x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

10 ways to avoid getting off on the wrong foot

It's best to toe the line when it comes to socks.

The male wardrobe is a straightforward piece of dependable efficiency - when it works. At the office, while most men wear a suit some prefer smart casual - which is an oxymoron, my wife argues, because the male mind (ie, her husband, that's me) cannot figure out how to hang a picture so how is he going to know how to wear the simplest piece of clothing? In other words, how is he going to be intelligent enough to pick out smart clothes?

If a man were asked to identify which piece of his wardrobe he could not make a mistake with, he might pick underwear. Wrong, I would say. Shirts? Nope. Ties? Uh-uh. Underwear offers many choices. Boxer or briefs, white or coloured, patterned or logos, 100 per cent cotton or silk (or satin even). The options are many and unless a man knows what feels comfortable and what looks good on him, he will forever be trying out different styles - some successfully, others much less so.

When buying a shirt, issues to consider are the following: the colour, cuff style, collar size and material. Also, do you roll up the sleeves, will you wear the shirt untucked or tucked in? Ties are in a league of their own because they need to look good with a shirt and a suit. The tie is probably the most challenging piece of clothing in a man's wardrobe. Get it right and you've got it made. Get it wrong and you'll ruin your entire look. Suits and shoes are tough decisions as well. They require their own special set of considerations.

The simplest choice in a man's wardrobe is his socks. But if they are so simple, why do I have a top 10 list of ways in which a man can trip up wearing them? Socks can make an easy or complex ensemble look wrong. They can let down the whole outfit. I do not mean dress socks with a pair of jeans or black socks with a brown suit or even athletic socks with dress shoes. These mistakes are definitely offensive, but, let's put it in perspective, they are not so egregious that a man should be fired or sent into social exile.

Socks bother me because a man needs to work at getting them wrong. A poor tie choice is forgivable, an inappropriate shirt can be overlooked, even the wrong dress shoes can be excused if you happen to be feeling particularly charitable. But socks require no effort at all - and isn't that what most men crave when it comes to their fashion choices: easy maintenance, few options, straightforward presentation?

Instead of getting it right, men are picking comfort over common sense, convenience over pride, a misplaced notion of rebelliousness rather than a modern interpretation of fashion. So to all those men who would rather feel good than look good, I say that women and children, wives and mothers, daughters and granddaughters understand how simple-minded men can be. That's why they give men socks on every birthday. Here are the top 10 sock no-nos.

@A&L-SubheadDivider:10. Ankle socks Perfect if you are a player on the women's professional tennis tour circa 1972. @A&L-SubheadDivider:9. White socks with a dark suit How can this fashion crime be committed? Not even Stevie Wonder has this problem. @A&L-SubheadDivider:8. Japanese tabi (toe socks) Fortunately these are not seen anywhere near as often as ankle socks but they do exist and therefore men need to be told to stay away from them.

@A&L-SubheadDivider:7. Personality socks I don't know if these have another name but regardless, we have all seen them. They are the pink, neon green or otherwise incredibly colourful socks worn with an outfit that is conservative in every other way. One Brit told me recently he thought socks were the one way public-school boys could rebel and still adhere to the dress code, and that the tradition stayed with him after he left school. I like that explanation because it makes sense, but I still don't like his socks.

@A&L-SubheadDivider:6. Argyle socks Gross. @A&L-SubheadDivider:5. Dark socks with shorts Unless you are a native of Bermuda - and living on the island - you are not allowed to wear these two articles of clothing together. Think Bermuda triangle because this look needs to disappear. @A&L-SubheadDivider:4. Wool socks Why? How does this happen? In 2009, why are they still being made and why are men buying them?

@A&L-SubheadDivider:3. No socks This is bit of a cheat on my part, but it is a bigger problem for the men who do not wear socks with shoes. It looks ridiculous and can't be comfortable, either. The sign on the door should say "no service if you are not wearing socks with your shoes". @A&L-SubheadDivider:2. Socks with sandals And so they will say once you have left this mortal coil: "Jimmy was a good man, but when he wore socks with sandals I wished he was dead."

@A&L-SubheadDivider:1. Too-short socks This is the number-one way in which a man can fumble wearing socks. Here is a geometric formula to help you get it right: when you cross one leg over the other, the bottom of your slacks rides up and the top of your sock only goes so far up your leg. If there is a gap, then you have a problem. I have decided to call this the hairy-man-flesh zone and the only way to prevent it from appearing is to cover it up. So pull up your socks, guys!

Michael Jabri-Pickett is the foreign editor of The National. @Email:mjp@thenational.ae