The Argument for Sock Garters

Photograph: The author at home in his sock garters.

Modern men's fashion has created a nearly impossible scenario: You're not supposed to bare any leg when wearing socks with trousers—particularly in a business or formal setting—and yet the majority of socks on store shelves do not extend over the calf. Sadly, most socks slide down and reveal pale flesh and hairy calves, especially when men sit down and cross their legs. What's more, the vast majority of socks sold are of the half-calf variety, particularly all those colored and striped styles designed to show the world how fun and whimsical you are. Thankfully, there's a solution: ye olde sock garters.

For the unfamiliar, sock garters are exactly what they sound like: elastic bands that wrap around the upper calf just below the knee. Attached to the elastic band is a rubber "grip" that literally grabs the top of the sock and fastens with a metal clip, thus preventing the sock from slipping down. (The better-known, fetishized women's garters do the same thing, but with stockings.) Put your pants on and voila: skin-exposure risk eliminated. It's a marvel of engineering and it's been around for centuries.

They come in two varieties: single-grip and double-grip (two sets of clips). Personally, I prefer the former, since they're less work and do the trick just fine. And since they're totally unseen while your pants are on, you can go with any color or pattern that tickles your fancy. I purchased my black-and-white striped single grips at Fine and Dandy, an amazing men's accessories shop in midtown Manhattan, where one can find a terrific array of both double and single-grip garters—all made to be one-size-fits-all with adjustable elastic (single-grips go for $19 and the double-grips for $22). Interestingly, sock garters are by far the best-selling item on their website, according to owner and shopkeeper-in-residence Matt Fox.

I know what you're thinking: "No way. This is old man stuff. My grandfather used to wear these." Maybe so. But we live in a time when many accouterments of yesteryear—items once considered stodgy and old-fashioned—have resurfaced and been embraced by detail-oriented modern men all over the world. Want examples? Think of shaving brushes, horn-rim glasses, tie clips, pomades, and even boxer shorts.

Garters have tremendous history and heritage, too. In Elizabethan times, men wore colorful garters with their hose. And in England, there's such a thing as the Order of the Garter, the oldest and highest order of British chivalry, founded in 1348 by Edward III. It's presided over by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and 24 knights. And the patron saint of the Order is St. George, who just so happens to be the patron saint of England. Members wear a ceremonial garter on special occasions.

In light of all these relatively recent resurrections of retro-geek chic, why draw the line at sock garters? They're not uncomfortable. In fact, two minutes after you put them on you forget they're there. (Trust me, I've been wearing them for years.) They're inexpensive, completely hidden, and they make for a potentially sexy conversation piece when things get interesting back at your place. Unless, of course, you're Eliot Spitzer and you like to keep your socks on.

—George Hahn. Follow him on the Details Network.

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