Is The Era Of No-Show Socks Behind Us?

Let’s hope so.

Summer outfit with socks and shoes
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For as long as civilization existed, there’s been socks in some form or another. They protect your feet, regulate temperature, and keep moisture at bay. But beyond essential functionality, socks (or the lack thereof) have served as a conduit for communicating personal style, from symbolizing wealth and social status during the Middle Ages to rainbow-hued, nonconformist pairs worn by counterculture figures of the 1960s. But in the early 2000s, something very peculiar happened — socks began to disappear. The advent of no-show socks and the rising popularity of bare ankles shifted the tides of an accessory that had been around for thousands of years.

The year was 2005. It was to be my first semester of college and I was shopping for a new wardrobe that conveyed my stylish foray into adulthood. Uggs? Check. Knockoff of the Juicy Couture tracksuit? Check. Bulk pack of Peds no-show socks? Check! The early aughts, as you’re aware, were a bamboozling time for fashion trends, from skinny scarves wrapped around lace-trim tanks to gaucho pants styled with pointy pumps. It was also when no-show socks picked up steam. “The movement began in the early 2000s, being very present during the rise in skinny jeans,” stylist Rebecca Dennett says, adding that a sockless ballet flat (also a popular footwear trend of the time) worked well with skinnies.

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And it wasn’t just womenswear. In 2002, The Wall Street Journal published a headline “A New Trend Is Afoot” in reference to no-show socks “that hug the foot like ballet slippers” being worn with mens sneakers, loafers, and “even oxfords.” They were also popularized by style icons from that period, such as Lindsay Lohan and Lauren Conrad. (I have a vague memory of a Newlyweds episode where Jessica Simpson is lounging on the sofa in no-show socks. Iconic.)

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t an easy time to be in the socks business. “When I was developing Darner socks in 2013, most people were responding saying that no one wears socks,” Darner Founder Roxi Sternerud says. “People weren't resonating with my plan to launch socks to wear with fancy flats, heels, and sneakers. I kept at it anyway.”

She wasn’t alone in this quest, the appetite for something new was increasing. I came across a 2017 Racked article that an old editor of mine penned that was titled, “No-Show Socks Are a Total Scam” in which she laments the societal embrace of this objectively uncomfortable hosiery staple. (If you’ve ever worn a pair, you know the pain and fury that is feeling a no-show sock slip off and under your heel — repeatedly.)

Eventually, the no-show released its chokehold and socks came out of hiding and onto ankles en masse; first on the runways (think Miu Miu Fall 2017), then street style. Not coincidentally, if you look at some of the prevailing trends from the last five to ten years — normcore and athleisure, for example — socks have played a defining role in the respective aesthetics. The new guard of style icons have also had a hand in the revival of socks. “Hailey Bieber (styled by Karla Welch) really stands out to me as a leader of the intentional sock movement,” Dennett says. “She wears athletic white socks with sneakers, and a classic go-to look for her is white socks with loafers.”

Darner was also at the vanguard of the socks movement, having launched ten years ago. “Once delivered into stores at the end of 2014 and with pushing Darner via social media, with the help of influencers that styled the socks in exchange for gifted favorites, along with journalists featuring Darner organically, I did notice by the very beginning of 2017 that Darner was spreading and in general, the mid-calf height of socks was on trend,” Sternerud says.

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The designer has worked with stylist Mimi Cuttrell on gifting socks to Gigi and Bella Hadid, and other stylists such as Petra Flannery who has put Darner socks on the likes of Hunter Schafer (all individuals who have major sway in fashion trends these days). “The talented stylists that have pulled Darner and helped spread the socks onto the scene are endless,” Sternerud adds.

Fashion trends burn out quickly these days, so you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if socks will slow down in the coming months. But all signs point in favor of the accessory sticking around for the foreseeable future. “Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid are wearing pushed-down white socks or sporty knee-length socks with trainers or loafers, a look that nods to [country club] and gender-inclusive styling while also sending out the message ‘I couldn’t care less’ about dressing to impress,” WGSN Lingerie Editor Jo Lynch says.

Cecilie Bahnsen F/W 2024
Anna Sui F/W 2024

The forecaster also cites socks as playing a pivotal role in CoquetteCore. “The trend has encouraged the rise of pretty and frilly socks in pointelle and sheer materials, which are being worn with footwear trends such as the loafer, Mary Jane, and ballet flats,” she adds. And even looking ahead, Lynch references F/W 2024 runway shows that styled knee socks in the collections as strong indicators that socks are here to stay. “There were sheer socks at Cecile Bahnsen and argyle knee-length socks at Anna Sui, which served to dress down romantic looks or to bring a schoolgirl edge to casual dressing.”

With the summer months ahead, one might consider ditching their socks until autumn — but you don’t have to. “I love to wear socks with any pair of shoes not only in the obvious fall and winter cold months but also when it is hot,” Sternerud says, suggesting her mesh styles for their breathability. Ultimately, you can approach socks as a versatile accessory rather than a straightforward utilitarian piece. “They’re an easy styling trick to elevate an outfit. Styled up with heels or flats, or worn casually with slides or sneakers, socks can be the additional touch that makes you stand out."

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