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A turn-up for the bookish

Once the preserve of awkward academics, ankle-skimming trousers are a fashion faux pas no more. Just be sure your socks pass muster, says Rebecca Gonsalves
  • @R_Gonsalves

Fashion designers are well-known for finding inspiration in the unlikeliest of people and places. And though the blue-haired and bespectacled figure of Milhouse Van Houten from The Simpsons may not have been the first figure that came to mind for those designers which sent flood-length trousers down the catwalks for autumn/winter, his ankle-exposing style was recognisable nevertheless.

Cropped more often than rolled up on the catwalk (where tailoring is key), ankle-skimming trousers as seen at Comme des Garçons, Dolce & Gabbana and Yves Saint Laurent ran the gamut of gothic, baroque and military influences. All well and good, but not looks that will be instantly translated to a high street near you quite yet, as retailers tend to be fearful of scaring off the traditionally more conservative male shopper.

Instead, the easiest way to wear the look is by doffing your cap to the old-school academic, whether Oxford don or Ivy League American prepster.

Corduroy trousers, which return this season in berry tones and bright colours, are perfect for emulating the former, although a good fit and a modern shape are important to avoid any outdated academic charges. Chinos are one of the underpinnings of the American preppy look that is so timeless. These too have been given new life with a rich palette for autumn: wine, blues and greys all seem better suited to chillier weather than beige. This season's tailored trousers too, cut on the slim side as they are, benefit from a turn-up – just ensure that the shoes and socks below can withstand the extra attention they're bound to get – the tooled leather of a brogue or the classic elegance of a monk strap should stand up to scrutiny. And unless you're planning to channel the Rude Boys of the Sixties or the King of Pop, white socks are a definite no-no.

Shirtwise, there's life in the old lumberjack yet, as plaids and flannels remain a strong menswear motif this season, while a soft chambray beats stiff denim hands down.

The cardigan may be a divisive garment in more ways than one, but cozying up in something woollen is one of the plus sides of the months of grey gloom that lie ahead. Of course jumpers can complete the look, too – cable knit, statement patterned or simple cashmere are all acceptable ways to keep out the autumnal chill.

And finally to outerwear. Some may find the nostalgia-laden duffle coat slightly suffocating while others revel in its retro appeal. A well-cut single-breasted blazer in tweed or plain wool can be dressed up or down, and often comes with leather elbow patches already sewn on. While this season a bomber jacket, preferably in leather or wool, is set to replace the quilted Barbour as the all-weather jacket of choice.