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Casual Mary-Janes & the Sock Dilemma

By Amalah

Important, earth-shattering announcement! As you may or may not already know, I am about to have a baby. Like any minute now. Perhaps I have already had the baby! Or perhaps I am just sitting at home like a beached whale with my tongue hanging out because I haven’t had the baby and OH MY GOD GET OUT ALREADY. Either way, this will be my last Advice Smackdown for a couple weeks. Starting on Thursday, however, I’ve arranged for some absolutely fabulous guest columnists to take over in the meantime. If you’ve sent in a question recently, I’ve done my best to find a real bona-fide expert to answer it for you, or at least someone who is just really funny and pretty and nice-smelling.
In the meantime, PLEASE keep your questions coming. My maternity leave preparations have left the question queue about as empty as it’s been in years, so please: Help me make sure I’ll still have a JOB when I come back in a couple weeks and send any beauty/style/relationship/etiquette/pregnancy/motherhood/all that and the kitchen sink type questions to amyadvice AT gmail dot com. I have to buy a lot of diapers.

Hi Amy,
Please help the fashion-inept: I’m thinking about getting a pair of comfy mary janes to wear with jeans this fall — something along the lines of these or these –but what kind of socks would I have to wear with them?

keens.jpgHmm. Interesting. As a terrible non-sock wearer, I had to think about this one for a bit. I wear those little nude-colored footie socks most of the time, if the cut of the shoe allows them to remain hidden. (I think you could wear them with the Keens, but not the Borns.) I don’t know why I’m twitchy and weird about socks — I just am. (You should see me trying to buy athletic socks to wear with sneakers. I want ankle socks so low and tiny that only a couple millimeters of cotton come up over the edge of my shoe.) I’m sure it’s some leftover thing from high school, when ohmigod, Becky, NO ONE wore socks with ANYTHING and we never zipped up our jackets or used both straps on our backpacks and we were all a bunch of shivering morons with wicked scoliosis. But at least we weren’t DORKS.
But for you, and for these shoes, as far as real, honest-to-God socks go, I’d say anything but white. Or black. Or anything that might look like you’re trying to go for “neutral” and hoping no one will notice or see, because people will see and notice your socks in those shoes. So make them count! Think of them as another accessory for your outfit, on par with colorful jewelry.
Wear fun stripes, patterns and cool colors. (No Santa or cheesy kitten socks, or anything, but stuff that’s modern, coordinating and appropriate for a woman over the age of nine.) Nothing thick or wooly, since they’ll pucker in the space between the toe and the strap. If you need to wear something conservative and it MUST be neutral, go with textured trouser socks over plain white or black cotton socks. Anything described as a “trouser sock” will be your best bet thickness-wise as well — they’re something in-between tights and knee-highs and won’t bunch up around the strap or other edges of the shoe. (They MAY be prone to pulls around the buckle, though, so get them on the cheap if you can. Target, TJ Maxx, Filene’s Basement — all excellent places for hosiery, says the girl who used to wear hose and knee-highs every single day and probably went through a thousand or so pairs, GAH.)


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Jen

    October 13, 2008 at 9:35 am

    My vote would be argyle socks! I have a bunch of those that I wear in the winter and they are so cute. My mother-in-law, who is a super fashion lady (I make her cry), wears blue jean colored socks with hers (the socks just coordinate, they don’t match exactly). They look good too.

  • Rebecca

    October 13, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I always see so many cute Mary Janes and I won’t buy them because I have no idea how to coordinate socks 🙁

  • AnotherJen

    October 13, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Gray is good too (if the shoe isn’t brown).

  • Sarah

    October 13, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I think for such casual shoes, not-too-thick ragg socks would be the way to go. They’re sort of marled looking, so they read as neutral, but they’re sort of handmade looking, so they read as casual and kind of rugged. Like these:
    These shoes are both so casual (with the rugged soles and the top-stitching) that I think that trouser socks, which can read a little dressy, might seem mismatched. Just my opinion, though.

  • Meghan

    October 13, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I have those exact pair of Keens (ok, mine are the slip-on version of the Calistoga, in Black, but still). I also have the Keen Sydney shoe in three colors (Blue, Red, Brown) because they are the most comfortable shoe on earth and I just love them to pieces.
    As for socks, I wear SmartWool with them. Smartwool are not only some of the most comfortable socks out there, they also come in more darling patterns and colors than you can possibly imagine.
    You can occasionally find them on sale at REI and other local outdoor stores (lots of them have a “Buy 3 get one free” or something like that).
    My personal favorite is the Margarita style, lots of fun colors mean that they match my red shoes and also coordinate with whatever I’m wearing.

  • Jasmine

    October 13, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I think it would depend on the look? but some tasteful stripes (NOT purple and yellow! or bee-stripe!) or stockings could make a look?
    DISCLAIMER: I am SO not an expert on this!

  • Melissa

    October 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    I use socks as accessories. If I have on a red top, I’ll wear socks that are predominantly another color with a red pattern/design. I probably wear socks that a lot of adults wouldn’t (small penguins, dogs, coffee cups, etc.), but I think they’re fun and it is a far cry from being the cat-sweatshirt-lady. It is my way of adding a little fun and color to an outfit and I actually get complimented on my sock choices pretty often.

  • qwyneth

    October 13, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Have fun with it! I wear funky socks all the time, including argyles, stripes, and prints. I only buy prints that use dark or neutral colors as bases and make an effort not to clash, but funky socks are my way of feeling less like a drone. Like Melissa, I actually get compliments and laughs–the good kind–pretty often. If you’re going to worry about it, throw caution to the wind and have fun with it!

  • Mary

    October 13, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I live in Seattle, where the Keen-plus-Smartwool look is a wintertime given, like the rain or lack of eye contact. On the other hand, no one is ever going to confuse this with a fashion capital, that’s for sure.
    I have the black Calistogas and they are the comfiest ever, and I walk a LOT. That said, I like them most with bare feet (cute with summer skirts). There’s something a little dorky about them with socks unless the socks are a fun pattern, like stripes (Smartwool does make some great ones). I also think trouser socks would be good for their thinness and smoothness but might not match the Keen vibe if they are polished, trying-to-look-like-tights kind of trouser socks. If that makes sense.
    Amy, we’ll miss you, have a great maternity leave!

  • Mary

    October 13, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Just a P.S.– this online store (based in Portland! a coincidence?) has so many cool options for socks, it could really expand your options:

  • amy

    October 14, 2008 at 2:04 am

    Another vote for Smartwool stripey socks! Although they can be pricey unless, as someone else said, you find them on sale. I did recently notice that Target has a great selection of super cute stripey socks, among other patterns. And of course, tights and skirts are always good with casual Mary Janes.

  • caleal

    October 15, 2008 at 9:45 am

    The thought of wearing socks that could be seen makes my head implode.
    I am so. weird. about socks. Most likely, I would find a pair of socks for those shoes that as closely matched my skin color as possible, and buy a gazillion for wearing with those shoes. So that I could enjoy the comfort of socks but still keep the illusion that I am sockless.
    But I am crazy. So maybe no one should listen to me.

  • Jen.

    October 15, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    I’m on my 3rd pair of Sydneys, which I wear with many work and casual outfits, and I choose my socks based on the outfit. Match the shoes if for work and fun (stripes, etc) for casual.
    I agree with Mary, though; the Keens are so cute with bare feet!
    They also have excellent cushioning, much better than the Bjorns.

  • Aubrey

    October 20, 2008 at 11:52 am

    I just had this same dilemma this week! Thanks for sharing! I had the hardest time figuring how not to look like a dork!

  • Jess

    January 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Last winter I regularly wore that style of shoe, in black, with white socks. I’m sure people noticed the socks since they commented on the (unique at the time) shoes, but no one commented on how utterly lame my sock choice was.
    As bad as that was, I’d feel like a way bigger knob in colour-coordinated stripey socks!
    But I am crazy. So maybe no one should listen to me.