Sartorial Love/Hate: The Sockless Loafer


One of the most interesting criticisms I received recently was that my practice of wearing loafers without socks was nothing short of “disgusting.” The most amusing point about the delivery was that it was delivered by a friendly gaggle of females who thought nothing of imparting such a critique whilst slipping their own uncovered heels in and out of their ballet pumps.

“You should wear socks” one of them nodded, patronisingly “otherwise your shoes will stink.” Further remarks of surprise came from male acquaintances; “Ooh, and no socks either. Looks very…” “Continental?” I ventured, hopefully. “Yea, I suppose so” came the uncertain reply.

England is a prudish nation. As many polls as there are stating that we are the ‘naughtiest’ nation, the ‘most fetishistic’ or ‘the most adventurous’, we still have reservations when it comes to the unexpected exposure of flesh. Though the strict Victorian standards no longer apply – hems are higher, necklines are lower – we still find flesh curious and even offensive, particularly in relation to footwear: along with the American race, we must be the only nation who believes that the ideal summer ensemble involves wrapping our feet in thick socks and chunky trainers.

Continental Europeans are far more comfortable lolling around sans-socks when it gets warm. I recently admired a louche duo of Italians having a coffee in the shade at Cecconi’s in Mayfair wearing Ray-Bans, linen jackets, chinos and sockless loafers. The look was easy and comfortable; I wander on a hundred yards and encounter an Englishman in socks and sandals. No doubt the Englishman will scoff at the Italian, decrying the sweaty decay of his footwear; the undignified and un-English exposure of ankles; the unsightly and ungentlemanly act of ‘forcing’ his most inelegant bodily feature on the rest of us, in much the same way as my female acquaintances criticised my sockless state.

The worst trait of the British in this critique is that they deny the self-benefit of forbidding the practice and suggest it is for the benefit of the wearer; “But your shoes will smell” they cry, “think of it – sweaty, salty shoes. So disgusting…” “…and uncomfortable…” When comforting critics with assurances that they will never be forced to smell the shoes, this yields little change in their tolerance. It is not perhaps the decay and odour itself as the thought of it, the idea of such an improper act that they really object to.

Harsher critics might even suggest the problem of Britishness itself is to blame; stiff upper lips, repressed sexuality and a hatred of ankles, although there seems to be little objection from anyone, including myself, on the female practice of wearing shoes with unstockinged feet.


  1. Kai said:

    It’s the only way to go when the temperature is above 25 celz.

    May 3, 2011
  2. Tonysolo said:

    The more I look at women in my college town, the crazier it seems to solicit style advice from them.

    May 3, 2011
  3. Lark said:

    Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I haven’t noticed my summer shoes to be particularly disgusting. Leather-lined shoes worn every third day seem to do all right. I walk and bike a good deal, too, so my shoes get some use.

    Admittedly, I tend to buy summer shoes on the assumption that I’ll only get a couple of summers’ wear from them rather than–as with winter shoes–buying on the assumption that I’ll be repairing and resoling them.

    May 3, 2011
  4. Phil said:

    Personally I have to say that the discomfort of wearing leather shoes without socks far outweighs the comfort of having open feet in warm weather. To sweat profusely in a pair of loafers may be stylish in some circles (wealthier, coastal circles in the 80s), but personally I don’t find it useful. Also, in my humble opinion, I think that the sock-less look has run its course as the the latest trend. If you want to wear loafers in bare feet on holiday in July, fine. But I think if you’re standing on 5th avenue in New York posing for a magazine in October, you should be a big boy and put some socks on…why not some interesting ones at that? Cheers.

    May 3, 2011
  5. sans socks, sans belt. I am a fan. perhaps it is because i sweat very little so i don’t have a stinky foot issue. all it takes is a little baby powder but i think it the look is minimal and classy. in 90 degree summers i don’t know why one would want to wear socks, and i have yet to see a look in shorts where it is flattering.

    it think people that say one’s foot may stink is because THEIR feet stink.

    more power to you. touched on it in my post below.

    May 3, 2011
  6. Dom said:

    Personally, some quirky lightweight socks when wearing with trousers and those ultra-short socks when wearing with shorts. On a very related issue, socks with boat shoes, yes or no?

    May 3, 2011
  7. Shane said:

    Get the appearance of going sock-less without the issue of sweaty shoes, use invisible loafer socks. They have more cut away than trainer socks.Ebay lists a black 4 pack for £9.

    May 4, 2011
  8. J.H. said:

    I’ve never sweated “excessively”, be it with or without socks. I always wonder if people who make comments about sweat and smell have other issues and perhaps should take their feet to doc for a quick checkup.

    I like the style and I definitely think that it’s more comfortable than with socks during summertime.

    For extra coolness (physical, that is), make sure that your shoes are unlined.

    May 4, 2011

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