the right sock for the wrong shoe
an addendum to alison bornstein's wrong shoe theory
Have you heard of the wrong shoe theory?
It’s essentially the styling theory that you can create tension in your outfit by wearing the shoe that contrasts most against the vibe of your clothes. So if you’re wearing a delicate dress, wear chunky sneakers or rugged boots. Sporty track pants? Top those off with a pointed kitten heel. More visual examples here.
While it isn’t a new concept, stylist Alison Bornstein has re-energized the discussion and awareness of this practice with her term: “the wrong shoe theory.”
I appreciate the way it’s easy to understand and apply to building outfits. But as I’ve been picking out the “wrong shoe” lately, I wonder: what about the sock?
To me, the shoe is an extension of the shoe. Think sock boots, if you want to get literal. The choice is sock is as important as the choice of shoe—it’s a critical styling opportunity!
For the martini-olive-green croc mary janes, I wanted to lean into the theatrical element with striped socks that have a hint of glitter. It’s sort of maximalist: the croc and stripes are doubling up on pattern, but the patterns balance each other out. One is round and blobby, the other is linear and defined. It works.
For the kelly green loafers, I’ve also felt they had a teacherly essence. And I like playing into it with a white tube sock. Now it’s a little more preppy, sporty. The red flower, however, keeps it playful and girly.
You can accomplish amazing stylistic feats with the right sock for your “wrong shoe.” Treat the sock as part of the shoe: use it to exaggerate the vibe of the shoe, or use it to create yet another layer of tension. Sub-tension, where the sock contrasts with the shoe, which contrasts with the clothes. This is what keeps outfits interesting and original.
Below, my picks on the right sock for the wrong shoe.
For Tabis: Space Dye Socks
Ah, the shoe of the moment. They’re classic with white socks, but if you want to try something different, I would pit the the architectural quality of the Tabi mary janes against these mystical space dye ankle socks (Hansel from Basel - $24).
For Heeled Slingbacks: Striped Tube Socks
What goes with Jane Birkin shoes? (Carel makes the best ones).
A striped tube sock that looks like it’s from a Brady Brunch kid’s gym outfit. This would be a very surprising combo. I associate slingbacks with a certain feminine delicateness where you want to highlight your heels/ankles, so these thick gym socks would offer a satisfying…abruptness (American Trench - $14).