Sock and awe

Many men only think about socks when rummaging through the laundry basket, or searching for the other one; however, a well-dressed chap always chooses his socks with regard to more than simply finding a clean or matching pair.

Despite their lowly status – figuratively and literally - on the sartorial scale, a pair of humble socks can instantly grab attention and radically alter first impressions of their wearer. Witness the man sitting opposite you on the train; the rest of his outfit might not look the most inspired, but those bright yellow socks prompt you to reassess and wonder if he's pondering more substantial issues than the woeful life of his smartphone battery.

A bright pair of socks can be a great way to lift a more subdued outfit.

Additionally, the sight of a politician sporting a big, bright pair might just make you stop and think that the talking head on the television doesn't tell the whole story.

If you live in Melbourne and pass by the Town Hall on a regular basis, such a man might just be Robert Doyle, who in his second term as Melbourne's Lord Mayor has taken to colourful socks like cyclists do to Swanston Street.

But it turns out the former Liberal politician and Victorian Leader of the Opposition's decision to introduce a bit of colour and fun to the office wasn't made unilaterally.

“When I started this term of office, my wife said that she would give me something to remind myself not to take myself too seriously. So she presented me with a number of pairs of socks, so I have orange, red, yellow, I have bright blue, bright green, you name it, I have got it. Basically solid colours, but basically just a bit of fun,” Doyle says.

While Doyle has taken his wife's advice whole-heartedly, when it comes to the important day-to-day decision of what pair to wear, he maintains the process is never over-thought.

“There's no rotation – not like Australian fast bowlers or the interchange bench on Grand Final day. It's just as they come out of the sock drawer.”

When it comes to breaking the ice with dignitaries at an official function, a pair of luminous pink socks are just the ticket. A fact that the Greek ambassador's wife would no doubt attest to after a recent trip to Melbourne, according to Doyle.


Dennis Ebeli, the half-Dutch, half-Mexican founder of global sock company Alfredo Gonzales, is another firm believer that fashion and fun don't need to be mutually exclusive.

“My socks are for anyone who doesn't take life too seriously,” says Ebeli, who visited Australia recently as a guest of car company Mini.

“One of the big of compliments I can get is when someone tells me 'Dennis, when I get up in the morning and open my sock drawer and get out a pair of Alfredo's, it makes me smile'. That's a cool thing.”

In keeping with the carefree nature that saw him sell his Rotterdam cafe to start the brand, Ebeli says when it comes to wearing his socks, don't drown yourself in rules.

“I don't think there are any rules, but a bright pair of socks can be a great way to lift a more subdued outfit. Think a good pair of trousers and a crisp white shirt, they look good; but add some colourful socks, then you have a great outfit.”

When it comes to selling the virtues of a pair of candy striped or argyle-patterned socks, Ebeli not only has to win over those who think socks should only come in navy or black, but those who are currently leaving them off all together.

Lord Mayor Doyle is one who will keep championing the sock cause, especially to those donning a suit five days a week.

“It's one of those funny things, but men have expressed their faint rebellion against the corporate outfit through their ties,” he says.

“Now I've never been one for Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck ties or anything like that, but it's interesting at the moment that our ties tend be solid and quite sombre colours, so bright socks are a good and harmless way to bring a bit of colour into your life,” Doyle says.

It was long thought a man had reached a rarefied level of sartorial adroitness when he started caring about the contents of his sock drawer. What's more likely is that he wasn't even thinking about fashion, more about having a bit of fun.