A group of friends get together in Lutyen’s Delhi to enjoy a drink, a smoke. The conversation turns to luxury and how it has become possible to buy high-end fashion in retail — if by fashion we mean suits, jackets, shirts, shoes and so on. But what about socks? Why is it impossible to find elegant, trendy socks that are also great to wear? Of such conversations are ideas — and brands — born. At the time of writing, I have paid for my first samples of Kipp & Ludwig socks but have yet to receive the order, so I write without prejudice.
Let’s be honest, few luxury brands have bothered to pay anything more than lip service to that bit of ankle fashion that stylists insist is one of the most important pieces of men’s fashion wear. And yet, they’re predictable enough to be boring at most fashion houses — I checked Calvin Klein (because they do great innerwear) and Hugo Boss. Priced anywhere from ₹700 to ₹1,200 a pair, they’re mostly dark, or tritely striped, but someone should tell them the well-dressed gentleman has moved on from the last century. You’d think Zara would have a more playful range, but I found their ₹390 pairs banal. Marks & Spencer, from where we hoarded our socks on overseas visits, are not worth the bargain basement prices they offer.
The surprise pick of the pack, I have to admit, was Paul Smith, which does cotton and wool blended socks mostly in the ₹1,500-2,000 range, that tickled my fancy because it has chosen to be adventurous with its motifs and irregular stripes and prisms. It makes the Kipp & Ludwig socks I’ve ordered appear ‘safe’ by comparison, but let’s hold on to that review yet.
So, if the big brands can’t be bothered with the business of ankle fashion, perhaps the fast-fashion brands will have to suffice. Lacoste had just quarter peds the day I checked, Benetton at ₹300 was uninspiring, while Superdry extended itself to the whole range of stars and stripes at ₹1,800-3,000 for a pack of three that I might just order on a rainy day when I have nothing better to do. And what about Nike and Reebok? Let’s just say, the athletes can have a field day there.
Because comparisons in the world of socks are not among high-fashion labels but with a hierarchy that sock brands have established for themselves, the well-dressed gent might do well to remember that the world’s best socks boast the following lineage: Gammarelli in Rome, which clothes popes and cardinals and supplies great footies for ₹1,600; Zimmerli, at an astounding ₹12,000 a cashmere pair, which underlines the fact that the best need not always look it; Falke, which gets a middle-path rating from the cognoscenti; Zimmerli and Pantherella, which have been at the forefront of the socks war for years but are now lagging behind because of a change in blends; and Bresciani (₹3,500), Gallo, Viccel and Dore Dore, which get a thumbs up from those who insist that socks are at least as important as shirts when it comes to looking good. At ₹399-699 for a pair, I’m still waiting for the Kipp & Ludwigs that I ordered before pronouncing the final judgement.
— The author is a Delhi-based writer and curator