The art of going without socks explained by guest contributor, F.E. Castleberry.
As gentlemen, we adhere to a basic uniform. And why shouldn’t we? Our adolescence is inundated with uniformed institutions: prep school, team sports, part-time jobs, church. It’s only a matter of time before we push against those very foundations erected to mold us into men.
While some act out in the face of authority figures, on fellow classmates, or by skipping class altogether, others opt for a more passive-aggressive rebellion—that of the sartorial kind. They toy with the details of the very uniform itself, such as the frivolous sock—ditching them altogether.
Function should illuminate form. The longevity of the men’s uniform hinges on this very principle. Losing your socks isn’t as much a betrayal of this precept as one might think. Come the cool of autumn, it’s your ankles that actually keep you cool amid the umpteen layers of wool, cotton, and cashmere that preppies run around in. On a commission last fall to photograph Alan Flusser, he mused I was the best-dressed photographer he had ever met. “You should wear some socks though,” he admonished. I listened. After all, the man wrote the book on style … several of them, actually. I ducked into Brooks Brothers that very day and walked out in a pair. My implicit compliance lasted all of one day.
“Socks, wear them only to weddings … and then, well only if it’s your own.”
—Rand, Making the Grade (1984)
With pants, socks comes off as deliberately thoughtful. And while colorful, offbeat socks non-verbally communicate that its wearer doesn’t take himself too seriously, they should never be confused for a go-to-hell disposition. Just as there is no go-to-hell shirt, so, too, for the sock. Bare ankles firmly whisper, “I don’t give a damn.” And that statement is all the more punctuated with pants that look like you outgrew them last year.
There’s a nonchalance about it—a passive rebellion to the uniform you’ve graduated to for the office, weddings, black tie affairs, Sunday best, et al. The more formal the occasion, the more blatant the indifference. Ankles are the go-to-hell sock.
In creating his style blog Unabashedly Prep just over two years ago, fashion photographer F.E. Castleberry has unwittingly become a pundit of the preppy aesthetic. Splitting his time along the east coast, he has become part of the subculture he initially set out to document. His commercial clients include Ralph Lauren and Norman Hilton, among others; while being published in GQ, Women’s Wear Daily, The Rake, Matchbook Magazine, and in the forthcoming book Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style.
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