Blog

NOW TRENDING: EXPOSED ANKLES

20.02.16

Why are men casting their socks aside and what does it mean for modern menswear? We chart the rise and resilience of the most persistent men's styling trend since, well, ever.

For many years menswear has been considered the shy and retiring sibling of womenswear, a safe haven for sensibility, a retreat for the rational. Yes, there will always be the runway looks which are seized upon by those looking to herald the demise of masculinity (again), but for the most part mainstream menswear sits obediently in its box, only occasionally prone to a moment of madness, followed by obligatory existential hand-wringing. Right?

Wrong. You don’t have to be a seasoned menswear professional to have noticed that as far as the bottom half is concerned, less is most definitely more. Men’s trousers are in the midst of their own swinging sixties micro miniskirt moment, shaking up the establishment on the way, kind of.

As if stirred into action by George Osbourne’s promise of a northern powerhouse, hemlines have been retreating upwards, shunning their ancestral home for brighter prospects elsewhere. Though, if there’s one area of menswear that will absolutely not under any circumstances fall prey to the thrall of trend-led frippery it’s tailoring, right? Wrong again. What’s more, this whole exposing of ankles business can be traced back to the notoriously trend-impervious realm of men’s tailoring.

It all started back in 2004 when Thom Browne’s shrunken suit ripped up the rulebook and put men’s ankles in the spotlight. Shock, horror and disbelief followed (unsurprisingly) and Browne’s suit became something of a sartorial sacrificial lamb, a totem of menswear gone mad.

The desired effect of raising leg lengths resulted only in the raising of eyebrows and men everywhere retreated. Don Draper became the suit’s standard bearer, things got all traditional and there was certainly no chance of being asked whether or not your cat had died.

In the days when exposing your ankles was akin to wearing your pyjamas to work it’d have been hard to imagine that in 2016 men were actively unveiling that anonymous sliver of skin above the foot, sidelining socks in the process. Now though, both front-line followers of men’s fashion and would-be David Beckhams are getting on board with the same bare-skinned enthusiasm.

Men are taking up their tailoring, curtailing their chinos and consigning that – frankly unforgivable – bunching of fabric at the foot to the history books.

What does it mean for menswear? On a practical level, there are obvious drawbacks. Gently bronzing your ankles is all well and good during the height of summer, but an up close and personal meeting with winter’s worst weather is hardly desirable and something that your mother surely wouldn't welcome (we’re taking her side on this one). Then there’s the whole socks or no socks debate. For the record, we’d take the potential emasculation of wearing dainty pop socks over sweat soaked soles any day.

For men’s style and taste though these hitched-up hems are significant in their implication. This seemingly small – yet doggedly persistent – act of change signposts a shift away from the assumption that we men are terminally devoted to practicality. And most importantly - unlike many trends which live and die in the upper echelons of the menswear world - exposed ankles have been adopted by a hefty number of men, both here in Britain and across the pond.

The unveiling of the ankle means that we men cannot be roundly dismissed as creatures of habit and no, we’re not so abjectly terrified of choice and change that we’re almost allergic to spending more than five minutes across the threshold of a clothes shop.

Our collective refusal to conform to the strict codes of that have served our forefathers so well is best understood as the dipping of a tentative foot (and ankle) into the pool of possibility. And why shouldn’t we? Excessive concern with one’s appearance is of course, excessive, but experimentation – however collective – is something to be welcomed warmly.

Before getting carried away on a wave of optimism, let’s face it, there is more than a grain of truth in the assumption that men as a whole are more prone to sartorial restraint, and it’s not yet clear if exposed ankles will be looked back on with fond memory or cringing disdain.

But as far as trends which will not be silenced go, bared ankles have loudly asserted their intention to stick around for the forseeable future. Viva la revolution.