As our original Converse CFCs have approached threadbare, along came Mack Weldon's more prosaically named "no-show socks", restoring a proper organic materials dominance of 85% cotton, with a padded footbed and an elastic top that perfectly balances keeping them on vs. cutting off circulation.
We're such big fans of these socks that we took advantage of Mack Weldon's 20% off $200 offer and got 26 pair of socks for $171.60 (including free shipping). Crazy? Perhaps. But as Keeling Curve data would suggest, longer ankle-exposing seasons only show signs of getting longer. (Also, we know a valuable and rare item when we see it, and when that happens we buy in bulk. Yet to regret it.)
Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio are going to have to take a lot more trans-oceanic plane trips before they manage to put a dent in the bone-bruising chill that greets us every morning in Minneapolis this time of year. But while there's nothing we can do to avoid the snow, sleet, and ice, we can avoid the even-worse-than-usual traffic and parking-space hunts that come with them. How? By continuing to ride our bikes to work, even in the face of sub-zero temperatures.
How do we pull this off without looking like we're about to engage in some heavy breathing with a couple of broad-shouldered Scandinavian beauties at the Winsport Olympic Luge Track? We lay out our strategy below.
2. Nannini "TT" Goggles. Made for motorcyclists but adopted by cyclists looking for a stylish way to keep your eyelids from freezing shut.
TORSO & LEGS
3. Smartwool Baselayer underneath a 8 Wool Turtleneck. A baselayer under a jacket is all we usually need in anything above 10°F but it was -6°F this morning so we layered with a wool turtleneck. 8 makes a stylish one, with value.
4. Love Moschino Long Down Puffer. Down blazer-style jackets and some days even down shirts work for Minneapolis winter commuting. But not this neo-Polar Vortex shit. At anything below 0°F we pull out the long down puffer. Jack Frost may nip at your nose, but first he nips at your toes, then, surprisingly, your ass. Having goose feather coverage back there helps prevent his bite.
5. Smartwool Baselayer underneath Naked and Famous Snowpant Denim. Naked and Famous is responsible for some of the most important innovations in the history of denim, like scratch and sniff raspberry scented jeans. But their all-time best effort is the discontinued Snowpant Denim, a deep indigo wash treated with a waterproof and wind-resistant coating, and lined in comfy fleece. Look for them on eBay and try to grab them before we do.
6. Wigens Bear Claw Gloves The synthetic lobster claw gloves you see most winter commuters wearing are neither a warmth nor a dexterity match for these Swedish leather and fur marvels. Unfortunately Wigens seems to have stopped making them. Set up an eBay alert.
Minnesota-based 45NRTH makes the popular Wölvhammer commuter boot, but they're nearly as heavy as a pair of Pacs, only rated to 0°F, and don't abide by our un-gear aesthetic. After several years of trial and error we've concocted a 4-step footwear solution that's fairly lightweight and can hold up to a 45 minute commute at -20°F.
Darn Tough Hunting Socks. Not all wool socks are created equal. We've tried a dozen different brands and Darn Tough are the best. Made in Vermont.
Q: I'll be attending a corporate holiday party with a "black and white semi-formal attire or LA cocktail attire" dress code. Can I get some suggestions? I don't want to look like a broken groom who was just left at the alter. Thanks. —Gerard
A: For all but the most exclusive occasions, party dress rules are like speed limits: No one expects you to follow the absolute letter of the law. Or in your case, even the spirit. To wit, we ran the phrase "LA cocktail attire" through Google Translate and, here, apparently is the rough approximation: "If you look like Bradley Cooper or Johnny Depp, wear whatever the fuck you want. If you like Harvey Weinstein, consider a tie and jacket. But still wear whatever the fuck you want."
But we don't recommend dollar bill or feather prints. Instead we suggest, from bottom to top:
FOOTWEAR: If you think you can pull off a pair of sandals, then do that, and make certain you schedule a pedi for the day of. Buff. A less-bold play that still requires no lacing or socks are these Prada loafers in two-tone color and fabric.
Have we hit peak talus yet? Not by a longshot. Until we see Marco Rubio hugging a windmill, we expect that exposed ankles will continue to exist as both fashion trend and climate change mitigation strategy. These days, the look is so widespread that even designer no-show socks exist — which, if you think about it, is even more oxymoronic than "clean coal" or "gas-sipping SUV." If people can see that you're wearing Paul Smith no-show socks, your no-show socks are broken!
We first endorsed exposed ankles back in 2008, when the Keeling Curve was still safely in the 380s. Ever since, we've been on an epic quest to find the perfect no-show socks. We've invested countless hours, spent more than a few dollars, and emitted a lot of carbon by commanding Banana Republic, J. Crew, Saks Fifth Avenue, Falke, Urban Outfitters, and Mocc Socks to bring us new specimens by ship, plane, and FedEx truck. But we've finally found a no-show sock we're ready to settle down with: the Converse Chuck Sock.
Why do we love this sock? Three reasons. One, they stay on the best. Two, they're thicker than all other no-show socks, which tend to be nearly as thin as pantyhose. (We don't want no-show pantyhose. We want no-show socks.) Three, they're the cheapest no-show socks we've found. (A few years ago, this wouldn't have mattered to us so much. But now that a significant portion of our clothing budget is devoted to producing clothes rather than buying them, we take advantage of opportunities to economize if they present themselves.)
So there you have it. Our quest for the perfect no-show sock is over. On a related note, however, our quest for the perfect white t-shirt persists. (Sorry, environment!)
POST-SCRIPT: Our contest where you can win a free pair of the spring's best luxury slip-on — the Hydrogen-1 Neptunian — is ending tomorrow (May 15)! Enter now, and make sure to have a pair of Chuck Socks on-hand to immediately celebrate your victory if you're the lucky winner.
There are more than 75,000 nerve endings in your feet, a fact many sock-makers don't pay proper attention to. We've tried everything. Paul Smith, Happy Socks, Brioni, BOSS, Etro, Corgi, Ecco, Caufield Preparatory, Obey, Thomas Pink. You name it, we've tried it. If price is no object then hands down Nudie Jeans makes our favorite socks. Yeah, even better than Paul Smith or current J.Crew favorite Corgi. They're made in Nudie's homeland of Sweden and are stylish, soft, thick, don't pill, and are worth every krona.
However, if you can't or don't want to spend $25 on a pair of socks we believe we've discovered big value from the nearly 200 year-old Scottish brand Pringle. Asos.com, which has lately been claiming an increasingly large portion of the brainpower we devote to staring at endless arrays of miniaturized backpacks and outerwear, sells 3-packs of Pringle argyle socks* in either cotton or bamboo — apologies to the pandas for wearing your lunch on our feet — for right around 15 bucks. At only $5 or $6 a pair, we've decided to fill up a whole drawer with them.
*Two of the three pair are argyle. The other one is solid color.
Q: My wife and I have a disagreement. We joined a "walk for charity" the other day. Most of the men were wearing ankle socks with their tennis shoes. I have always preferred the calf-high athletic sock pushed down just slightly to give it a disheveled look whenever I run or work out. My wife is trying to tell me that the calf high sock is out of style and the ankle sock is the new style. I think ankle socks are for women tennis players. While a real man wears calf-high athletic socks. Will you please set her straight? --Eamon
A: Congratulations, Eamon, on being a lot less wrong than your wife. We see where you're going with the artfully disheveled tube sock look, but would like it better if they've got a stripe or two, as worn by male tennis players. As for your wife's current thinking on men's socks, ankle socks suck. They offer none of the disheveled/vintage benefits of quarter or crew-length, and leave tan lines that trash the exposed ankle look.
Where we're from, white sneakers are on about the same wearing calendar as white pants -- Pulaski road slush really does a number on them -- which means the weather almost always calls for exposed ankles with this shoe-pant combo. But don't spare the socks. Even encased in stylish Japanese sneakers, feet without socks stink worse than Van Halen without David Lee Roth.
We've worn these for years and therefore highly recommend Banana Republic no-show loafer socks. They're now discounted so if you buy 3 or more pair they're just $5.43 each. (Choose white for this use, of course.) Another option (that we haven't tried) is young entrepreneur Philip Bunting's Mocc Sock & Co.'s version (pictured), which also come in gray and are only slightly more expensive than BR.
Q: I am going to a polo event on June 12th. I have not been to one. What to wear? Obviously weather plays a part in this, so let's assume it is 90 + degrees and sunny. I would love the detail for the outfit and sunglasses (total to spend $2500.00) and I have a great watch. I am more concerned with pant, shirt, jacket, and shoes. Thanks! --JJ
A: This may be your first polo match, but that doesn't mean everyone has to know. Follow the lead of Prince Harry, who has been there before, many times over, and go casual. Based on your budget, here's some specific pieces that will make you look like carefree royalty. (Caveat: Harry gets everything right from the neck down. His Maui Jim-style sunglasses should be left to the toolbag rabble.)
Q: Aspiring to become MB in all aspects of conduct, I have formulated a question for you: What is the proper way to cross your legs out in public? Ankle on knee, leg over knee, or no cross at all? Thanks! --Ryan
A: Ryan, there is no single correct answer to this. Mark Twain was a leg-over-knee man. James Dean never crossed. Both were magnificent sitters!
We recommend that you adopt whatever position you personally find most comfortable. When you're most at ease, you're most likely to project an air of natural, casual confidence, and that's what you're after. If you do end up doing some variation on crossing, though, make sure whatever socks you're wearing cost at least as much as a neat measure of single malt. And take a yoga class every now and then.
Q: I have a job that I'm able to dress pretty casually to and therefore wear jeans a better part of the time. My question is this, if I'm wearing something like the beloved Pumas, which may be something other than black or brown, what color of sock is appropriate? I was taught to match the sock with the pant? Does this mean blue socks? And if so, where can I find a respectable pair of socks? --Dave
A: No, Dave, it does not mean blue socks. We're not really into sock-matching in trouser situations, and with denim no rules apply, except of course the immutable rule that white socks are for athletic activities (and no, Obama, it does not include throwing out the first pitch).
We've mentioned this before but we really dig Paul Smith socks. Each spring and fall he adds just the right seasonal touches with material, color, and style. Unfortunately they retail for $30/pair. A more affordable option we've been happy with is Happy Socks (pictured), available from Gent Supply Co. for $10.50.
Earlier this year we mocked 44's first pitch wardrobe as "soccer dad jeans and space-age running shoes." Months later, things have not improved, and probably even taken a turn for the worse as he's added white socks and a girlish early release point.
Q: Having compared the sock wear of English and Italian friends I find myself in a quandary. The Englishman tends toward the characteristic, and perhaps dull, understated look reaching to the lower calf with the Italian chaps opting for bright stripes and patterns that reach almost to the knee. It's clear to me that there is a certain boldness and verve to the Italian option but is that joy in keeping with the studied coolness characterized by the MB? What do you suggest? --Mark
A: Astute observation on your part, Mark, though British designer Paul Smith makes some of the boldest socks on the market (inset). Regardless, we lean pretty strongly towards the British approach you note. No surprise there given our severe case of Anglophilia, not to mention the Italian socks-pulled-up-to-the-knees technique is both too serious and too 15th century explorer. However, colorful socks are still perfectly OK. They're a subtle way to add some personality to your wardrobe, and are under wraps until you cross your legs.
Q: Recently in GQ's online series "How to Become a Well Dressed Rebel in 30 Days," Adam Rapoport interviewed Thom Browne and suggested that you forgo the socks with your suit. When they show the pictures of Thom Browne I got a distinct feel that he looked like a 12 year-old that got a suit when he was 7. I guess this can be classified as artful dishevelment but I feel that less dishevelment is better than more Hobbit. Am I completely off the mark? And how should a MB go about the no socks advice? --Ryan
A: We've never understood the fashion world's hard-on for Thom Browne. Thom Browne this. Thom Browne that. Whatever. His approach to pants is a completely unflattering trend, kinda like women's capri pants from a few years ago. (Like the Terminator, they'll be back.) However, Thom Browne's thoughts on no socks with suits is a good one, but do it in an understated (i.e. MB) way. Go sockless with a normal inseam and then surprise folks with a leg cross or a nicely-timed gust of wind. Just be sure to wear a pair of these socks with your shoes.
Now that spring's arrived it's time to consider what to do with your footwear/sockwear. The cashmere Paul Smith socks have been filed away in the "seasonal" drawer, so now what? MB recommends letting your ankles feel the increasingly warmer breezes and the splash of April showers ... not to mention, nothing quite exudes the devil-may-care raffishism we're all trying to achieve than exposing one's ankles, especially in the workplace.
(If you decide to try this look we insist on a pair of loafer socks so your shoes don't smell like the locker room at the Y after 5 minutes.)