Fashion loves two things above all else: making sense from things that don’t make sense, and portmanteaus. Hence the rise of ‘athleisure’. The age of the ‘meterosexual’. The fact men can’t stretch without it being ‘broga’.
So no surprise that the trend for men sporting smart shoes sans socks, the better to expose their lower legs, was quickly christened the ‘mankle’, a term that soon nestled into the Collins Dictionary. Even if that particular immortality is out of step with the trend’s soon-to-be-extinguished flame.
It had a good run, though, the mankle. In fact, for most of the 2010s men have exposed their chilblained fibulas. The look emerged at the height of #menswear, when the guys now hyperventilating over Yeezy got just as breathless over a Canali lapel.
And, as twenty-something guys first discovering suits are wont to do, they got a touch carried away. Cue a certain swathe of Tumblr erupting in pocket squares, jacquard ties, boutonnières and – thanks to Thom Browne’s shrunken suits – trousers hemmed an inch too short, the better to flash your scarlet socks.
It was as though menswear had bloomed overnight, bursting through soil poisoned by bootcut jeans and trucker caps.
As #menswear exploded then collapsed under the mass of its own ubiquity, some elements survived, blasted into the fashion universe as though discharged by a dying star. Slimline silhouettes informed everything from denim to outerwear; double monks were now permissible with off-duty gear; and hems steadily crept up to shin level.
But these mores have grown irrelevant. As trousers get wider and sneakers pally up with suits, ankles still suffer with that hangover from all things dandy. The mankle was a way to make tailoring your own, a Pee Wee Herman-approved move to reclaim the suit as a young man’s game.
But, inexorably, trend became trad. What was once a marker of individuality became the norm, the uniform of everyone from the bloggers lurking outside fashion week to that guy in sales who considers himself sartorially forward, but fastens both blazer buttons for important meetings.
That doesn’t mean every trouser needs a two-inch break. There’s still some life in the high-water look, whether you’re wearing ankle-grazing, wide-legged denim like Tokyo’s street style gods, or wool trousers rolled to showcase your ankle boots. But wherever you hem, for god’s love don’t leave what lies beneath au naturel. It makes your look less Riviera playboy, more guy whose entire style inspiration comes from Instagram.
For SS16, designers have cottoned onto the ankle’s sins. At Christopher Shannon, trousers came tucked into sports socks and swaddled in collaborative CAT boots. Christopher Raeburn’s models covered up, even in sandals. On Gosha Rubchinksiy’s runway, short shorts exposed plenty of leg, but ankles were still clad in white, red and blue socks.
If you’re still not convinced, then consider that the mankle trend popularised the invisible sock, since actually plunging nude feet into shoes is the fastest way to make them suitable for mushroom farming. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that its death comes as sneaker culture booms. Why queue overnight for Yeezy’s just to stink them out? If a style move demands a fix to counter the stupidity of the trend itself, then pass it by. Some things never make sense.