You probably don’t need telling that being a man during the warmer months comes with its own unique set of style questions: do these sunglasses suit my face? How bad are my sweat patches? Can I, should I, unleash the mankle?
Swapping socks for skin is something that’s become increasingly commonplace since designers like Thom Browne took to dramatically cropping suit trousers back in the mid-to-late noughties.
While many have been quick to call peak-mankle on the trend, it’s a look that only seems to rise in line with the mercury. So here’s everything you need to know about the spring/summer style phenomenon of going sockless.
The Mankle Manual
To mankle or not to mankle isn’t the only question that men face. Despite making the switch from fashion jargon to bona fide style move, the specifics of how to do it can still be confusing.
Essentially, there are four key techniques for pulling off the look; each one best suited to a specific trouser type – be it jeans, chinos or smart trousers – and desired finish.
The Trouser Roll
A casual and unfussy option that works particularly well with chinos, the straightforward and subtly effective trouser roll involves folding the hem back on itself a few times to the desired height.
As a rule of thumb, the slimmer the trousers or jeans, the skinnier the cuff (fold) should be. But keep in mind that a wider roll leans more casual than a narrower roll and vice-versa.
The Pin Roll
Especially popular with sneakerheads, the the pin roll delivers a slightly tighter, cuffed look. Achieving this involves pinching the excess fabric on the inside of the leg and folding it back against the ankle before rolling over onto itself to secure.
An ideal option for styling jeans, not only does the elevated hem allow you to show off those new limited-edition kicks, it also helps stop the dye of raw denim bleeding onto your footwear. Win-win.
For something a little cleaner, opt for a single trouser turn-up with measured precision. This is a small styling detail that can spruce up warm-weather suits while still looking smart.
Although it is possible to do this manually, the lightweight nature of the trouser’s fabric means they’re prone to falling down. So look for an off-the-peg turn-up, or get a tailor to alter the hem permanently.
As men’s appetite for ankle-baring started to grow, brands and retailers began doing the hard work for us by heightening hems. Step forward cropped trousers.
Different from turned-up trousers in that there is no noticeable fold, cropped styles are cut to hit just above the ankle with no need for rolling. However, beware of erring too cropped for risk of entering pedal pusher territory.
3 Non-Negotiable Rules For Going Sockless
Get The Cut Right
When looking for the right cut of trousers, the length is a given (they should finish at or just above the ankle) but also, given the fairly recent trend for wide-leg and looser pleated trousers, consider the circumference.
For the most socially palatable way to go sockless, play it safe with slim, tailored or tapered legwear. To maintain a streamlined look, ensure they fit well in all areas including the seat (i.e. the butt), thigh and calf.
Always Wear Invisible Socks
There’s more to wearing shoes barefoot than meets the eye. Despite the effect of ‘going sockless’, no-show or invisible socks are an essential piece of the puzzle.
Unless you like athlete’s foot, foul-smelling shoes and the potential for fungal nail infections, use these smartly engineered wardrobe basics to keep sweat and odours at bay, while also saving on the agony of blisters. As an extra tip: look for versions with rubber grips on the heel that stop them from slipping off.
Pick Your Moment
It isn’t only odours that can cause the sockless look to kick up a stink. As with all things, there is a time and a place to pull this move, so always bear in mind the formality of the occasion and the expected dress code.
Choice Of Footwear
In addition to helping stop you from overheating (the ankle is home to one of the body’s quick-cooling pulse points), cropped and rolled-up legwear brings footwear choices firmly into focus.
With this in mind, it’s crucial to know what you should be wearing with what. After all, you don’t want to put in all this hard work only to fall at the last hurdle.
Chinos/Lightweight Casual Trousers
The shoe you opt for should complement the chosen trouser material. If you’ve decided on a style that leans toward the weightier side of the spectrum (like a cotton-twill chino), you’ll find it works well with most footwear silhouettes, including minimal sneakers in leather or suede.
Linen or linen-cotton blend trousers, on the other hand, will look odd with anything too bulky. In this case, reinforce your legwear’s continental leanings by teaming with loafers, drivers, espadrilles, boat shoes or sandals. Then carry on the Mediterranean vibes elsewhere with neutral tones, beach-ready basics and open collars.
Whether pin-rolled or turned up, there is a wide range of denim that can be experimented with. When it comes to going sockless, this hard-wearing workwear fabric needs an equally robustly shoe.
Try teaming ankle-baring jeans with trainers, chunkier lace-ups such as Derbies or brogues, or suede desert boots. And just because there’s a gap in between, don’t forget to make sure the colour of the shoes complements the wash of the denim.
Trainers are the obvious choice for pairing with joggers when going sockless. However, because this look can appear like it’s fresh off a treadmill, it’s important to create balance with the rest of your outfit.
Opt for neatly cut examples in premium fabrics and neutral colourways for the joggers, and whether sliding into slip-ons or lacing up knitted versions, keep the kicks as clean and simple as possible. To finish, make use of smarter pieces (anything with a collar such as an overshirt, polo shirt or shawl cardigan) up top to swing the pendulum back to the centre.
Cropped Smart Trousers
Cropped smart trousers are fast becoming a key piece of the contemporary menswear arsenal, perfect for wearing with a simple T-shirt or as part of a tailored separates look.
These trousers pair best with smart-casual silhouettes, such as minimal leather low-tops, loafers or driving shoes. Avoid anything too chunky to maintain clean lines, using dark leathers to dress up or lighter colours and fabrics to dress down.
You only need to look at the Italians to see that loafers are the perfect shoe for going sockless when wearing equally breezy unstructured tailoring.
Having likely already dressed down your suit with an open-necked shirt or T-shirt, use Derbies to smarten up for casual weddings, or lean the other way and allow clean white sneakers to take your two-piece down another notch.