What your socks say about you

Toeing the line? One step ahead? A man’s hosiery can sock it to ’em in more ways than one Nick Foulkes does some sole searching. Illustrations by Chris Burke

The Interior Designer
The Interior Designer | Image: Chris Burke

The Interior Designer

The Silicon Valley CLO
The Silicon Valley CLO | Image: Chris Burke

He models himself on belle époque dandies Robert de Montesquiou and Boni de Castellane, and had he been born a century earlier would have been a member of Proust’s gratin. But alas, his playboy father, the handsome scion of a French banking dynasty, spent his family fortune, and that of a wife descended from a British ducal house on clothes, polo ponies, sports cars, art, houses and women, demonstrating a true gift for losing money until he died in a skiing accident, leaving his son with expensive tastes but not the money to indulge them. So he did the only thing he knew how and became a purveyor of expensive taste in interior design, surprising no one more than himself by being incredibly successful. His newly wealthy clients adore his charm, his posh drawl and the way he drops the names of mid-20th-century café society as if they were personal friends. In short, his is the perfect winning mix of Old Etonian confidence and European savoir-faire – and he has studios in London, Paris and New York to prove it. His comfortable, detailed and refined taste is not for everyone. He is not a favourite of the blingocracy and he turned down at least one very lucrative job in Belgravia – squash court, swimming pool, seven-car garage, cinema room – because he refused to “cram a vulgar seven-star resort into an elegant London townhouse”. His taste, of course, is impeccable: silk shirts, Huntsman suits and socks ordered 100 pairs at a time from Charvet in his own particular shade of primrose – his style signifier when he was interviewed for this magazine’s The Aesthete column. The idea of only wearing yellow socks was inspired by the 11th Duke of Devonshire – a close friend of his parents known to the interior designer as “darling Andrew”.

Advertisement

The Silicon Valley CLO

The Hedgefund Legend
The Hedgefund Legend | Image: Chris Burke

If he didn’t have a few million dollars of share options in one of the world’s best-known tech companies, he would be loafing around another sort of campus as an unmemorable professor in some forgettably recondite branch of electrical engineering. But instead, as CLO (chief logistics officer) wandering the park-like grounds and open-plan workspaces of his company’s Palo Alto HQ, he is one of the big men on campus – not that he would ever behave like that, because he has the confidence of a man in complete control of his supply chain who knows his work is vital and handsomely rewarded. And precisely because he is paid such a ludicrous amount, when he’s not aboard one of the company jets, he makes a point of sitting in the staff restaurant – a cross between Starbucks and an organic farmers’ market – being just one of the guys. But beneath his taste for kale juice and the brand-new Tesla, he remains the midwestern college professor he would have been had he not gone to work in the Bay Area after graduating in the 1980s. He married his high-school sweetheart – they still go to church once a week – and while he could afford to dress well, his wardrobe is commendably egalitarian. He likes to be comfortable, especially when presenting a new product line or being interviewed on CNBC, so he usually wears a neatly pressed, concrete-hued, button-down-collar shirt over cargo pants the colour of the Ganges after heavy rainfall, and running shoes. At the core of his wardrobe (figuratively and actually) are Injinji Performance Toesocks; he likes hiking and running and, as a logistician given to maximising capacity, the brand’s claim of “total foot utilisation” appealed. As he jokes with unusual wit, he wears them running a marathon or just keeping up with the rat race.

The Ageing Actor
The Ageing Actor | Image: Chris Burke

The Hedgefund Legend

The Creative Director
The Creative Director | Image: Chris Burke

Back in the good old days before there was too much regulation, the Hedgefund Legend made so much money he could have been forgiven for thinking he walked on water. However, he is an astute man who realises that as well as hard work and intelligence, luck and simply being in the right place at the right time play a crucial part in success. And as such he has resolved not to spend time chasing the emotional and financial highs of the 1990s, but to focus on living the life he wants to lead, meaning he now owns one of the UK’s finest grouse moors. He first came to shooting as a young banker in the 1980s when his boss, an old-school financier, said he got more business done on a shoot than in the office and packed him off to Holland & Holland for lessons. It was good advice and also gave the HFL a passion in life other than work. His happiest time of year is from August 12, when the grouse come into season, until the end of January; during these months, weeks go by when he is barely seen in his offices and is instead to be found at the wheel of his black Range Rover driving between stately homes, shooting as many as five days a week; last season he shot on 100 days. As he gets through a lot of shooting socks, he has Emma Willis on speed dial and will often have parcels of her wares sent ahead of him. He has different weights for different times of year, starting off with cotton, moving on to ribbed merino for autumn (they flatter his calves – or at least Emma says so) and ending the season in cabled cashmere. Emma has also persuaded him to kit out his keepers and loaders with socks in estate colours, but he stopped short of the beaters – such profligacy got shot down with those 1990s bonuses.

Advertisement

The Ageing Actor

He was once the best-looking man in the world: pictures of him at film premieres in the late 1960s show a devastatingly gorgeous chap. He was a star of Swinging London and his ethereal girlfriend was a supermodel before the term existed, spoken of in the same breath as Twiggy and The Shrimp. She was on every magazine cover, he was nominated for an Academy Award and theirs was one of the great weddings of the era; he wore Blades of Savile Row, she wore Ossie Clark and afterwards they went to see The Beatles’ last concert on the roof of the Apple building looking their groovy best. However, tragedy struck on their honeymoon: they had planned to travel from Morocco to India, via Afghanistan but only made it to Marrakech, where his wife died of a heroin overdose and he suffered a breakdown. It was only in the late 1970s that he reemerged, playing an anguished Macbeth that is still talked about; and it was a wiser, sober man that returned to the screen, lending Shakespearean gravitas to the roles of English-accented Hollywood villains. Today he leads a quiet life, though his rich voice can still be heard on talking books and he makes the odd film. He spends much of the time strolling from his set in Albany – glancing nostalgically at the old Apple building on Savile Row – to the Anderson & Sheppard haberdashery on Clifford Street where he has a cuppa and a gossip with Audie, whom he recalls from her Doug Hayward years. His needs are simple now, his wardrobe even simpler – black jeans and rollneck sweaters. However, he has a weakness for cashmere socks and the fact they do not last long suits him perfectly, as it gives him an ideal excuse to come in each fortnight to spend a cosy morning with friends and a couple of hundred quid on new socks.

The Creative Director

Depending on who you listen to, the Creative Director is a genius deserving of a Nobel Prize or a sociopath for whom people are discarded once used like Kleenex. That he has talent is undeniable. But he understands that designing runway collections, capsule collections and so forth is only a small part of the job; the real work lies in cultivating a mystique, creating a legend and surrounding oneself with a court of skeletal women who live on cigarettes, Diet Coke and champagne. To quote the immortal Madge, it’s about knowing how to “strike a pose”. The Creative Director has perfected a look of such complexity and intensity it was said to have inspired the famous Blue Steel look in Zoolander. Before becoming a fashion deity he did a little modelling, and though the last underling to mention it was struck in the face with a man bag, the experience taught him he is best shot contrapposto, head slightly to the right, lips parted in a cruel enigmatic smile, bone structure visible beneath facial hair so perfect it looks sprayed on through a stencil. And now he’s a fashion god he has a make-up artist on call to mop any perspiration and arrange his hair. Thus, all his photographs look the same, whether relaxing with his Diet Coke-sipping female friends in Ibiza or strutting the red carpet at the Met Ball. If snapped fleeing a burning building he would no doubt pause to compose himself for the picture. Never is a facial blemish visible nor a millimetre of surplus body fat. His weakness is not so much an Achilles heel as an ankle – he was once told he had attractive ankles. Ever since his graduation show he has insisted on showing them off, forgoing socks. But while his ankles may be beautiful, his feet smell horrible and he wears deodorant sockettes instead that stay hidden in his shoes to prevent bad odours. However, he lives in terror of his staff getting even a whiff of his human flaw and forces everyone in his studio to sign an NDA.

See also

Advertisement
Loading