Ask MR PORTER: Is It Acceptable To Have Bare Ankles In Winter?

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Ask MR PORTER: Is It Acceptable To Have Bare Ankles In Winter?

Words by Ms Lili Göksenin

8 January 2021

If you live in the northern hemisphere, or have ever experienced a drop in temperature requiring a winter coat, you should be familiar with the concept of “bundling up”. But are there styling rules when it comes to keeping our extremities toasty? We can help you with that. For all other clothing conundrums, contact us at and we’ll do everything in our power to solve your style questions – or we’ll rope in one of the world’s foremost fashion brains to help.

Must I wear fuzzy woollen socks all winter, or is it OK to put style over substance and let my ankles roam free?

We’ve all seen them – maybe you are one of them? – men who wear their Common Projects, no-show socks and high-water trousers in even the frostiest of conditions. Even though they’re protecting their head with a furry chapeau, their neck with a cashmere scarf, their torso with a vast puffer jacket and their legs with velvet trousers, somehow their ankles are left out in the cold. But is this cool?

This is a tough one to answer because there’s no hard and fast “rule” to point to, and it’s extremely subjective. So, we’re going to present you with two arguments and let you choose a side.

Let’s start with man who likes to go sans socks. Mr Sam Diss, head of content at football magazine Mundial, has long been a proponent of the ankles-out approach to winter. He’s come to the conclusion that, honestly, it’s none of your business what he wears on his feet and lower legs, thank you very much. “I subscribe to the ‘wear whatever you want as long as you’re not making people feel actually repulsed’ rule,” he says, via email, on a cold December day. Fair enough.

This is a freeing (also, in this case, freezing) way of thinking about getting dressed, and one that we endorse when it comes to trying out new trends and styles. Who cares what other people think about your bare ankles in sub-zero temperatures? You are being you. According to Mr Diss (and here we again agree), a no-show-sock-and-sneaker combo makes for a more casual outfit. But he goes one further. “Having a little rise on your trouser with a daring wee peek of ankle is a bit cheeky,” he says. “A wink and a smile. A little ‘did you see that?’ to anyone in the vicinity.”

Indeed, we love dressing with intention, so if you’re baring your ankles in peak piste season because you genuinely believe the look improves an outfit or sends a message, then we salute you. That said, there are some practical concerns at play here, too. And whether you mind what other people think or not, there is something to be said for comfort.

Ms Sophie Hardcastle, MR PORTER’s own Executive Fashion Editor, suggests that it’s just downright nonsensical not to hide all skin from howling winds when you can. “Simply put, no one should be bearing their ankles in the winter months,” she says. “Just the thought if it makes me feel cold. It’s highly impractical and not a good look.”

And there are styling considerations at play here, too. A well-chosen sock can give an outfit a leg up. In fact, the right pair will make just as much of a statement as bare ankles – if not, more so.

“Socks in a tonal colour to match your trousers have a leg-lengthening effect, which is always flattering,” Ms Hardcastle adds. In a season prone to bunching, puffing and appearing like an overstuffed sausage in too many sweaters, we’ll take the flattery where we can get it.

Mr Diss counters by saying that he’s seen “whole outfits thrown off by a bad sock, but not a one undone by the visitation of ‘nature’s sock’” (his words, not ours). Perhaps, then, the solution is simply being more intentional with your pairs, ensuring they are always complementary and never hold you back.

One last tip from Ms Hardcastle: “Make sure your socks are long enough and adequately cover your ankles when seated. There are few things worse than the expanse of leg revealed by too-short socks.”

So there you have it, a non-answer that’s as multi-layered as our ensembles this January. If we must choose a side, we would say: cover those ankles. There’s much fun to be had in the world of socks and as many ways to show off your personality. Besides, the styling thrill of bare ankles in winter will immediately diminish at the first splash of ice-cold puddle water. But all we can do is arm you with the facts, you must make your final decision. Good luck.

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Illustration by Mr Slowboy