With the re-re-release of Michael Jackson’s funk-noir masterwork, Thriller, who can forget the perfectly glam-casual attire of Jackson during this period? His white-suit, black-shirt combination on the album cover (oddly a set of polar opposites his life would ultimately pivot around) and the tight black trousers of Billy Jean were a kind of re-awakening of prom-night cool. However, surely the most iconic garment to emerge from the visual cacophony was the glittering white socks from Billie Jean.
Jackson’s jack-ups pulled socks back into focus as an essential part of any outfit. Socks have had a varied and interesting part to play in the history of fashion. Just like the shameless European tourists of today, the Romans used to wear socks with sandals, the soccus remaining for use inside, so as not ruin all of those polished marble floors, presumably. In the 19th Century, men became the prominent sock-wearers, after the shared gender representation of the sock-stocking in the vast interim. As a strange sort of tribute to the death of Albert in 1861, Victorian men wore black socks, ensuring the colour was the most popular worn throughout the industrial revolution.
In the 1930s there was a great race to develop a silk substitute that used socks as the vessel to launch this new wonder-material. Wallace Carothers discovered Polymere 6.6 two years before committing suicide in 1937. A few years later, at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, such synthetic fibres were presented, incorporating the city’s initials into the name ‘nylon’. Exposed here to the public for the first time this fabric would change the course of fashion forever. In 1940 72,000 pairs of nylon stockings were sold on the first day of their release alone. First year sales report up to 64 million pairs shimmering on the now deceptively smooth legs of women around the world, yet another weapon in the armoury of the ongoing female illusion-industry.
For the gentleman, socks can add a subtle grade to any outfit, either purposely clashing with, or neatly settling into, the various tones on display. The quality of a sock, too, cannot be underestimated. In cultures around the world and throughout history, the feet are pampered, oiled, cured and anointed as a symbol of kindness, reverence, pride and health. There is something inexplicably satisfying about slipping into a good pair of socks, on some level laying the well-textured foundations for the teetering construction of ‘you’. Check out the Gene Meyer range at Murdock’s. Perfectly styled and boldly designed, this selection provides you with a good enough excuse to take an interest in that delicate transition from shoe to trouser.
Such distinctive apparel can be the finishing touch you might otherwise be missing. To get to know a man, they say, you should walk a mile in his shoes. But if you don’t feel like loaning your loafers to all and sundry, just tease any curious passers-by with a flash of your socks – they’ll soon know what kind of man you really are.
If in doubt, here’s further proof of the indispensable role of socks in society: