Socks Appeal

socks.jpgDuring my apprenticeship of the dandy art, I’ve learned that dandyism is not defined by a specific look from a certain era, but instead is an approach to wearing clothes, independent of time and place, that produces an effect we call dandyism. There is no one way to dress like a dandy, only ways that succeed or fail to varying degrees. And nowhere is the attempt to adopt a standardized dandy uniform more futile than in the attempt to replicate the way dandies dressed a hundred years ago.

No, instead a man simply dresses in his own particular way, and his movements and demeanor animate his clothing. And crystallized within the elusive effect of this combination of man and clothing is that certain something we call dandyism.

Now ours is an age of overstatement. I have it on good authority from a journalist, and journalists can always be trusted, that when a certain dandypunk removed his pustule-spangled mantool from the nearest harlot long enough to answer some questions (about himself) for an article, he was wearing a suit pockmarked with shiny red sequins.

Yet according to Max Beerbohm, part of the magic of dandyism lies in producing the supreme effect through the least extravagant means.

So while I still find pleasure in donning full dandy regalia for a night at the opera, lately I find I take greater sartorial pleasure in outfits whose dandy factor is far less obvious.

For example, recently I was a guest at GenArt, a large annual fashion event in Los Angeles that draws nearly 1,000 people. I had discovered one of the featured designers, providing her first publicity in the fashion press, which led to her being chosen as one of the Fresh Faces of Fashion. Not exactly Lord Henry tutoring Dorian, but satisfying nonetheless.

I never bother to remember something as vain and trivial as what I wore on a particular night, but in racking my brain I believe I wore:

Navy blazer, double-vented with ticket pocket
Pink oxford-cloth shirt
Dark jeans by Agave (free schwag from a publicist; I only wear jeans if I don’t have to pay for them)
Black croc belt
Black bit loafers
Sky blue houndstooth socks, pictured above

Altogether a rather anonymous outfit, in my estimation.

So during the course of the evening my friend and I meet a couple of young ladies, whom we then escort to some hip Downtown sushi place on the 21st floor, with a stunning view of the smog.

The waitress comes over to take our orders for drinks and fishes, and when it’s my turn, I cross my legs and gaze at the menu with that blasé expression for which I am famous. When I look up, the waitress and my companions are staring at me in rapt amazement.

“Wow,” says the waitress, “those are some really nice socks.”

“Amazing,” coos one of the young ladies.

“I love patterned socks,” says the other.

My friend makes an offhand nod of approval, rather used to this sort of thing.

Ah, bringing the evening to a screeching halt of admiration with nothing but a pair of hose — it will forever remain one of my fondest memories.

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21 Responses to “Socks Appeal”

  1. Will Says:

    That’s the ticket. Lilac socks can also be counted on for a similar reaction. :-)

  2. Beau Brown Says:

    I’ve never really been too concerned about socks, since most of the time they never really show up. However, as long as they match my pants, they can be in any color or pattern. Just as long as they match the pants. Or shoes.

  3. Nick Willard Says:

    Never match your shoes. Try to match your tie.

  4. Beau Brown Says:

    Ah, so it’s the tie I should be matching? That makes perfect sense… Thank you.

  5. Christian Says:

    I match my socks to my eyes.

  6. Rutherford Says:

    I make it point that my socks do not match anything else I am wearing.

  7. Ryan Oakley Says:

    That’s incredible. Socks are really difficult.

    I have a persistent weakness for red or pink ones. Even when they look really bad. The red ones came about because my mother, when she was a child, only had a pair of red socks and endured much abuse on their account. Wearing red socks is, for me, my way of pretending that I love the woman.

    The pink ones . . . I don’t know. I just really like them.

  8. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    The Latin root of “animate” (anima) actually means soul; “vīta” is Latin for “life.” But close!

    Also, I tend to wear boots, so my socks could be tie-dyed for all anyone cares.

  9. Ferrando Says:

    This post guided me as I reached into the sock drawer this morning. From the front, today’s pair appars to be solid black. But there’s a row of pink, lavender, and grey circles extending from ankle to calf. I neeed to keep thinking of reasons to cross my legs and reveal them.

  10. Ferrando Says:

    The circles are actually on the back of the sock. Maybe I should just stop twisting my feet to show them off and tape my cuffs up a few inches for an instant Thom Browne look.

  11. Christian Says:

    I agree on anima and vita, but here’s what the dictionary said:

    animate (v.)
    1538, “to fill with boldness or courage,”from L. animatus pp. of animare “give breath to,” from anima “life, breath.”

    I’ll just cut the damn thing….

  12. Miguel Antono Says:

    Gross appeal should be the article’s title. Because socks are indeed gross.

  13. Laguna Beach Trad Says:

    Jesus H. Christ, Christian, you have a publicist? Now I REALLY know the world is bound for hell in a handbasket ;)

    Patterned socks in checks, stripes, and motifs; pastel socks in pink, red, yellow, green, blue; school and rugby socks from Smart Turnout…these are all good, and, in my case, generally elicit strange (or admiring?) looks from stacked MILFs in velour Juicy Couture tracksuits and their fat, balding hubbies in Hollister sweats and square-toed shoes.

  14. Christian Says:

    Not MY publicist, the denim brand’s publicist.

    Agave, since someone’s bound to ask.

  15. Libertino Says:

    If the length of the sock is the same that appears in the image, I believe that still remains a long apprenticeship period to Mr.Chensvold in Dandyism art. I do not want to imagine what should happens when he crosses the legs in a café… On the other hand, dandyism is not a science to be learned. You only can learn certain etiquette rules in dressing. You are, or not, dandy. And you, definitely, are not.

  16. Miguel Antonio Says:

    At least Christian is making a better effort in teaching the dandy art. Let him do his job.

  17. Christian Says:

    Those socks had just come out of the drier. When I put them on, they stretch long enough to cover my calf — or strangle someone.

  18. horsdumonde Says:

    I completely understand the pleasure in having one’s socks admired; I have experienced the same thing myself. For the sake of conversation, I should point out two things: 1) It’s easy to have the best socks in the room; all one has to do is choose excellent socks, buy, then wear them, thus such compliments are tedious to hear compared to the hoped-for, “You are put together marvelously” (or some such statement); 2) Being more of an aesthete, I’m too poor to be a “real” dandy, but I often try; however, I have a problem with socks because the best ones are so expensive, but the material is typically thinner than that of cheap socks, and thus wears out more easily. Regarding this latter observation, how is one supposed to maintain a supply of elegant (and expensive) socks, given their ephemeral nature?

  19. François Says:

    Socks may be maintained in the following way: wear less-expensive socks over the preservable pair, ensuring that they are not visible above the line of your footwear.

  20. Oliver Twist Says:

    Blazer & Jeans! What a clueless twat

  21. Doppler Says:

    I recently halted a meeting at work with an eye-catching, beautifully textured pair of Sea Island cotton socks. It’s normally a pleasure of course to receive compliments, but not at work. I wince when I receive compliments at the office because it means someone is noticing my dress rather than my work… not a good thing when you work in a conservative profession (news) in a conservative society (France). The challenge is to dress just well enough that it registers on colleagues’ subconscious, but to avoid anything obvious enough to draw a comment. A shame.

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