Whatever image the phrase ‘Secretary at War’ conjures – and it may be the Piccadilly Line at rush hour or an overloaded in-tray on a Friday – it probably isn’t the austere and rather tired visage of Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay.
However, that was indeed Macaulay’s job title between 1839 and 1841. And war, of course, was something to which the British Government was addicted at the time – in this case the First Opium War.
Given the background to that particular conflict, it seems apposite and perhaps a little hypocritical that this man in particular might be the one to point out that ‘we know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality’.
But however much those bags under his eyes may have been due to war, opium or a combination of the two, what should have really kept the statesman awake at night wasn’t public morality or the lack thereof, but the issue of socks – or the lack thereof.
For one sees these people from time to time. One glimpses them in particular places all across the capital. One may even have encountered one in the form of a misguided godson or dissolute heir: a man who’s wearing shoes but no socks.
It is, no doubt, a fashion. It may even be The Fashion.
Nevertheless, whether or not on a creative director at a design agency, whether or not one is running a successful street-food van, there’s no excuse for dressing (or, more accurately, failing to dress) this way unless on is waiting for Godot.
So next time one encounters such a fellow, don’t be tempted to toss him a florin and suggest he don’t spend it on drink: he probably has a sizable income and insatiable enthusiasms for craft beer and micro-distillery gin, anyway. Instead, suggest that he roll down his trouser-legs, buck up his ideas, and get round to Oliver Brown post-haste.
We’ve got socks for city suits, Sea Island Cotton socks, striped socks and socks with dots. We’ve got cashmere socks, short socks and long socks, and more shooting socks than you can shake a shooting stick at - not to mention all sorts of socks from Pantherella:
So, lest the ghost of old man Macaulay rise up, admit his error and suggest that a chap’s bare ankles on the streets of the Capital are, indeed, more ridiculous than anything he’s every encountered in all his puff, let us agree that socks are essential.