The joy of socks

Forget the black opaques – legwear just got interesting. Be warned though, it can be a tricky trend to master. Carola Long guides us through the highs and lows

Remember when socks were something to be ashamed of, something to be hidden furtively under boots or trousers? Back in those unenlightened days the cold-of-foot were forced to shiver their way through winter in horrible trainer or pop socks, dreaming of the toasty warmth of chunky wool. And forget being imaginative with your tights; it was black opaques or bust.

Those days are gone however, as legs become the latest canvas for bold self expression. Quirky or sexy, coloured or patterned, or just proudly on display, tights and socks have become a key accessory in their own right. It’s the perpetual dream of the fashion obsessed but fiscally challenged to find a cheap wardrobe update that is genuinely transformative, and this season it seems our prayers have been answered.

Coloured tights appeared on the catwalks last year but this autumn the trend for statement legwear has picked up. Hosiery label Pretty Polly (check out their great new range by Henry Holland) report: “Interest in tights is high and sales are switching from classic black opaques as women adopt colour and style. Combined sales of opaque and fashion tights have seen a 30 per cent increase compared to last year.”

On the A/W catwalk Balenciaga showed fine black tights with polka-dots, Miu Miu dazzled with jewelled knee-socks and Marni’s collection featured thick checked tights and knee-socks. At Paul Smith ankle boots were teamed with woolly walking socks and Margaret Howell showed over-the-knee grey versions. In celebrityville, Agyness Deyn pitched up to the Burberry show in pop socks (granny chic) and Lily Allen has been strutting her stuff in trompe l’oeil stockings (fetish without the fuss).

The fashion week merry go-round was awash with more hosiery than Robin Hood’s sock drawer. Daring looks spotted by your women on the ground included ankle-high spotty pop socks worn with Louboutin courts, polka-dot tights – both sheer and opaque, thick wool climbing socks with brogue style ankle boots, knee-length pop socks and ripped-look gothic tights. Far from being a fashion faux pas, socks and sandals (that’s chunky heeled sandals) are officially a good look.

Of course fashion should be a journey of self discovery in which we trust our sartorial instincts, but this is one of those trends that can go really wrong, so a few pointers can’t hurt. The fashion desk have patented a handy rule of thumb – or perhaps toe – which goes fine heel, fine tights, chunky heel, chunky tights. Other tips are that good socks include country-knit patterns (try Gap) and neutral colours such as black, grey and oatmeal, while hopefully it’s obvious that musical or cartoon socks are best avoided.

When it comes to tights, lace, flower prints, fishnets, fluorescent colours and animal print are challenging at best, a travesty at worst. Lastly, keep the rest of your outfit chic and simple; pattern on pattern will look busier than the Northern line at rush hour.