Not since Frank Sinatra was a bobby-soxer idol has socks appeal been mentioned in the same breath with sex appeal.
But suddenly, socks are sexy again. Men's socks, women's socks, even little kiddies' socks have taken a trendy turn.
Most people still take their socks for granted, of course. After all, they're just little slipcovers for your feet, right?
Wrong. In times like these, a person grabs fashion gusto where he or she can find it. And when you look at the price tags on more substantial items, it's a relief to know you can at least afford to swathe your ankles in chic.
Some mothers are making small fortunes, for example, by sewing little charms around the fold-down edges of children's anklets and selling them at local stores. New York attorney Eric Smith has made a large fortune by marketing 31 colors of "slouch socks" that refuse to stand up straight. Big-time designers like Perry Ellis, Ralph Lauren and Alexander Julian have added to their coffers by signing their names on "fashion socks."
And consumers are footing the bills. Many adult women, for example, have taken to wearing zingy, patterned socks with high-heel shoes. Nobody seems to know why, and nobody seems to care.
"It's just something we like to do," says Terri Roop, a designer of Diane Von Furstenberg dresses at Jody Apparel Group in Los Angeles. Roop says most of the women on the design team are wearing socks with high heels to work these days.
Men are not immune to the new socks appeal. In fact, that's how lawyer Smith ("attorney-at-socks" is what he calls himself) struck it rich. The 28-year-old passed the bar and hot-footed it into the men's hosiery field, originating his E. G. Smith line of gutsy, natural-fiber slouch socks that he calls "basic" even though they come in Baskin-Robbins rather than Brooks Brothers shades.
In two years, Smith's line has expanded to include solid-color socks for both sexes in linen/cotton or silk/cotton blends and a number of traditional, Ivy League styles. Smith says he's "filled a void" in the men's mass market because "until now there were only Orlon athletic socks and dress socks, but nothing in between." And women, he says, like the post-preppie look of his classic styles in outrageous shades.