Because I need a break from the barrage of Comey/Russia/Trump/Washington news, I’ve decided to offer commentary on what some might consider a vapid subject: fashion. Or, what we wear and why it matters. Namely I want to point out that fashion rules are malleable and that, like politics, they depend on who’s in power.
In other words, a hot item one season may be object non grata the next. By the same token, out-of-favor fads can suddenly, and without warning, make it into the limelight, surprising even the most assiduous trend-watchers.
Before I continue, however, a disclaimer: No one who has known me for more than an hour would describe me as a fashionista. I dress up when I must and dress down when I can. I’m horrible at matching and coordinating. Accessories are not my best friend, and I tend to keep styles lo-o-o-ng after other women have relegated theirs to the Goodwill pile.
That said, I was particularly taken by a recent New York Times story that recounted how wearing high socks with shorts is no longer a fashion faux pas. This is an important topic where I live because we spend a great deal of our time in shorts and sandals. It’s the only way to survive Miami’s 10-month summer.
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“Now that the weather has warmed up,” the reporter writes, “stylish men are stepping out of their caves and into the light in a look that was once the garb of clueless tourists.”
The story goes on to quote the fashion editor of GQ, Garrett Munce, who describes this socks-with-shorts style as “something new … a little bit normcore … a little bit skater.”
A freelance stylist says it “presents this rebellious undertone,” and designer Alexander Wang, who showed off this style in his latest seasonal offering, calls it “something quite useful.”
Hmm. I was never aware that socks with shorts had fallen out of favor. Almost all the men I know from my father’s generation wear high socks with shorts. It’s de rigueur, like a uniform. They also wear socks with sandals — dark dress socks, not white tubes, mind you — which kinda sorta defeats the purpose of sandals, but that’s beside the point.
It’s not just young men trying to pull off a look my father and his friends mastered decades ago. When Kendall Jenner walked the Cannes red carpet in socks and sandals last month and Italian luxury label Valentino sent its models onto the runway similarly shod, the fashion media used “bold” and “quirky” and “adventurous” to describe this style. Go figure.
I sure wish the 80-something crowd realizes they’ve become the vanguard of 21st century urban fashion. Wouldn’t they be surprised? But fashion is like that, mysterious and mesmerizing in its unpredictability and bizarreness.
Remember those humongous shoulder pads of the 1980s? They made me look like a mutant linebacker — but oh, how I loved them! In fact, I continued to wear them even after they slipped out of favor and until my youngest sister, a sergeant in the family fashion police force, mentioned that I looked ridiculous. I hadn’t noticed.
And what about those platform shoes so popular when I was in high school? They were dangerous but an essential part of any with-it wardrobe. As were, in later years, leisure suits, cargo pants, culottes, leg warmers, fingerless gloves, low-rise jeans, peplum blazers and price tags left dangling on baseball caps. That list could go on forever, but more examples are hardly necessary to underscore my point.
Fashion is fickle. Fashion is treacherous. Fashion is what the anointed tell us it should be. Dark socks with shoes and sandals were once, not so long ago, an embarrassment. Now they’re hot-hot-hot. As in politics, where today’s disgraced pol was yesterday’s rising star, fashion makes for strange bedfellows.