Odds are good that the very concept of socks and sandals conjures up shudder-inducing visions of old weird dudes in white crews and Birkenstocks. Or like, Tevas.
Does anyone else remember when EVERY DUDE ALIVE was wearing Tevas -- the “sport sandals” with the two cross straps and the one long strap connecting them -- and they were considered trendy and hip, even for guys NOT wearing them to perform some kind of deep-woods parkour but who were just loping down to the local Musicland for the new Gin Blossoms CD?
Apparently some people do, because a cursory Internet search turned up a blog post that collects a bunch of 90s-era photographs of dudes in 90s-fashionable sandals. DUDES OF THE 1990s, WHERE DID YOU GET THE IDEA THAT WE ALL WANTED TO SEE YOUR FEET? (Don’t click on that link unless you’re really weird. Just a warning. Even if you don’t feel weird now, you’ll feel pretty weird after.)
The first time I saw socks and sandals combined on a non-elderly non-man was during my high school trip to Europe (which I realize makes me sound like the spoiledest child this side of Veruca Salt, but my dad really worked hard to be able to afford for me to go). A few of the offbeat yet mesmerizing senior girls I secretly worshipped made a special trip to a Birkenstock outlet in Germany, and came back with bunches of two-strap sandals which they proceeded to wear with marled boot socks for the rest of the trip.
I was confused, and yet irresistably attracted. I hated sandals at the time, associating them with the like SO SHALLOW beach culture of the South Florida city where I grew up, but wearing them with SOCKS seemed like the ultimate fuck-you subversion of this usually light and hot-weather-friendly shoe.
SEE, I overthought everything EVEN AS A TEENAGER.
Point being, I’ve been obsessed with this look for years. I never did warm up to barefooted sandal wearing, for a couple reasons. For one, if I don’t have an IMMACULATE pedicure? Nobody is seeing my feet. Also, my feet are on the large-ish side (I wear a 10 or an 11, depending on the shoe) and I feel, probably ridiculously, that they look superenormous in sandals.
Also also, I’ve never in my life encountered a pair of sandals that didn’t give me a hundred blisters pretty much immediately upon putting them on. And the idea of wearing open shoes in urban environments? Seems like asking for several varieties of disasters and disease, even if the protection socks offer is mostly psychological. (To be fair, if I’m not wearing sandals with socks, I’m wearing Dr. Martens boots, so obviously I take my foot-protection kind of overly seriously. I also have small anxiety attacks when I see formerly sandal-clad people walking through TSA security barefooted, AND THOSE AREN’T EVEN MY FEET.)
I do, however, really love socks. Once the warm weather settles in (and tights get put away -- although I do also sometimes wear sandals with TIGHTS in the spring and fall) I wear ankle socks with lace-up oxfords and boots and my stable of natural-fiber dresses all summer long. So wearing those socks with the few cute pairs of sandals I own makes logical sense, right? RIGHT?
Let’s define our terms: What counts as a sandal? For my purposes I’m going to define a sandal as any shoe that is open across the vamp, and with either an open toe or an open heel (or both). You can disagree. I’m sure some of you will, and argue that these are techincally peeptoes or whatever weird-ass names they give shoes now. This is my do-this-don’t, though.
What follows is my own highly subjective socks-and-sandals advice, collected over years of field research. And obviously? This is not exclusive and authoritative. These are MY ridiculous and arbitrary rules. You make up your own and wear whatever the hell you want, guys. If you love it you will rock the shit out of it.
1. Make sure your sandals are substantial.
Say that three times fast. No. It is literally true. I have no doubt that some broads can make a strappier sandal with socks look RAD and forward-thinking but I suspect those exceptions require a level of socks-and-sandals skill that I have not achieved as of yet. So I stick with chunkier sandals because I know what works for me.
2. If your sandals are substantial, your socks should be skinny.
I don’t know if this works in reverse? Like maybe if you paired big slouchy bootsocks with skinny-strappy sandals it would turn out awesome? I haven’t tried that. But in general I keep my socks simple and light (if not downright flimsy) as I think this keeps the pairing somewhat summer-ish, without ACTUALLY sticking my feet out into the world.
3. Ankle straps are a non-negotiable requirement.
I won’t even consider sandals for socking unless they have an ankle strap. I don’t know why I am so dedicated to this particular rule. But socks in sandals without ankle straps remind me of the parts of the fashion 80s I’m not so keen to revisit, namely the part that involved wearing lace-edged fold-down anklets with pointy-toed pumps. Again, I’m sure there’s some way for this NOT to look mega dated but I’m not invested enough to find out.
So now that you’re both totally on board the socks-and-sandals train with me -- you are, aren’t you? -- AND fully equipped with my totally capricious advice, let’s look at the possible pitfalls of this look.
A. RAIN IS YOUR ENEMY.
Tromping around besocked and sandaled in the rain is one of the most depression-inducing fashion malfunctions I know. I mean, wet socks are miserable enough. Wet socks with clunky shoes strapped to them are EXTRA sad. It says to everyone you meet, HEY, I REALLY DIDN’T PLAN MY DAY WELL AT ALL. So don’t try this if there is even a slight chance of rain.
B. People might openly stare, in awe of you being such a rad fashion iconoclast.
I find this varies depending on where you're socksandaling it up. In Boston pretty much nobody gives my socks a second look, but then Boston has actually been scientifically rated as one of the least fashionable metropolitan areas in the country so people here don't pay much heed to what more trend-conscious people would consider a fashion faux pas. In Florida? People will stare so hard you may as well have live rabid wolverines strapped to your feet. ENJOY THE ATTENTION EITHER WAY.
C. You might fall down?
I fall down a lot as it is. Actually when I told this, offhandedly, to my physical therapist, whom I was seeing after jacking up my shoulder from one particularly impressive fall, she seemed concerned. When I told her I thought of my falls as like, practice for my bones? Like beating my joints up would make them stronger? She seemed even more concerned. She also seemed to think I was pretty funny. In the head. Why do I share these things with you guys?
ANYWAY. I am mad clumsy so I can’t say if this is actually a sock-sandal hazard or not, but I feel like I trip and stumble a little bit more in certain sandal/sock combinations. Like slippery socks in slippery leather-lined shoes mean maybe I am at an increased likelihood of having to steady myself from time to time by grabbing tree limbs or car fenders or the heads of small children who happen to be nearby.
The key, of course, to successfully accomplishing sandals-with-socks excellence is commitment. This is indeed true of pretty much any style or fashion thing you want to try. If you like what you’re working, and feel good about it, and throw yourself into making it fabulous, you are probably going to pull it off -- and you might even change some folks’ minds about what is or isn’t a do or a don’t.
Exactly like I’m hoping to manage here. Have I won you over?