In the eyes of a Greek (or any Mediterranean) expat, London has a mesmerizing energy. Each walk, each encounter, becomes an invitation to connect with the vibe of the city and its legendary British mentality. Out of all cultural observations, one has been surprisingly striking: “eccentric” sock wearing by British men.
At first glance, one sees polished, sharp, uptight men in their triple-steamed suits and branded umbrellas venturing to their office early morning on the Circle line to Victoria or the City. And at second, and third, and forth glances my eyes remain fixated on their eccentric, wacky socks. So far I’ve seen animal prints, colorful combinations, striped rainbows, zebra prints and polka dots to name some. An intriguing, indeed, juxtaposition between the outerwear and the inner wear.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this blatant discord in their outfit. What does it reflect? Where does that habit originate?
Yes, naturally, I even googled ‘crazy socks & British men’ to read the literature around the topic. I was impressed by the extent of scientific articles written on the topic.… Harvard research suggests that the crazier the socks you wear the more competent you are, the more you distinguish yourself from the crowd, the more you become a trendsetter etc. Still, I was not convinced that this explains why British men wear animal and pineapple-patterned socks…As the months pass by and get immersed in the London vibrations, I get a better feel for the British mentality and realise that in many ways wacky socks could be reflective of quintessential Britishness. They seem to illustrate three of its main characteristics:
a. Humor: an intrinsic element of British culture.
b. Non-conformism: a historic trend in Britain. The Brits have always had their own approach in politics, economy… even their plugs are different! They have prided themselves for being original. Britain has historically been an unconquered island with a free mind and bold spirit.
c. Nuanced communication: The more time I spend in Britain the more I realise that using nuanced communication is a sign of politeness and etiquette. That “hidden narrative” in verbal communication could be misunderstood for dishonesty yet it’s just a form of discreet & encoded directness. Another element perfectly reflected in the discord of the grey-suit and the eccentric socks!
I never thought that I would grasp the essence of the British mentality through the eccentric sock wearing habit of British men, but as my mom always says: life is full of surprises!
Written by ‘Modigliana’
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