Happy Feet

This image from the Japanese illustrator Hiroshi Watatani brings several things to mind. First there’s a formula you rarely see, and that’s a completely sober outfit — like this one in black, white and gray — combined with colorful socks. I’ll do a slight variation, wearing a solid tie plus rep-striped or motif socks, essentially transferring the patterns from my throat to my ankles. I’ve tried the bright-color thing (grey flannels, brown tassels, and yellow socks is a preppy classic), but I feel woozy, like the earth is spinning too fast.

And then there’s the shoe shine, which made me think of Fred Astaire’s number in “The Band Wagon” from 1953. Hmm, Astaire also liked socks that pop. Sure enough, in that scene he combines a monochromatic blue and gray outfit with colorful socks.

If you ever find yourself dreading dragging yourself out, put on some pop socks, a fresh shine on your shoes, and a dash of terpsichory as you head out the door, and you’ll find yourself with happy feet, and the positive energy will eventually work its way up. — CC

14 Comments on "Happy Feet"

  1. Old School Tie | March 24, 2019 at 6:18 pm |

    Ah, red socks. They do get you in trouble sometimes. I get mine from Gammarelli. Wouldn’t go as far as the full Elvis Costello and match shirt to socks, but nonetheless one feels sufficiently rakish with a flash of scarlet peeping out between cuff and shoe.

  2. elder prep | March 24, 2019 at 7:34 pm |

    Is that a real herringbone pattern or an exaggeration by the illustrator? It appears awfully big.

  3. elder prep:
    How right you are!
    That large a herringbone pattern would only work for an overcoat.

  4. Old School Tie | March 25, 2019 at 11:02 am |

    The illustrator in this case appears to take photographic images and “jazz” them up by means of some graphics software. Creating gigantic weave probably counts as “jazzing up”.

  5. Charlottesville | March 25, 2019 at 12:36 pm |

    Yellow socks are an occasional indulgence of mine, and I even have a pair in pink that I rarely wear, but I always enjoy them when I do. I may need to trot them out more often. The biggest appeal of the illustration to me, however, is the shoe-shine stand. As recently as the 1990s, they were quite common in New York and Washington, and even Charlottesville had at least one in regular operation. None locally these days, and not so many even in the cities. Jim’s on E. 59th in Manhattan is my favorite. I always stop in at least once when I am in town and highly recommend it.

  6. Evan Everhart | March 25, 2019 at 1:22 pm |

    Roger Sterling X Mr. Rogers mash up! ;P Hahahaa!

  7. Evan Everhart | March 25, 2019 at 1:36 pm |

    Here, here to Charlottesville!

    Sadly, I must concur (unsurprisingly) that in Los Angeles also, the shoe shine stands have nearly vanished. There are a precious few in some of the finer hotels, and a few unused stands in locked up mezzanines of office buildings in Hollywood which simply exist as white-washed relics on that dead street of milling, sweating be-crocced, tourists and their traps….I remember that even the Van Nuys Courthouse used to have a shoe shine stand, now of course very long gone. It was as I remember, attached to the federal building.

    As to the socks, I don’t go in for crimson socks; they are too bright for me, but I do regularly wear burgundy wool, mustard yellow, and dark pink hosiery as well as my more typical robin’s egg blue, navy, and olive green hosiery. Colors are great and I find that I typically end up coordinating my tie’s colors with my shoes and socks.

    As to the large scale herringbone of that suit; the artist is obviously conversant in, familiar with, and making a reference to golden era Apparel Arts and Esquire illustrations by Longfellow who was fond of showing such daring examples of Harris Tweed. My Grandfather had a tan Harris Tweed suit in that sort of a scale when he came over from Europe after the war. Just because it’s not common now-a-days, does not mean that it’s wrong, or an artistic license. Remember; a large portion of the annual production of Harris Tweed and other Scotch woolens are shipped directly to Japan for their consumption, and their selection (due to their obsession) is likely to be much more varied and interesting than ours is, in this nation that can barely be bothered to wear a jacket or even a real shirt in most circumstances, let alone a Harris Tweed jacket or suit.

  8. Evan Everhart | March 25, 2019 at 1:39 pm |

    By the way; No one else has noticed or commented upon the solid black polished calf saddle shoes sported by this fellow? I do say yikes to those; they defy the very nature of the shoe.

  9. MacMcConnell | March 25, 2019 at 6:22 pm |

    Evan Everhart
    Those seem to be black on black saddle oxfords with the heavy soles we wore in the late sixties. I still have a pair of black on oxblood from my senior year in HS, 1970. They have a curved edging. Think of the soles of old Florsheim wings worn by most businessmen in the past, you could kick a hole through a cider block. 😉

    This kind of illustration has nothing to do with the actual size of the herringbone, it’s just to convey that the suit is herringbone.

  10. Evan Everhart | March 25, 2019 at 6:30 pm |

    MacMcConnell. 😉 Hahaa! Thank you, Sir! 🙂

    I have seen the black on oxblood, but never black on black! Wowza. I remember my Dad forcing a pair of brown saddled blue suede ones on me in elementary school on the yearly shopping trip. They were too adventurous for me then, probably still so now. 😉 He meant well. I Love that visual! Cider Block! Ha!

    I’ll see if I can dig up the picture of Granddad in his giant scale HBT tweed jacket/suit. I have a top coat in a similar scale, but that doesn’t illustrate the point of a suit in that type of pattern scaled fabric.

    Seriously though; Roger Sterling X Mr. Rogers. There’s a symmetry in that 😉

  11. Come to Seattle and visit Nordstrom’s Flagship store #1 – best shoe shine in town. Family run for over 30 years and still just $2.50.

  12. Christopher Hosford | May 12, 2020 at 9:16 am |

    Large shoe shine setup in Grand Central, in the Lexington passageway, as well as in the Chrysler Building passageway arcade under Lex.

  13. I remember all of this. I graduated from high school in 1966 and went on to attend the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. I never owned a three-piece grey herringbone suit. I did have one in glen plaid though.
    We were more partial to Bass Weejuns, khaki trousers, navy blazers, white or blue button-down shirts and rep ties.

  14. D. Starzyk | April 2, 2021 at 12:38 pm |

    I was challenged many years ago by my custom tailor, Antonio Gasbarri, out here in Hollywood, to wear red socks with a tuxedo. I have now incorporated it into almost all suitings. When asked, I say, “Someone had to pick up the mantle when Van Johnson died”. One can tell the age of the person by if they find that funny, or not. They’ve become kind of a calling card now; I love them!

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