There are some things that adult men simply must not wear. These include (but are in no way restricted to) functional trousers which zip off at the knee; dirty white deep V-neck T-Shirts; plastic winkle picker shoes in shades of burnt diarreah and, up until recently, sandals.
For the first time since the sixties, Birkenstocks are back in fashion. The same can be said for those strappy technical sandals that had a moment in the 80s and the clompy plastic poolsides that dominated (kind of) in the 90s.
Worn with tube socks at Givenchy; slim cut mohair suits at Prada and with technical parachute fabric trousers at Lanvin – sandals have never been cooler.
The reality is, though, that no matter how many designers send Birkenstock styles down the runway, and no matter how many club kids wear poolsides with pulled-up white sports socks down Peckham High Street, rocking a pair of sandals is a challenge for even the most style-conscious men.
Herewith, our guide to pulling the sandal off in style (or as near as is humanly possible).
Immortalised by the Flower Children of the late 60s, Birkenstock’s chunky, cork-soled sandals have dipped in and out of fashion every decade since. Second only to Crocs in the favour of hospital cleaners and kitchen staff, they’ve made a surprise come back for Spring / Summer ‘14. Wear yours in traditional brown, navy or – if you’re feeling brave – white, with a pair of tapered navy wool tracksuit bottoms, a tonal knitted polo shirt and a light jacket in a similar shade. This is summer evening or weekend wear – not a look for the office.
By technical we don’t mean sandals with enough ergonomic padding to resemble the tread of a tank, rather simple sandals with a thick foam sole and abundant nylon strapping. The key here is to opt for an understated shade with a flash of something brighter and to team them with a contrastingly smart outfit. This midnight blue pair from Teva features a complimentary strip of bold orange and will look the business worn with a slim cut single-breasted suit in RAF blue, and a simple white granddad shirt.
If the fashion pack is to be believed, this season your poolsides should be worn with white sports socks, billowing silk basketball shorts and some kind of equally drapey top. Oh, and a cap. You obviously won’t be wearing any of these things. If you want to wear poolsides, wear them by the pool (duh), and team with some understated swimming trunks (look to Frescobal Carioca for some of the summer’s best). If, on the other hand, you are going to do the white sock thing, team with some slim black jeans, a simple black T-Shirt and some very big sunglasses, so that no one will recognise you.
Our Pick: Black leather poolsides by Gucci, £115
The easiest way to opt into the sandal trend is with some chic, high quality leather sandals. Choose a pair with a thin leather sole, and thick enough straps that they still look manly. Team with some slim cropped chinos in stone, navy or moss green, a slim white, open neck shirt and a deconstructed jacket in a similar shade to the trousers. Accessorise with some tortoiseshell shades and a slick haircut. These are probably the only sandals you could get away with wearing into work…assuming you work in a particularly fashion-friendly office.
For the ultimate fashion sandals (chunky soles, bright flashes of colour, luxurious exotic skins, oversized straps) look to Marni, Lanvin or Givenchy. Iinspired by Birkenstocks and updated with a multi-layered sole, fine metal detailing and a sneaker-esque aesthetic, this pair from Givenchy are among the season’s strongest. Wear with shorts and a T-shirt or a pair of jersey lounge trousers and a sweatshirt. Good for a weekend visit to the pub. Not so good for the boardroom.
Our Pick: Black Swiss sandals by Givenchy, £430
Yes, flip-flops. But we’re not talking your bog standard tire-rubber thongs, these heel strap flip flops from Swiss swimwear designer Dan Ward deftly straddle the divide between thongs and sandals. Unless you live on Clapham high street and you’re Australian (and even then) these flip-flop hybrids should only ever be worn at the beach, by the pool or in the garden. Wear to work if you’re looking to get sacked.
Our Pick: Heel strap flip flop by Dan Ward, £105