Socks and sandals are no longer a crime against fashion – how to style the combo

Socks and sandals were once the standard holiday uniform for slightly nerdy dads, but you’ll be seeing them on a whole new crowd this summer.

The controversial combination has had something of a rebrand, going from fashion faux pas to the glitterati’s go-to footwear choice.

Celebrities like Hayley Bieber and Bella Hadid have been spotted sporting the trend on their off-duty days, while wacky trendsetter Kanye West wore gem-studded flip flops with socks at a recent Burberry show.

They’re also all over the catwalk, with the likes of Chanel, Balenciaga, Miu Miu and Gucci putting their own spin on the pairing over fashion month.

Such is the turnaround in public opinion, the the hashtag #socksandsandals has raked in over 45 million views on TikTok, proving traditional fashion standards are officially out for 2023.

But hype aside, it can be a difficult trend to pull off. Even if you’re tempted by the comfort and cool points of the aesthetic, there’s a worry you’ll stray too far into ‘stereotypical anorak tourist’ territory.

So to help you rock hose with open-toes, the experts at Dr Martens have shared their favourite styling tips.

Make the socks the moment

Vanessa Gros, an employee at the Cologne Dr Martens’ store, embraces the combo by making the socks the focal point of her look with a pair of statement white fishnet numbers. 

‘I love wearing cute socks underneath my sandals because it puts the focus on the shoes and looks super cool,’ she says. ‘This outfit is quite modern and was a lot of fun to wear.’

Fishnet and mesh socks are a great way to dip your toe (sorry) into the look, but you can also go for loud prints and embellishments like pearls or exaggerated frills to jazz up a plainer ensemble.

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Embrace practicality

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The reason socks and sandals are synonymous with travel is how practical they are on the go; no rubbing straps or sliding feet while you walk.

Lean into this normcore element with chunky hiking socks worn alongside the likes of oversized denim, cargo shorts, flannel shirts and bumbags, adding in edgier pieces (like TikToker Ella Willis’s chunky belt chain) to offset the hiker vibe.

Not only will your outfit be bang on trend, you’ll also be ready for everything from picnics in the park to more intrepid adventures.

Lean into the black and white contrast

If you struggle with colour, black sandals with white socks is always a winner.

Keeping your footwear monochrome ensures your clothes remain the star of the show – just make sure your socks are bright, box-fresh white or it can look grubby.

The experts at Dr Martens recommend switching the look up with white sandals alongside black socks, or going subtle with an all-black colourway.

A spokesperson said: ‘Keep the outfit fresh and light with all the white and beige tones in your fit and pair with black jorge mules and black socks to complete the look.’ 

Pair your socks with your aesthetic 

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Blindly following trends is a surefire way to end up a fashion victim, so it’s important to ensure your socks and sandals are cohesive with your aesthetic.

Dr Martens highlights this TikTok, where Claudia Maria Bailey dons pastel pink socks that perfectly match her top, creating a casual look that’s ideal for transitioning between seasons.

Complimentary colours are an easy way to make an outfit flow, but it doesn’t need to be too matchy-matchy. If you tend to wear florals, for example, go for feminine frilly socks, or if you lean more towards the goth end of the spectrum, why not try Wednesday-style striped thigh-highs?

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Make a statement

You can dress up your socks and sandals for the office too – and yes, we’re serious.

All it takes it a little creativity, like in the case of Dr Martens Cologne employee Naro Sae-Sia. He opted for formal black shorts alongside an oversized blazer, adding accessories galore to finish the ‘fit off.

Your workplace may frown on going shirtless, but you can take the idea and make it SFW: think tailoring, basic pieces like t-shirts in luxe materials, and Oxford button-downs.

Don’t overthink it

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Confidence is key in life, and pulling off socks and sandals is all about knowing you look cool.

As TikToker Ebony Maii shows in her try-on video, chunky leather sandals can go with anything if you’re brave enough, from Y2K denim midi skirts to good old ‘jeans and a nice top’ outfits.

Alternatively, a slider gives a sportier touch, while Birkenstocks are more casual and delicate strapped styles are polished and a bit more grown-up.

‘Most looks often work with or without the socks,’ add the Dr Martens team, so you can play around and always take them off if you’re feeling self-conscious.

Stride with pride and let detractors know that you’re bossing the balance between style and sensibility.

This is one sartorial double act that isn’t going anywhere fast, so they can strap in for the ride or be left behind.

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