Going sockless may be in vogue for men, but it's not always appropriate

STEPPING OUT IN STYLE

August 01, 1991|By Lois Fenton

Q How far can a man go sockless? Obviously, at home or for sports occasions. How about out to dinner or summer cocktail parties?

A: This is a style that is extremely popular with the Palm Beach crowd and those who spend their summers in Newport "cottages" -- that is, 50-room mansions -- playing polo, sipping Dom Perignon and munching pate and petit fours. Why the style is so widespread with those who do not work, or at any rate, seem not to work, is something I cannot answer. It certainly is not that they cannot afford socks.

The elegant crowd goes sockless almost everywhere including to dinner and summer cocktail parties (but not for black-tie functions or business). Once you get used to it, it can be an attractive look with blazers, light (both in color and weight) summer suits, sports wear, and the like.

Obviously, it works with deck shoes, espadrilles, sandals, and sneakers (though not so well for active sports where chafing becomes a hazard). But the style goes far beyond canvas and open leather shoes. It is seen most notably with leather slip-on loafers. My one strong exception: Going sockless is not only unhealthy, but downright unattractive with lace-up shoes.

Of course, don't think of going sockless to any business function. If a straight-laced boss saw you, he might give you the boot before you had a chance to cover yourself.

Q: My girlfriend has been after me to buy a summer khaki suit, if not for work, at least for weekends. Now it seems too late in the season. What do you think?

A: The addition of a khaki suit to a young man's closet is as sure a sign of summer as longer days and get-away weekends. For this all-too-brief time of the year, more leisurely dress is not only tolerated but often expected, especially on Fridays. The suit you buy now will take you into early fall.

What is known as a khaki suit comes in a myriad of handsome tones ranging from very light tans through olive greens to medium taupes -- all summer standbys. It is important to note that a top-level executive does not usually wear a khaki suit to work.

A khaki suit generally means a cotton poplin -- cool and comfortable -- a perfect hot weather suit. (But it is notorious for wrinkling. To lessen the problem, some manufacturers add Dacron to the cotton.)

When you're purchasing a khaki suit be sure to check for any slight puckering along the seams and particularly on the edging of the lapels. It happens in some inexpensive cotton suits and it never presses out. Also, after a number of cleanings, the suit will shrink slightly. Just as the sleeves of a cotton shirt may shrink down from 35 to 34 inches, so, too, a cotton suit gets smaller. Buy it with enough length and room from the beginning.

It's certainly not too late to buy a khaki suit. One advantage men have over women in their clothing purchases is that they need not worry that items they buy at the end of the season will be out of style by next year. On the contrary, your suit will be ready for you, when you are for it, next spring.

Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.

Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.

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