By David Michael Newstead.
If you’ve bought clothes in the last few years, you might have noticed the changing look of men’s socks. Crazy eye-catching patterns and bright colors have brought some trendiness to an article of clothing that has essentially been one muted color for a long time. Recently, I even saw dress socks for sale in Macy’s that depicted the famous painting The Woman in Gold by Gustav Klimt, which isn’t exactly subtle. But far from being a trend solely for young professionals and well-dressed entrepreneurs, the rise of statement socks has included people like 91-year-old former Republican President George H. W. Bush. On father’s day this year, I saw a mother and daughter reading the newspaper, stopping to excitedly point out an ad for matching statement socks for sons and fathers. And around the workplace, the trend is becoming more and more visible. To better understand this universal appeal, I turned to the most well-dressed guy I know – my friend Nikhil Patil – to discuss the rise of statement socks.
David Newstead: So, Nikhil. Colorful socks… What’s the deal?
Nikhil Patil: What’s the deal? They’re socks. Something to keep your feet warm and prevent your shoes from smelling.
David Newstead: But I mean, colorful dress socks. Statement socks.
Nikhil Patil: It’s a bit like wearing a superhero costume underneath your formal suit
David Newstead: Nice analogy. I often do both.
Nikhil Patil: It’s a way to express a bit about who you are and your personality, while still remaining professional. Most men’s dress pants run to their shoes, so if a man is standing normally. Then, you won’t see his socks. But it’s when he moves, maybe lifts a leg, the pant rides up, and you can catch a quick flash of color.
Nikhil Patil: While it’s pretty acceptable to wear bright colors during the warm months, most men revert back to grays and blacks and navy during the colder months. Colorful socks are a way to break from that monotony.
David Newstead: I would say everyone excessively reverts to grays and blacks. Winter can be very dark. Very dark.
Nikhil Patil: Socks are one of the many places one can throw a hint of color and it’s still “acceptable” in the modern workplace. And I love a gray or black or navy suit as much as the next guy.
David Newstead: So, when did you start wearing these socks if you can recall?
Nikhil Patil: Not sure. Maybe a few years ago. I don’t think there was a specific moment that I decided to switch to colorful socks. I think I was just in the store and found these bright green socks that I thought would pair well with a checked green dress shirt.
David Newstead: But you agree they are a fairly recent phenomenon?
Nikhil Patil: Hmmm. I don’t know about that.
Nikhil Patil: Colorful socks have been around for decades. Look at caricatures of golf clothing. Golfers are often found wearing colorful diamond knee-high socks.
David Newstead: Good point. But that’s not in a professional context. Don Draper wasn’t wearing outlandish socks. JFK didn’t sport these.
Nikhil Patil: Well, I guess it depends what you define as recent. I never saw the colorful sock transition. I’m just a product of a generation where colorful socks was not considered unprofessional.
David Newstead: Any occasion where they shouldn’t be worn?
Nikhil Patil: The color of your socks, as with your tie, should be a reflection of your emotional state. So in my view, I wouldn’t wear colorful socks in situations that call for somber or non-joyous emotions like funerals and dental appointments.
David Newstead: Should they match anything else on you? Or is it just a free-for-all? I mean, some of the one’s I’ve seen would be pretty difficult to match with another article of clothing.
Nikhil Patil: Depends what look you’re going for. Other socks might be more of a “go to hell” variety similar to “go to hell pants”. There are so many ways to play around with socks in professional settings. Very much like ties. If color is not your thing, there are different textures to play around with. But as I’ve said before fashion is about comfort, so do what’s comfortable.