By Hannah J Davies, The Guardian

From David Beckham – in red socks and Birkenstocks – to Tyler, the Creator and Kanye West, style icons have rushed to embrace this anti-fashion statement.

Despite previously dabbling in heavily bleached cornrows, abundant curtains and even, during a particularly dark period, a tie-dye sarong, David Beckham has outdone himself in the questionable style stakes. Papped last week while shooting an advert for his new skincare range, Becks rocked bright red socks with brown, two-strap Birkenstocks, seemingly inspired by the anti-deep-vein-thrombosis look preferred by many a mature flyer.

But was it really such a faux pas? Socks and sandals might have received a bad rap over the years, but, like normcore “dad” trainers and hiking boots, they have become an unexpected trend for both men and women. Just ask rappers Tyler, the Creator – who posts umpteen pics of his socks and sliders on Instagram – and Kanye West, who wore the combo to a recent wedding. (Curiously, for someone who has his own shoe line, they appeared to be at least a size too small.) Elsewhere, Louis Vuitton and Anna Sui have sent the look down the catwalk and influential fashion blog Man Repeller recently published a guide to nailing the look. But just how has this former anti-fashion statement – the footwear of choice of Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig – crossed over to the mainstream?

Adam Welch, editorial director of Net-a-Porter’s menswear site Mr Porter, says the trend is proof that “nothing stays ‘poor taste’ for ever … Originally, this was a look associated with clueless tourists who had no idea how to dress for the heat. But it’s been wryly co-opted by brands like Prada, who have shown that you can do it purely for aesthetic reasons – a sports sandal and patterned sock is quite graphic and fun.”

If you intend to embrace the resurgence, careful styling is probably wise. Man Repeller suggests experimenting with adding sandals to an outfit you already love (that explains the suit that Beckham wore with his, then). For men, Welch recommends a “chunkier sports sandal or pair of Birkenstocks … with thick patterned socks”. But it’s clear some are still struggling to get behind the look; as one online commenter astutely noted, there’s a fine line between looking fashion-forward, and like you have shoved on the first shoes by the door to bring your shopping in.


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