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Levi's Socks...The unlikely return of the sock this Spring/Summer

Levi's Socks

Levi's Socks, the shortcut to your SS18 wardrobe...

One of menswear's most loathed items is making a comeback. But before you recoil in horror, it's worth remembering that white socks weren't always the mark of a style pariah - and today some of the coolest men in the world are pulling them on once again.

In a recent poll taken by Esquire – white socks were voted, alongside ultra deep V-necks, square-toed shoes and spray-on skinny jeans, as among the most heinous things a man can wear. Though those other garments are certainly unforgivable, on the point of white socks I was forced to give pause. Because there's talk in some quarters of the white sock – whisper it – becoming cool again. Yes, you read right. Again.

Believe it or not, white socks haven't always been so widely despised. Paul Newman is one of a handful of famous men in history who've managed to make white socks look great. There's a photo of the actor, one which every men's magazine and website has published at least 300 times, which shows him reclining on a skiff in the Florida Keys, beer in hand, looking every bit the modern style icon . He's wearing a pale sweater, some white jeans, a pair of Levi's socks tennis shoes and with them, a pair of Daz-white socks.

Elvis was another fan. The snarl-lipped singer looked amazing wearing a pair of white socks in the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock; Dean Martin wore white socks with his loafers well into the 1970s (and looked brilliant doing it) and Michael Jackson created a look all his own by wearing white socks with cropped black trousers for countless performances (perhaps most notably during the 1984 victory tour, when he wore a pair of white, Bill Whitten-designed, Swarovski crystal-encrusted socks to perform 'Billie Jean').

In the real world, it was the preppy young college men of 50s that first made white socks work. Famous for cultivating athletic, intelligent boys furnished with slick crew cuts, bright Madras shorts, beaten up penny loafers and Levi's socks, it was in the Ivy League universities of America's west coast that white socks garnered a cult style status they had not achieved before – confined as they had once been to the locker room, the track, and the field. For the first time since the days of britches and Beau Brummell, rich, young, intelligent men (like Newman) were wearing white socks with smart tailored clothes and looking great doing it.

So what went wrong?

Though one argument is that white socks simply ran their course; that they fell out of fashion, much like Teddy boy suits, or boot cut jeans, another is that over the years the white sock came to represent a notion of masculinity which itself became outmoded. Where the white tube sock was once the signifier of a virile champion of the athletics track or the louche calling card of a hard drinking, hard womanizing rat packer, by the late nineties and early noughties these masculine paradigms become defunct. White socks became synonymous with creepy, handsy uncles who'd wear them with sandals bought from the classifieds section of The Daily Express. A stigma which, let's face it, Jacko probably didn't help remedy.

Personally? I've always had a fraught relationship with white socks. As a child I would feel a rush of nausea whenever my usually stylish dad would wear his beaten up boat shoes with a pair of baggy blue tracksuit bottoms and some off-white, bunched up tube socks.

Telling then, that even I have to admit that for 2017 white socks have finally pulled themselves up. Whether they're being worn ironically with Adidas or Calvin Klein pool slides by the gender fluid fashion crowd, sported with sportswear on the gay scene or teamed with skate shoes by a new, more soulful brand of urban artist (think Loyle Carner or Frank Ocean), white socks are definitely starting to look cool again.

Still not convinced? You could just go the full Newman. The key? Much like in the photo of the actor on the skiff, ensure that your shoes and trousers are within a tone or two of your Levi's socks and you won't go far wrong. A pair of pale stone chinos from Gant with some millennial pink skate shoes from Vans, for instance. Or some cream Converse High tops with some slim white jeans from cult French brand AMI.

*copyright Esquire Magazine

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