Photo: Merilyn Smith/WireImage/Getty
Socks and sandals, as a twosome, go way back: Archaeologists excavated the first documented pair of socks from the Nile in Egypt, and surmised that they were made between 250 to 450 A.D. These socks had split toes, designed explicitly to be worn with some proto-sandals.
And yet, recent history has not treated the combination kindly. Consider the Wikipedia entry for “Socks and sandals,” which reads, meanly: “Wearing socks and sandals together is a controversial fashion combination and social phenomenon. It is considered a fashion faux pas.” The pairing also gets mocked in a meme (a picture of Tevas and socks, with the caption, “The Best Way to Protect Your Virginity”), and in at least one song (the track “Socks With Sandals” includes the lyric, “Some haters say, ‘that look was never in!’”).
Against those odds, Virginity Protecting is back in style. Stylish socks-and-sandal pairings littered the runways this year: Opening Ceremony coupled low pink sandals with gray socks; Ulla Johnson went with a scrunchy yellow pair for her black closed-toed heels.
On its face, the equation is simple: Take one (1) pair of sandals and pair it with one (1) pair of socks. But that’s deceptive, and getting it right is not as easy as it looks. So we brought in Karin Bereson, the owner of cult-clog brand No. 6, and a handful of stylish sock obsessives, like Need Supply’s buyer and California pants designer Jesse Kamm. Bereson has styled her clogs and sandals with socks for years, and has accumulated a number of rules — or, as she puts it, “things that will make the look easier for the sock-and-sandal intrepid.” She has a wide-ranging appreciation for the look: “I always think of old Italian grandmas with their nude stockings and their little slides, or Miu Miu from the ’90s, which is when you first saw the look in a fashionable way,” she says. “Sometimes no one even notices, but you feel a little edgier.” We’ve catalogued the rules — or rather, tips for the averse — organized by kind of sock.
For sheer socks with sandals (and heels)
“With a sheer, ladylike sock, try them with a ladylike shoe: a mule, a block heel, or a suede sandal,” Bereson says. For this, Darner socks were the resounding winner. In the words of Jesse Kamm: “I love pairing my Darners with my Martiniano glove shoes and my sailor pants,” she says. “I like to give a little ‘sexual ankle’ whenever I have the chance.” So does fashion editor Sue Williamson. “For wearing an open-toed shoe, I love my Darners, which are $38 and are basically the most high-maintenance sock in the world, but I’m obsessed with them,” she says. “They look really cool with Brother Vellies sandals and really dorky-cool with everything else.” Even the height of a Darner sock is perfect: “The height of where these socks hit you on the leg works with all leg types,” says Wendy Martin, founder of Kick Pleat boutique in Austin and Houston.
Darner Solid Mesh Socks
The unanimous favorite ladylike sock. (A note: Williamson also has a sock secret and low-maintenance cheapo alternative to Darner. The dainty Walgreens brand for women, that are sadly not available online.)
at Matches Fashion
Here, in a pretty fishnet.
at Opening Ceremony
They’re on sale at Opening Ceremony!
Rachel Comey Hynde Tulle Socks in Pink
at Need Supply
A high-fashion option for this, according to Krystal Kemp, the buyer at Need Supply, are the (admittedly expensive) Rachel Comey Hynde Tulle Socks. “Once it starts to warm up, I’ll wear these with either my Maryam Nassir Zadeh sandals or my Dorateymur Harput slip-ons,” she says. “It’s perfect for when you don’t have time to get your toes done and your last pedi is peeling off.”
Martiniano Glove Shoe in Tostado
at Need Supply
This is the exact shoe, in the exact color, that Kamm wears to achieve her “sexual ankle” look.
Heel Suede Shoes
Technically not a sandal, but per Bereson’s advice, here’s an exceptionally ladylike block heel, in a very ladylike blush, for showing off some socks. Would look great with Darner’s rust or hot-pink colors above.
For colorful socks with sandals
“It’s fun to take a sock that clashes slightly — wearing pink socks with red shoes, for instance,” says Bereson. “I also think that bright blues, which are sort of having a moment, are great matched with brown sandals. They’d be too contrasty with black, but with camels and browns, they’re really great.” For this, we got advice to try it with some cropped jeans. Denim acts kind of like its own neutral, but won’t add yet another color to this mix, if you have a blue statement sock.
Women Crew Sheer
Uniqlo’s sock game is currently exceptional. These three-packs of sheer ankle socks are a great Darner alternate, and come in this blue melody.
Elizabeth Slide Honey
Another Strat editor here is a big Nisolo fan: The brand makes classic-looking, and truly comfortable, leather shoes.
We also like this camel-colored closed-toed mule that’s on sale.
For ribbed socks with sandals
The practically uncontested winner for ribbed socks is Nike’s Dri-Fit Crew socks. “If I’m not in my Nikes, I’m going sockless,” says Lawrence Schlossman, the editor of Grailed. But given that these are more athletic, and most people wear these with sneakers, pairing them with sandals is a certifiably tricky endeavor. “Ribbed socks, and any heavier sock, are your best bet for athletic slides or Dansko clogs or Birkenstocks. The shoes are heavier and wider, and therefore need a heavier sock,” says Bereson. “You could wear them with a pair of cropped pants.”
Nike Dry Cushion Crew Training Socks
Nike Men’s Dri-Fit Half-Cushion Crew Socks
Prada Socks With Geometric Motifs
at Orchard Mille
These Prada crews were also a major status sock this year.
Balenciaga Campaign Logo Tennis Socks
at Saks Fifth Avenue
We’d be remiss if we left off the on-the-nose but of-the-moment ribbed Balenciaga socks.
No Nonsense Women’s Crew Socks
Chef and sock-and-sandal-dabbler Angela Dimayuga likes pairing Camper heels with Nike socks, or, she says, a pair of Duane Reade socks that read “no nonsense” across the top.
Birkenstock Arizona Suede Sandals
at Saks Fifth Avenue
The Birkenstocks that all these athletic socks work well with.
Rihanna X Puma Leadcat Fenty Fur Sandals
Designer Lili Chemla, who makes her own line of socks, likes to wear her thick, ribbed socks from Nike (“folded over,” she adds) with her Adidas slides or her Fenty Puma slides, cropped jeans, and a pastel cropped T-shirt.
For party socks with sandals
“Tabio’s glitter socks are superthin mesh, and are perfect for warm summer days when you want to spice up your look,” says Gia Seo, a creative consultant whose Instagram bio reads: Sock Influencer. “Plus, they created a thicker elastic at the inner ankle, so the socks will stay up at the perfect intersection just above your ankle bone. “They’re perfect to wear with a heeled sandal with a platform.”
Tabio Glam Sparkle
Falke Fishnet Ankle Socks
at Saks Fifth Avenue
Fishnet socks for a night out.
Suede Double-Band Platform Sandals
In the spirit of really going for it, these chunky, navy suede Prada platforms would go with glittery socks, for a party
Stuart Weitzman Ankle Strap Leather Platform Sandals
at Saks Fifth Avenue
Another chunky-platform-heel option: these block-heeled Stuart Weitzman shoes are on sale.
For graphic socks with sandals
If you’re going to attempt the Mount Everest of socks and sandals — sandals with a graphic sock — follow one of two easy rules: Match the colors in each, or the patterns in each. If you want to wear socks that are printed with the Edvard Munch painting The Scream (yes, those are popular in the city right now), wear orange or red sandals to reflect the orange at the top of the sock. If you want to wear white socks with the Cookie Monster printed on them, wear blue sandals, or sandals with a blue detail.
Cookie Monster Sesame Street Socks
Women’s ZERØGRAND Slide Sandal
The Pixie Sock
“I like to wear my striped socks with my striped Adidas sandals to be stripe-on-stripe,” says Chemla. “Or my backless Gucci loafers with my glitter pair.”
Adilette Cloudfoam Plus Stripes Slides
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