‘So wrong, it’s right’: Sunak taps in to socks and sliders look | Fashion

October 29, 2021

When pictures of Rishi Sunak preparing for the budget were released this week, the intended optics of a man hard at work to improve the finances of a nation were somewhat undermined by his footwear. The chancellor, who has a bit of a reputation as a sharp dresser, wore white socks and a pair of £95 sliders from the Italian streetwear brand Palm Angels.

Sunak has since been mocked on social media, for what users deem as a play to appeal to young people. This is because socks and sliders – preferably with a designer label – are now a staple of status dressing by a younger generation. Along with Palm Angels, brands including Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Burberry make sliders, and these shoes are sought-after luxury items with the price to match. Compared with other brands, Sunak’s £95 choice is relatively modest. A monogrammed pair of sliders by Gucci retail at £485 while leather Bottega Veneta designs will set you back £525.

Damien Paul is head of menswear at the luxury website Matchesfashion.com, where there are more than 100 pairs of men’s sliders for sale currently. He says sliders have been a firm favourite over the past year, becoming “the go-to work from home shoe”. He cites David Beckham, Kanye West and Justin Bieber as celebrities influencing the trend. Billie Eilish is also onboard. At the premiere for the James Bond film No Time to Die, she wore heeled Gucci sliders.

If the pairing of socks with sandals was once a hopeless faux pas, it is now fashion-approved. “Coordinating your socks and sliders has become … more and more synonymous with ‘high fashion’,” says Paul.

As well as celebrities like West and Bieber, this shift has been influenced by street style images of menswear editors outside fashion shows. Stylist Gary Armstrong is often photographed and is known for his outfits that often feature socks and sliders. He nominates Snoop Dogg as the true pioneer of the look and says “fashion started embracing it a while back. [The look] nods to hip-hop culture and the classic ‘so wrong, it’s right’ trick that fashion often employs to subvert traditional codes of dressing.

Not all fashionable sliders come with eye-watering price tags. The £40 Recovery sandals – designed to be worn after running – from fitness brand Hoka have become a cult choice. And so-called “pillow slides” made from cushioned foam and found on Amazon for under £20 are a TikTok favourite.

Armstrong says the cosiness of socks and sliders appeals to him – “it’s like wearing slippers on the street. What’s not to love?” – but currently prefers a backless mule, citing a Birkenstock shearling-lined clog as a top pick. While practicality is not top priority here, a sandal with a closed toe is perhaps a bit more winter-friendly. Paul predicts the mule is set to be the next status shoe, calling it “a more elevated slider”.

Sunak is set to have impact here. “I actually think fashion has already moved on slightly from straightforward sliders,” says Armstrong. “This [Sunak’s sliders] will almost certainly be the death knell.”

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