Ditching the socks can be a controversial style choice. But if Flemington's dandy brigade are proof enough, the new VRC dress code allowing gents to do just that proved a race-winning look on Derby Day.
While the cooler temperature on the day kept the majority of exposed ankles at bay, there was no shortage of those willing to parade their bare ankles at the track.
There's an art when it comes to going sockless. European men have been doing it for decades – there is nothing new about this Italian and Parisian look that harks back to the '50s and '60s - but it's now crossed over into formal attire for the everyday bloke to enjoy.
The key to looking sharp in a shoe sans socks comes down to the style you choose to wear. The doyenne of footwear at the track was a velvet or suede loafer and a lower cut brogue all found in the prized marquees of Lavazza, Kennedy, Mumm and Lexus Design Pavilion.
According to interior designer Neale Whitaker the sockless look fits perfectly with the Palazzo Lavazza marquee he designed.
"It's the ultimate Italian look and I personally love going sockless," says Neale Whitaker.
"It's ideal with our Italian heritage in the Birdcage and the key to doing it well is opting for a sock liner and a good quality shoe," he says.
Those gents who curated the look effortlessly opted for pant lengths that were shorter but not overly cropped, with silhouettes that were slim but far from skin tight. Some wore dinner jackets with a contrast pant, others checkered suits with a classic loafer, while others even embraced the smoking slipper with bravado.
Change a long-time coming
Former Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe championed the trend as he paraded the Birdcage.
"I always go sockless," he said on his way to Lexus where he was a guest.
"It's the perfect spring/summer look and I've been doing it for a long time, but I am thankful the new dress code allows for men to do it officially at Flemington.
"I think if the weather was hotter we'd see more blokes doing it, but I know lots of guys struggle when it comes wearing suits and not wanting to look to formal, so the sockless look gives you a chance to be a bit more relaxed," says Thorpe.
Former Bachelor Tim Robbards was spotted in a pair of black and white loafers in the Emirates marquee.
"I personally prefer to go sockless when I wear a suit pant and was happy to embrace it this year," says Tim Robbards.
"If you're going for a very formal look you may want socks, but a loafer or lower cut shoes style is perfect for sockless and actually doesn't look great with one. It gives fashionable blokes a chance to stand out a little while still being respectful of the dress code," he says.
Happy to parade his sockless look was men's fashion influencer Paul Juchima of No Paparazzi Man. He says the racing fraternity is finally up with the times and allowing men to feel part of the fashion movement at the track.
"I was very excited to go with the new rule today. For me it's a look I do regularly and it's about how you match your suit with your shoe," he says.
Top-end style choice
James Kennedy who was hosting at his Kennedy marquee was proudly sporting his Dolce and Gabbana attire from a velvet jacket and chic velvet loafers.
"It's very European look that's refined and quite beautiful," says James Kennedy.
"I am glad you can do this at Flemington now but I've been sockless for years."
Troy Hill, a guest at this year's Oliver St marquee said he's been rolling with the look for 20 years and attending for the past 10.
"I would always buy socks at the kiosk before you enter the Birdcage and then would take them off in the toilets once inside," says Hill.
"It's a great summery look and to finally be allowed to do it is a sign racing is becoming a fashionable sport," he says.
An inner lining
Event producer Barry Wafer, a guest of Myer says a recent trip back from Monaco inspired him to go sockless in a pair of sparkly loafers he purchased overseas. "I found the look there and I have been dying to pull it off in Australia," he says.
"I don't see many men do it and admit it's a sweaty choice, but there are ways around it. You can buy a little sockette to protect your foot or use some talcum powder it's a very chic European style they've been doing forever and I'd like to see more of it in Melbourne."
Do you agree with the relaxing of the sock rules at Flemington? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.