The very smart man on my left turned his nose up at my feet. 'In Milan you don't wear short socks. They are ugly - only bus drivers wear them,' he explained. In a city where male dress codes are rigidly imposed by consensus and rarely flouted, thank heavens for Dolce e Gabbana.

This design duo opened the autumn/winter 94/95 men's fashion shows this week with a collection that mixed wearable, snug and relaxed clothes with bearable hints of punk (models had vivid red powder in their hair).

The pair, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana respectively, launched menswear in 1990 and are now considered to be as critically important in the league table of Italian fashion as Armani and Versace. But the look is different. Instead of Armani's fluid tailoring or Versace's clinging curves, Dolce e Gabbana's signatures are chunky sweaters, patchworked peasant tailoring and pieces inspired by army surplus. This time their rollnecks were flecked with Lurex and teamed with track-suit trousers.

Of course, triple-striped trackpants are already familiar to British men, with the original stirupped versions by Adidas much sought after once again. But in staid and beige Milan, this sort of thing is revolution - with or without long socks.

The writer is fashion director of 'Esquire' magazine.

(Photograph omitted)