A vicar once told me that a ‘pair’ of odd-socks is the finest conversation starter in the western world. That is unless you are from Australia.
This week the weather in England has unquestionably turned frosty and I have, as a result, been grateful for my socks; especially when sat outside a lovely cafe overlooking Parsons Green reading about the recent Melbourne Cup.
The 2017 Melbourne Cup – the ‘race that stops a nation’ – marked a wonderful day for European horse racing when Ireland’s Joseph O’Brien became the youngest winning trainer of Oceanic racing’s blue chip race.
Unfortunately for the host nation, Australia, the annual Group One handicap also represented a new low in its somewhat patchy fashion stakes.
High-end enclosures at tracks across the world always enforce a strict sartorial code on the ticket holders. While certain tickets at The Derby or Royal Ascot dictate that the holder must be clad in a morning suit and topper, the general theme is a tie with a suit and needless to say a pair of socks.
That said, the Victoria Racing Club confirmed before the 2017 renewal of the 16 furlong contest that the bleach blonde metro-sexual men of Victoria did not need to wear socks. Beau Brummel would be spinning in his presumably exquisitely tailored grave.
Caroline Ralphsmith, the club’s executive general manager of customer engagement, revealed that the club’s reprehensible decision to change its sock-wearing policy was taken in deference to “current fashion trends”.
This reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s assertion that “fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
I suspect that the sockless Australian gentleman – the phrase is used loosely in this case – will look back on this faux pas with some regret. Indeed I am somewhat of a luddite in the fashion stakes – no, not a race at the Melbourne Cup – preferring to shun the ludicrous designs du jour for a more classical style. However, when I am old and grey and nodding by the fire I will look at pictures of me at the races and not cringe at the sight of my bald ankle.
Of course Melbourne in the sweltering Southern Hemisphere summer is a wholly different kettle of fish to London in the same month or Cheltenham in early March for that matter so the need to drop a degree of body temperature is a must. Nevertheless, a decent linen suit would suffice and would certainly keep Shane and Merv cool as they skulk around the paddock at Flemington.
In my opinion one of the splendid aspects of modern living is freedom of speech and choice: if you want to wear a pink suit, go for it old fruit. However, if we start chipping away at the norm where does it end? First no socks at the races and within a year we might see the immaculately dressed chaps in insurance strolling off to Leadenhall Market looking like AC/DC’s Angus Young!
And, with the bone chilling Tingle Creek now on the horizon I shall not be taking advice from our antipodean cousins on race attire. In fact with the low cold English wind biting at my ankles like a jumped up Jack Russel I will instead wear two pairs of brightly coloured socks.