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A Star Is Born’s Forgotten Tragedy: Jackson Maine’s Hatred of No-Show Socks

Hey. I just wanted to take another look … at no-show socks.

An animated take on the scene in A Star Is Born in which Jackson says "hey" to Ally before leaving in a car, except here he dangles a pair of no-show socks out the window. Ally smiles back, as in the movie.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Warner Bros. and Getty Images Plus.

A Star Is Born’s path to Oscar glory, once thought inevitable, is looking shakier than ever. Now that nominations are out—it managed eight nods, fewer than expected—the movie’s seemingly declining fortunes look likely to dominate the awards conversation going forward. This follows months of analysis and criticism about the movie, from seemingly every angle: its rockism, its obsession with drag, its astrology (OK, that was just me and one other person), whether “Why Did You Do That?” is actually a good song, and so on. But there’s one topic I believe has gotten short shrift amid this wave of discourse: the movie’s regrettable stance on no-show socks.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that there’s a pivotal scene between Bradley Cooper’s rocker, Jackson, and his pop-star girlfriend’s manager, Rez (Rafi Gavron), in which Jackson looks askance at Rez’s loafer-clad feet and asks why Rez isn’t wearing socks. Oh, but he is wearing socks, the unctuous Rez replies, only they’re these newfangled things called no-show socks. For the uninitiated, no-show socks are socks that are lower-cut than regular socks, so instead of coming up to your ankle, they cover only your foot. (They usually have more material than liners, the socks common for women to sneak under flats and heels.) After Rez’s explanation, Jackson needn’t come out and say he thinks that’s a bunch of sissy bullshit, because the look on his face plainly conveys as much. In the movie’s authenticity vs. artifice dichotomy, it’s clear that Rez and his hidden socks fall very much in the latter column, that vulgar realm of stylists, dyed-orange hair, and commercial cynicism.

Whereas plenty of critics have pushed back on the movie’s rockist point of view, thus far no one has come out in defense of no-show socks. On a New York Times Popcast episode about the movie, critic Manohla Dargis says of Rez, “That guy is a sleazebag, and we know he’s a sleazebag because he doesn’t wear socks with his shoes!” To be fair, Dargis is probably calling attention to the movie’s signposting more than agreeing with it, but not long after this comment, another critic, Wesley Morris, chimes in and slams no-show socks as “vaping for feet.” Vaping is a cultural punchline and a kind of shorthand for obnoxious faddism, and so, apparently, are these socks. Who knew?

Well, I’m here to restore the honor of no-show socks, the widespread availability of which is undersung as one of the great leaps forward of the 21st century. I know Jackson’s opinions on footwear begin and end with its utility for crushing pills, but for the rest of us, no-show socks have vastly improved the experience of wearing shoes. I think we can all agree that shoes are more comfortable and likely to last longer when worn with socks—the better to soak up some sweat and provide something nonirritating for your feet to rub up against—but certain shoes simply look better without socks. This is a fashion that’s taken hold over the last few years: In 2014, the Cut called on men to throw out their socks because the exposed ankle was the hot new thing. (Of course, you wouldn’t know any of this if you only wear cowboy boots and interact with your driver.) The no-show sock, then, allows for the sleek look of socklessness and the protection of sockfulness at the same time, a beautiful balance and a sweet duet on the order of “Shallow.”

While it can be a challenge to find no-show socks that actually stay in place (I’ve personally had good luck with this brand), there’s really no downside to them. Loafers with exposed ankles may come off as overly slick to Jackson types, but why blame the no-show socks when the loafers, the real offenders, are right there? Perhaps there’s a try-hard quality to no-show socks, an effort on display that would stick in the craw of any rocker worth his salt. Maybe no-show socks are fine for women but, to macho Jackson’s eye, read as girly and suspicious on men. Of all the tragedies of A Star Is Born, a not insignificant one is that Jackson was so busy being afraid of being emasculated that he robbed himself of the practical pleasure of a good low-cut sock. Don’t make the same mistake as him. As Jackson Maine himself sang, “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.” Embrace the no-show sock, and enjoy the breeze around your ankles.

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