02: Wearing Nonboots and Nonsneakers in the Winter
FROM THE FOUNDER
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
A Personal Style Exploration.
Happy Winter solstice, everyone! If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, especially the U.S. East Coast, this is the time of year when the cold gets serious, and you’re starting to dress for protection from the elements. No more cute fall layering and such, out come the heaviest coats, the coziest sweaters, and the toughest boots. I know some relish the fall, but I don’t think I know anyone who actually enjoys the winter. I most definitely do not.
Part of the reason I do not enjoy winter is that up until not so long ago, I struggled to express myself through my style. My sense of style cedes to my need to stay warm and comfortable when it's cold out. As a result, my style would become overly practical, overly serious, and boring. My shoe collection would temporarily contract to a few pairs of boots and sneakers that provided coverage from the cold or toe room to wear with cozy socks. It’s not that I don’t appreciate boots and sneakers, but I felt that they boxed me into wearing the same kinds of pants all season long, so I ended up with the same few outfits on repeat. No matter how good my pieces started off feeling, they would begin to feel ho-hum. Before knowing it, I’ll have slipped into a case of SAD, by which I mean sartorial affective disorder. That stagnant state where I no longer feel inspired to experiment with my style. Incidentally, feeling out of touch with my creativity does contribute to my general sense of malaise in the winter months. Well, that and the short days.
That was until I got my sock (and hosiery) game down. From my time living and people-watching during winters in NYC + BA, I’ve observed that aside from owning a good coat collection, people with great style know how to employ socks and hosiery with their between-season footwear to keep warm while looking chic. Of course, socks are something you can choose not to care about or not put on display. They can stay hidden under hems and boot shafts. But when socks are as carefully considered as the rest of the wardrobe, this takes a significant part of the shoe collection off the back burner and presents an opportunity to get creative with winter dressing. Mastering the skill of combining socks and hosiery with non-boots, non-sneakers (NBNS), i.e., loafers, mary janes, ballet flats, sandals, etc., will unlock the full styling potential of your wardrobe and help you get more wear out of the items you already have.
Conspicuous sock wearing can be tricky territory. The successful styling of socks and hosiery with your NBNS is a delicate balance of proportion, color, and texture. The wrong pairing of socks and bottoms with your NBNS can feel like you’ve hopped on an express train to awkward town. But mastery of shoes-and-socks mixing, on the other hand, will be a winter wardrobe game changer for life.
This styling hack can be for anyone, but it will only be for some. A lot of successful styling is very personal, as it will be for you too. It largely depends on how you define your style and your willingness to go outside your comfort zone. It’s not a hack you have to use every day, but I guarantee that when you’re hitting a winter dressing wall, this will help you get out of that rut. Below I’ve experimented with the NBNS styles in our collection to help you get inspired.
P.S. I know I did not iron any of my clothes for this post. Will you give me a new mom pass? I just don’t have the time for that sh*t right now. Also, please forgive the repeat items of clothing for illustrating my points – my postpartum body is only fitting back into a fraction of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe at the moment.
Sock + hosiery collection. Must haves. Must nots.
An incomplete selection from my personal sock collection.
To successfully style NBNS shoes with socks and hosiery, you will want to experiment with a range of thicknesses, lengths, textures & fibers. This is an incomplete selection from my personal sock collection. I have socks ranging from crew length to over the knee (not pictured), in nylon, silk, wool, cotton, and cashmere, in ribbed and smooth textures, from semi-sheer to opaque, and ultra-fine to very chunky. Only some things here worked as well as I thought with NBNS. The must-haves were (or at least things that worked best for me) a gray or taupe cashmere-wool ribbed high crew sock (my favorites–not pictured–are from Hansel From Basel), a fine ribbed black silk-nylon crew sock (mine, pictured throughout, are from Maria La Rosa) and a midweight cashmere tall crew sock (the other black socks I’m wearing, are from Ryan Roche). I recommend starting with socks with these characteristics if you want to experiment. I think it’s hard to find a sock to do it all, but an opaque ribbed high crew or knee-high sock in a fine gauge cashmere or silk is the most versatile with a range of different shoe shapes by adding the most warmth without adding bulk.
What didn't work for me were the white, camel and rust colored socks with NBNS. They were either too light or too close to fleshtones to look intentional. Neither did the striped socks. Printed or brightly colored socks with NBNS in general are going to be a matter of preference (and they were not mine), but I will get into why below.
Loafers with socks is my biggest go-to hack in the winter. This combination offers much variety between the sock texture and the range of different bottoms and loafer constructions. I’ve worn this combination with jeans, joggers, and trousers in a range of silhouettes from straight to full. I generally treat loafers the same way I treat sneakers. However, I will say that loafers and socks look best when the ankle is on full display. To style this combination successfully, your pants should come just to the ankle or a little above it. Also, you want the socks to be long enough to cover the ankle–no skin should show.
The Trini and Pilar loafers combined with a midweight grey or tall black crew sock in a cashmere blend work the best. The gray socks offer texture and color contrast to the loafer, while the black socks make it feel almost like a boot. I will probably wear black if I want to go more elegant and gray for more of an offbeat look.
I also recommend avoiding wearing loafers with light or flesh-toned socks unless you want to feel like Steve Urkel from Family Matters or Michael Jackson in Thriller. Again, this is a highly personal preference. If referencing those two iconic looks inspires you, I will not drag it!
You can wear loafers with printed or colored socks, but it’s tricky and can look zany really fast unless you intentionally combine it with the rest of your look. I’m not saying it can’t be done well, it’s just very specific and not where I’m at in my personal style journey, so I won’t advise on that!
It's essential to discuss failures too. Making these loafer/sock combinations work would probably require a change of pants.
I also avoided styling the classic loafers with socks because the toe shape makes it feel crowded in there quickly and also because the trouser sock + classic loafer combination leans a little too classic for my style.
Sandals? It’s handled.
This is one of my favorite hacks to get me out of a styling rut. I used to wear tights with platform sandals in college a lot. Following the IG stories of Tibi Creative Director Amy Smilovic and her ex-style director Dione Davis reminded me of what a great cold weather styling hack wearing sandals with socks and tights is, especially for dressing up in the evening.
Skirts and dresses can stay packed away until your legs can be bare (and sure, you can wear boots with skirts and dresses, but that’s a whole different how-to and not what we’re here to discuss), or you can dig out your Delfina sandals and wear them with tights! Find a pair of tights or fine socks and experiment with this fantastic combination! It’s SO much fun. If you don’t already own a pair, you’ll want to get an opaque pair of tights or fine-knit socks.
If you’re going out to a party and feel like you don’t know what to wear because it’s cold out and nothing you own looks right with the boots you own, pull out a dress or skirt of any length and pair it with the Delfinas and tights. Just make sure the dress's fabric isn’t too flimsy or summery. Anything satiny, silky, or wooly looks excellent. This combination is pretty hard to get wrong, tbh. Black or heathered gray tights are great places to start, but extra credit if you find a pair that closely matches the color of your Delfinas. Semi-sheer tights work, too but stay away from ultra-sheer stockings of any color, especially the flesh-toned kind. It will feel too naked and look dated. You’re probably not going to be walking many blocks in looks like these, so slipperiness isn’t going to be much of an issue due to the low heel height. But if it is, just get one of those ball of foot pads to place in the sandals. Silky fine gauge socks with the Delfinas + pants also look great. This is useful when you don’t own a boot that feels dressy or refined enough to go with your trousers.
This white tight + Marfil Delfina combination feels very fresh to me. Though, I would probably go more off-white and slightly sheerer with the tights. Feel free to experiment with any color delfina with matching tights here!
Extra credit points for matching your socks to your Delfinas.
When I was about 32-ish weeks pregnant this past BA winter and could only wear slip-ons without requiring assistance, this sock and slide combination bailed me out.
For a cozier way to get creative with sandals, grab a pair of Pileta or Quinta Slides or the Franca flats. I’m most likely wearing this combination with jeans or joggers to run around in the daytime. I recommend avoiding a fine-knit sock and going with something a little heavier, woolier, and possibly even sportier. It’s more practical and will keep you warmer. And though I haven’t thoroughly tested this theory, I think this combination looks best when: the sock is neutral or either the sock and sandal color closely match each other or something you’re wearing on your upper half.
Feminine flats with socks + tights
Styling Eugenias and Uchis with socks and tights in the winter is the most obvious tip here, owing to the feminine style and ankle strap. However, plenty of customers are already doing it, and I love to see how creative and personalized outfits get with these styles.
It’s probably going to be easiest to style the Eugenias and Uchis in dark colors with socks. I found it challenging to style the colorful Eugenias with socks and tights, but I love how this ZX customer has done it. Taking cues for her, it seems like matching the sock/tight color back to the shoe works well, especially when color coordinating with the rest of the look. Here’s another good one with printed socks. But notice how intentionally these women are mixing colors with good prints. I would say that if you wear colored or printed socks and tights with the Eugenias and Uchis, keep the color palette tight throughout the whole look, as shown here. But in my case, gray socks styled with dark-colored Eugenias and Uchis felt best. Black socks didn’t add anything, and anything super contrasty didn’t feel like me. I paired the Uchis with a pair of fine gray silk socks because I liked balancing out the proportion of the sole with a slim ankle silhouette. I think the combination of the girly style with the mannish sock is sophisticated but creative.
On the other hand, I liked pairing the Eugenia with a chunky over-the-knee sock scrunched down over the calf to balance out the slimmer silhouette of the soles. This look is giving off-duty ballerina, and I’m feeling it! But, TBH, this sock is probably a bit too chunky to wear with my regular size in the Eugenia – I would probably lob the foot off and wear them as legwarmers layered over sheer socks.
The only time I would wear a dress this short would be with tights. And if I’m going to an occasion that calls for relative modesty, I would pair this look with Uchis to balance out the skin ratio. A customer recently commented that because she has thick legs and ankles, she looks for clunky shoes to make her proportions feel more in balance. It’s a highly personal thing, but if I’m wearing a flat shoe with a chunky construction, I only wear that shoe with hemlines above the knee unless the silhouette is body-con. Wearing a fuller, longer skirt with a flat chunky shoe and tights would make me feel out of balance and too ladylike. The best combination for you will come down to how you feel about your proportions and what you wear (or don’t wear) to feel your best.
As far as color and texture go, the more opaque the tights are, the more schoolgirl it will feel. But, again, this is a matter of preference. A black or tonal semi-sheer pair is probably the sweet spot, but here I used an opaque navy with the indigo Uchis. It works, but I would probably go a bit sheerer with the tights or all black, Uchis, and tights. Again, I’ll caution you to avoid wearing sheer flesh-toned stockings with this style (or any style, really). Be discerning with colored and patterned tights!
Styling the Glove, Cocas, or Inias with socks and tights is a unique styling challenge because out of all of the shoes I’ve designed, these are the few besides thong sandals that were designed to be worn barefoot. But I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome once I began playing around with them.
I really liked how the glove flats looked paired with socks of the same tone. It’s almost as though I’m wearing a flat pointed boot, which looks modern. An opaque sock will create that illusion best. It’s vital to keep the sock weight fine here or else the shoe simply won’t fit. If you’re wearing tights or a stocking, I think black semi sheer tights are best, but matching the tights to the shoe color also looks elegant if the shoes are a dark color. Be discerning if they are a bright or light color. If wearing black glove flats I think you can also go with sheer black patterned tights. Owing to the pointed toe, I feel like I can wear the glove flat with tights and a midi skirt and still feel refined. This is a good combination to try if you don’t really do heels, but it is an ultra classic and modest look so if that’s not what you’re going for, experiment with shorter and/or more form fitting dresses and even shorts. I styled both the glove and coca flats with a pair of acid wash shorts + tights here, just to give you an idea. It’s intriguing! It vaguely reminds me of what the librarian in my elementary school wore in the 90s, but more offbeat. I want to push this combination a little more and try the gloves in a different color like tomato or graphite with matching tights and a different top or shorts with a different proportion and texture! If you have leather shorts in your closet I think this would lead to some extremely creative outfits.
If you’ve put your NBNS (non boots and non sneakers) into storage because it’s cold out, or are holding off on purchasing a pair until it’s warmer, consider experimenting with socks and tights to adapt them to the winter. Doing so will get your creative juices flowing and make winter dressing a lot more fun and interesting by expanding your definition of which wardrobe items you consider winter-appropriate. If you’re new to the game or just want a quick summary, here are some pointers to guide you in your conspicuous hosiery wearing journey:
- Collect socks & tights in a range of yarn gauges, lengths, textures, tones and fibers
- Fine gauge socks/stockings are more elevated while thick/chunky socks are more casual
- Medium weight socks are the most versatile but the fiber matters. Cotton is coolest but cashmere socks add warmth without bulk
- Colors and prints can make a statement but can look zany unless used with discernment
- Gray socks go with everything
- No flesh colored socks or tights, especially ultra sheers
- For dressy situations In the absence of the right boot or pump: fine gauge socks or tights with strappy sandals like the Delfina are an excellent choice.
- Socks with Loafers like the Trini and Pilar can be worn like sneakers.
Happy experimenting! Stay warm, enjoy the holidays and comment below or DM if you have any ZX related style questions you’d like me to answer!