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How socks and sandals went from naff to nifty

Every month we assess an aspect of the French zeitgeist. This month: the claquettes-chaussettes phenomenon

Socks and sandals (or slides), have, up to now, been the height of bad fashion taste, but 2017 has changed all that. This year they have been worn by the young, paraded by pop stars and seen at Cannes.

The up-to-now uncool or ringard style even made it onto the catwalk at the Spring/Summer 2018 men’s fashion show in Paris when Louis Vuitton made a buzz with his models parading in flowery shirts and socks and sandals – meaning the trend could last into next year.

The blame for this new retro fashion in France can be laid at the feet of rapper Alrima and his big hit song Claquettes Chaussettes, which translates into English as Slides and Socks, and which had 1.8 million views on YouTube in one month.

Je suis en claquettes-chaussettes/Claquettes-chaussettes/Claquettes-chaussettes/Tu connais c’est la tess,” he chants with his street-wise friends “I’m in slides and socks, slides and socks, slides and socks, you know it’s the ghetto.”

He told the Huffington Post that the idea for the song came to him one day when he was in the recording studio: “We were in a good mood and we felt it was the right moment to make a rap about sandals and socks. It was a challenge. It was double or quits, either the song would work, or we would be seen as clowns. But in the end nobody regretted it.”

If your father or your uncle had been seen in socks and sandals it would have made you cringe, but for your sons and daughters and other young people it is now a fashion statement. It has been common practice for some time for the youth in city ghetto areas: “I’ve worn socks and sandals for years with my friends in the cité,” Alrima is reported as saying. “We chose comfort over style. Your foot is on foam, and you feel good.”

The combination has become popular wear in lycées, a new message of rebellion, perhaps, as apparently it doesn’t go down well with teachers and headmasters: “It
is incredible,” says Alrima. “I’ve received messages from school directors, deputy- heads and supervisors who have thanked me, ironically, for giving them extra work.”
Stars as well as students have shown they think the look is cool. Rihanna has been spotted in black slide sandals and socks, and model Kendall Jenner was on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival in high-heeled sandals and transparent socks.

The debate over the new trend even made it into the pages of the German daily paper Die Welt where the journalist was delighted that the look, originally attributed to old-fashioned German tourists was now on the French catwalks.

The newspaper reported that this year amazed German tourists could not “believe what they were seeing” – socks and sandals “worn everywhere in trendy places such as Club 55 in Saint-Tropez and the latest bars on the beach. A combination that the German tourists gave up years ago. France has at last taken up one of our trends!”
The fashion, as the French daily Le Monde pointed out in retaliation is not exactly the same. It is not your classic sandal and sock, but more the swimming pool wear, slides sold by sports brands such as Adidas and Arena. Perhaps not what your Dad used to wear after all.

It is a fashion that has been worn in the American ghettos for some time. The online urban dictionary with slang definitions has an entry in 2005 for Socks and Sandals: “The gangster way for wearing sandals is if it’s summertime and they are wearing some crispy (white) socks with some Adidas or Jordan or Nike sandals”.
Adidas then saw it as a marketing opportunity and in 2014 launched a #socksnslides campaign. Now in 2017, the trend has reached the heady heights of the Paris fashion scene.

It continues to spark debate as well as a touch of humour. The daring to be dreadful statement, inspired five Carrefour managers from a store in the Drôme to make a film for fun. Dressed in white shirt and tie, swimming shorts, socks and sandals they tap their toes to Almira’s hit. Their video attracted 1.3 million views in ten days, when it was posted on Facebook. Though it was not a marketing exercise, the store reported a rise in sales in the textile aisle.

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