This might seem ~so random~, but get ready for the return of socks with sandals. High white socks — once synonymous with iconic ’90s geeks like Steve Urkel — are now dope.
Whether they’re paired with sandals, slides or chunky white Filas, socks are no longer dorky. They’re the latest awkward 1990s trend (alongside the bowl cut, of course) now considered the epitome of skater-boy chic for boys who don’t skate.
As a Disney Channel kid, I’ve been thinking about the iconic music video from the tween sketch show So Random! lamenting just how uncool socks and sandals are:
What’s the difference? Skate culture — it’s what most of 2019’s casual menswear is rooted in. Starting in the early 2010s, Supreme and Off-White dropped skater-boy styles into the fashion zeitgeist with luxury lines and celebrity brand partnerships. As we learned in The Devil Wears Prada, these high-end styles then diluted down to everyday retailers and Instagram users — myself included.
But Joe, you ask, aren’t exposed ankles all the rage? Until very recently, they were! As GQ’s Sam Schube proclaimed in May, no-show socks were cool. Then they became so popular they’re now basic — at least for the young fashion elite. Just this spring, Ashwin Rodrigues reported for MEL on the looming end of the visible male ankle. Friends, that time has come.
Why socks, though? “It’s no longer a fashion move, exactly — it’s just what you do when it gets warm, whether you work at Goldman Sachs or in graphic design,” Schube writes. “Not wearing socks has become a kind of style shorthand, a way to signal that you get it, even if you’re not entirely sure what it is.”
Gen Z is embracing socialism at unprecedented rates, so any styles associated with Goldman Sachs are inherently uncool. In fact, anything capitalist is a risky choice. Both Forever 21 and Topman are downsizing, while thrifting apps like Depop are gaining steam as cheap alternatives, helping to popularize retro styles.
The celebs are catching on. Nicholas Braun — dorky Cousin Greg from Succession — is rocking socks with sandals in a recent GQ profile. For Braun, himself an OG Disney Channel player, embracing socks with sandals is endearingly on-trend. We’re seeing a return to the late-’90s and early 2000s styles. It’s an era in which the lovable nerd reigned supreme.
It helps that Gen Z style icons Billie Eilish, Jaden Smith and Grown-ish actor Luka Sabbat are all moving things in a sock direction.
Socks, of course, are just one aspect of the ubiquitous sneaker culture. Nineties brands like Fila and Champion successfully had a renaissance because their products were available at Gen Z-approved thrift stores. “They liked what they saw in other brands, and it allowed for them to be individuals,” Brooklyn-based vintage-fashion collector Jordan Page told the New Yorker in 2018.
Soon, these brands got wind of their underground popularity, partnered with retailers like Urban Outfitters and rebranded to a generation unfamiliar with their past. This all contributed to why, just days ago, Vogue Paris published a photoshoot with model Hailey Bieber recreating Princess Diana’s streetwear styles. Hailey gives us bicycle shorts, kicks and — yes — high white socks.
Bieber is far from the only stylish celebrity embracing socks-and-sneaker culture. Frank Ocean, Tyler, the Creator and Pete Davidson are all known to show off their stock in socks. It’s about time we joined them.
Why protest? It’s just plain comfy.