Once upon a time, socks – like sex – were something that everyone had, and nobody talked about. But after a spate of seasons in which cropped trousers and midi-length skirts have featured prominently – not to mention a renaissance of clompy, stompy footwear and boyish brogues – ankle dressing is once again high on the fashionable agenda. And it's surprisingly difficult to do properly.
It used to be that the only directives with socks were these: make sure they match, and make sure you take them off first when seducing someone, to avoid that awkward stockinged-feet-and-bare-leg stage. But as socks become a trend in their own right, it's time to put a bit more thought into the space between your statement trousers and your must-have footwear. It's time to pull them up – quite literally.
Visionary designer Miuccia Prada has long made use of socks as a styling tool, usually plumping for pairs of the downright dingy, ribbed grey-school-uniform variety. Needless to say, they're fabulous. This season, in her Miu Miu collection, they were conspicuously smoothed up calves between platform brogues and printed half-mast trousers, a bit of eye-catching frumpiness in an otherwise vibrant show. It's a tricky look to pull off – and one which will buck against all your aesthetic instincts – but choose pairs in nostalgic navy and grey (somehow black is still just too utilitarian) and hike them up to a height your nan would be proud of.
Meanwhile, novelty numbers were once the preserve of the office idiot, but thanks to Meadham Kirchhoff and the stalwart Paul Smith, fancy patterns, lurid Lurex and bright colours are all back in vogue above your brogue. Frills, too, have made a reappearance, inspired by a retro revival of bobby-soxer-esque preppy, hipster tastes, but be sure to tone down the girlishness with androgynous shoes or chunky flatforms. Socks and heels can work, too – as witnessed at Alexander Wang and Dries Van Noten – but keep styles edgy rather than overtly feminine, for fear of straying too far into FHM territory.
So begin, be bold and be brave. Remember that it is a far, far better thing to have your socks noticed for their coolness, rather than because you've made the mistake of pretending they don't exist and settled for a vomit-inducing trainer sock or an orthopaedic pop-sock. Take as your example the models at autumn's Comme des Garçons show and opt for simple white, let it slouch around your ankle and banish all thoughts of Michael Jackson.