What does it mean to wear striped socks

In the land of socks and sandals - exploring a cliché

Wearing socks in sandals used to be considered an absolute fashion faux pas. It's pretty simple: if it's hot enough to wear sandals, what else do you need socks for? And what is the purpose of this combination as soon as it rains? In any case, it is not waterproof. This fashionable quirk was a thorn in the side of many observers.

The forerunners of this ambivalent trend were German tourists. They ignored the mockery of their white tennis socks in their leather sandals - and kept walking indifferently. They weren't the only ones to get this look worldwide attention, however. Said combination was observed preferentially in older people who did not care about the dictates of fashions and trends. Nevertheless, the German as a sandal sock wearer was able to develop into a national stereotype for Germany.

The artist Miguel Fernandez, for example, takes up this German fashion preference in his DW cartoon series "Do you understand German?" on the grain.

Categorical rejection by the fashion police

The cultural phenomenon therefore deserves a closer look. Are the Germans really the origin of this combination, which not so long ago was categorically rejected by the international fashion police?

The internet doesn't reveal much about the origins of the cliché. There's a Wikipedia page on "Socks and Sandals" in English and a few other languages ​​- but it doesn't even exist in German. It mentions that the first documented evidence of socks and sandals being worn together was found during excavations at an ancient archaeological site in North Yorkshire, England. An analysis of the remains of a sandal showed that the Romans wore both together 2000 years ago.

Roman-Egyptian socks, which were split at the toe and designed to be worn with sandals, were excavated from a burial site in Egypt in the late 19th century. They are believed to date from the 4th to 5th centuries and have been in the collection of the V&A Museum in London since 1900.

Roman-Egyptian socks from the 4th or 5th century

The Japanese also developed their own style of this combination, as the fashion historian Birgit Haase, professor at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, reports. The traditional tabi socks from the 15th century were also specially developed to be worn with toe separators. They are worn by men and women in different contexts and are still part of formal clothing, for example at tea ceremonies.

In comparison, the sock-sandal combination does not appear in the German costume, whereas knee-high socks are a good thing for men in lederhosen. The German sandal-sock cliché had spread through German tourists, according to Lena Sämann, head of the fashion department of Vogue Germany Online. "For years, German tourists abroad were famous and notorious as offenders of style, who climbed the mountains in tennis socks and trekking sandals and amazed southern Europe," she told DW. For years, the Germans were the most travelers in the world, and some wanted to feel at home abroad, says Sämann - and chose shoes that resembled their slippers.

In the south of Europe, German tourists astonished for a long time, but they just wanted to be comfortable

A soft spot for functional fashion

The fashion editor also points out that "Germans like to be prepared and armed for every situation. They have always had a weakness for functional wear - also in a partner look - and if you wear socks in trekking sandals, you probably won't get blisters that quickly Feet. " The fashion historian Birgit Haase mentions another practical reason for the combination: Socks absorb sweat in sandals - and are not as useless as they seem at first.

While it is unclear when the cliché of wearing socks and sandals was associated with the Germans, the country can at least be proud of the triumph of orthopedic sandals.

Popular with hippies

Birkenstock has blossomed into one of the world's best-known brands. The German shoemaker Johann Adam Birkenstock founded his family business in 1774. The shoes with cork insoles were developed in 1945. The first model, which is similar to the Birkenstock sandal that is widely used today, was invented in 1964.

The iconic status of the shoe is mainly due to the German-American designer Margot Fraser. On a health resort trip to Germany in 1966, she discovered how comfortable the sandals were and sold them in California, where they became popular with hippies.

In the 1980s, Fraser turned the brand into a multimillion-dollar business in the United States. Today in North America, wearers of socks and sandals are seen more as a West Coast phenomenon that is mocked, for example, by the TV satire "Portlandia" and countless memes.

Originally designed as shower slippers, hipsters now wear the Adilette on the street - even with socks

Ugly becomes trendy

Another German, actually orthopedic sandal with cork in the sole has recently gained popularity. The Wörishofer was developed in the Bavarian spa town of Bad Wörishofen in the 1940s. When Hollywood stars like Kirsten Dunst and Maggie Gyllenhaal appeared with them from 2010, the brand was added to the list of "ugly" shoes that suddenly became trendy, alongside Birkenstock, Crocs and Ugg boots.

The German shoe giant Adidas is meanwhile behind another cult sandal. His Adilette slippers were designed in 1963 at the request of athletes who wanted a shoe that they could wear in changing rooms and showers. With its orthopedic rubber sole and striped top, the legendary model has moved from the pool to the street, where it is also often worn with socks - mainly by hipsters. "On the streets of Berlin you can find guys on every corner who look like the reincarnation of the typical German tourist in the past - with shorts, fishing hats, tennis socks and trekking sandals," says Vogue editor Sämann.

The combination, which was frowned upon for a long time, has also been available in Posh since high fashion discovered the trend

Superstars purposely look uncool

In recent years, countless lifestyle magazines have enthusiastically reported on the transformation of the former fashion no-go into a trendy must-have. For around ten years, labels like Miu Miu, Wood Wood and Vetements have stuck their models on the catwalk with socks and sandals. The suit grew in popularity among hipsters who, inspired by the unisex trend normcore and irony, wanted to look "intentionally uncool".

From Justin Bieber to rapper Tyler the Creator, from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to M.I.A. - Even superstars have embraced the trend.

The sock-sandal debate will continue despite high fashion labels, self-declared post-ironic hipsters and eccentric celebrities. The German tourists, however, never took part in it - although they were the uncrowned pioneers of the movement.

You can find more content about Germans and their idiosyncrasies, everyday German culture and language on our website www.dw.com/meetthegermans_de, on YouTube or on Instagram.

Abroad, Germans are known for their unmistakable "style"