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FROM FIRST AND SPRING

Come On, Baby, Sock It to Me

An Editor's Note

September 24, 2006|Rick Wartzman

In my nearly 20 years as a reporter and editor, I have written roughly 1,500 stories filling God only knows how many columns of print. And not once have I had occasion to use the word "hosiery."

Yet here I sit, taking stock of this week's Men's Fashion Issue and pondering what is fast becoming the most prized part of my own wardrobe: my socks.

Fashion--the domain of "celebrities, high society, supermodels and decadent flamboyance," as noted in a 2005 study by USC's Norman Lear Center--is a tricky thing for guys like me. I am a deliberately drab dresser, inclined to basic colors (mainly blues and blacks) and simple duds: jeans and T-shirts on the weekends, jeans and no-frills dress shirts (without a tie, as faithful readers of this space know) at the office.

My wife and daughter bought me a hot pink shirt last year. I've worn it twice. It's beautiful, but I'm self-conscious when I put it on, as if I've set myself on fire and am shouting: "Look at me! Look at me!"

Which brings me to the wonders of my new socks--or hosiery, as I understand what's caressing my feet might more properly be called.

The pair I'm donning were designed by V.K. Nagrani, whose eponymous apparel line carries a simple credo: "Live well, always wear great socks." For the 34-year-old, who was raised in Northern and Central California and studied entrepreneurship at USC, the idea was to create a "hyper-premium" product with "some real pizazz."

Factory runs are limited--no more than 312 pairs per color. (The number, which Nagrani admits is a bit arbitrary, was all he could afford to make when he launched his business from a Cerritos garage seven years ago.)

Nagrani, who has since moved to New York in part to be closer to his European manufacturers, paints himself as a throwback, a real stickler for quality. He says he has purposely pared the roster of men's boutiques that sell his wares so that he won't become too corporate and commercial and lose his artisan touch.

"I'm not a company," he says. "I'm more a philosophy."

Part of me was ready to dismiss his rap as pure hucksterism, but then he sent me some socks. Even at a pricey $35 a pair, they're amazing--perfect, really, in terms of fabric and fit.

But here's the best part: Because my Nagranis are tucked under the legs of my pants and into my shoes, nobody can see how loud they are--Dutchman's blue (with black, white and red markings) and something approximating Gatorade green (with the same playful patterns).

Still, I know they're there. And that makes me happy--inconspicuously attired and, at the same time, feeling wild right down to my toes.

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