GENTLEMEN’S COTTON SOCKS
HARVIE & HUDSON
Many, many years ago – so many years ago that, in those days, children found themselves instructed on omnibus and underground train “not to occupy seats if adults are standing” and gentlemen, rather than pushing others aside, actually held open doors for ladies (yes, in the long ago land of good manners) – I used to do something quite dreadful. I used to wear cheap socks. I cannot now remember why this dreadful habit had taken hold of me, for in all other respects I have, since I attained the age of reason, been most particular in matters sartorial. I can only suppose that I considered the sock such a lowly item that it was unworthy of anything other than the smallest expenditure and the slightest consideration. Yet in thrall to the habit I most assuredly was. But, of course, I was horribly wrong. I now obtain my socks from Harvie & Hudson.
For I have realized that the sock which peeps from underneath the Savile Row turn-up is, in truth, a noble garment, when properly made. It is worthy of care in the choice of its material, its length and its colour. My own preference is for a long sock in red, made of cotton. And it should only be purchased from those gentlemen’s outfitters famous for their adherence to the highest standards.
The Romans called their slippers socci. (The singular is soccus.) It is thought that we derive our word ‘sock’ from this source. Those we buy nowadays will, of course, have been made on machines. I have never witnessed the process, but my understanding is that cotton socks of the proper sort are made on machines with circular needles. The needles used for the calf section are larger than those used for the other three sections – the heel, the toe and the top. After these needles have constructed the sock, the seams at the toe and the sole are sewn together by an operator using a device called a ‘serger’. The sock is then washed and dyed its designated colour. After this, steam is applied and the ‘boarding’ takes place, as the sock is stretched on a foot shape and then dried. It is finally paired with another sock and folded. I hope, dear reader, that you now agree with me that the cotton sock is a garment which deserves respect.
It was certainly in a spirit of such respect that I made my way to number 77 Jermyn Street and the premises of Messrs Harvie & Hudson. I was there to seek out some new socci. My decisions about them had already been made. Some gentlemen choose woollen socks. I can respect that choice, but I cannot follow it. The lightness and elegance of cotton (or cotton with a very modest addition of a man-made fibre) is for me. I also prefer long socks. This is not because I like a sock to reach my knee, but rather that I am very particular about length, and a long sock enables me to fold over its top to achieve exactly the height I require (which is two inches below the knee). There are few sights more horrid than that of a gentleman with crossed legs exposing a section of his bare skin between the top of his sock and his turn-up. My regime, without the assistance of sock suspenders – which I find uncomfortable to wear – avoids this particular sartorial solecism.
My chosen colour is red. I used to wear only black socks and brown socks. But one day, to my horror, I found myself sitting in The Ritz with black shoes and brown socks. How this disaster occurred, I do not know. I can attribute it only to advancing mental decrepitude. But I determined, there and then, to make it my habit to wear socks which would be suitable for both black shoes and brown shoes. In this respect, red was the ideal solution. I have worn red socks ever since. I break my habit only on those occasions when I wear summer yellow with yellow shoes, and on those occasions when I wear country shoes of green and brown. With the former I wear yellow socks, and with the latter I wear green socks.
Thus my request to the ever-affable Richard Harvie was for long cotton socks in red, yellow and green in the ratio of 12:1:1. Such socks are now £16.50 a pair. My pictures show your correspondent with Mr Harvie, the socks themselves and what looks like a poster for Harvie & Hudson from the 1940s. The last is, in fact, the recent creation of an American artist, Mitch Markovitz (www.mitchmarkovitz.com), who is a fan of this admirable firm. If you look carefully, you can see the presence of a feature with which the folk of earlier times were not threatened – the dreaded yellow lines, to prevent a fellow parking his Royce outside.
These socks are, of course, more expensive than many of the socks you will find elsewhere. But these are fine socks, made entirely of the finest cotton, which look and feel exactly ‘right’ for a gentleman who cares about his appearance. I know that I speak with the enthusiasm of a reformed sinner, but I do urge you not to commit my youthful mistake. Never wear cheap socks.
HARVIE & HUDSON
96/97 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6JE, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 839 3578
55 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RA, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 235 2651
12/13 Lime Street, City of London EC3M 7AA, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 283 1911