare that I would do this. Boots require socks unless you are going for the unlined chukka feeling. Monkstraps are the grey area. I would not go sockless with calfskin monkstraps. But I would with suede monkstraps.
As you can see, there is no right or wrong answer. Each case is individual and has so many factors at play that help to decide the right way to go. Get to master knowing those suggestions and use them to your advantage and for heaven’s sake, never listen to anyone telling you that you cannot go sockless! At the end of the day, style is defined by the way you carry yourself and less so by what you wear.