Doctors call the meeting point between the foot and leg the talocrural region. Until recently you could go through your professional life blissfully unaware that men possessed such a thing. Now barely a day passes without one being thrust in your face. Cole Porter wrote his immortal lines defining deviancy in 1934: “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking/But now, God knows, anything goes.” These days, the anything that goes includes men’s ankles – or mankles, as they are now known.
The first mankles started appearing on catwalks some 15 years ago. Though men’s fashions move more slowly than women’s, they are stickier: men have to live both with mistakes and triumphs for longer. Today the entire fashion industry is conspiring to put men’s ankles on display. Tailors produce trousers that are not only slimmer than regular ones but also shorter, the trouser equivalent of cropped tops. Sock-makers produce mini-socks, dubbed no-shows, that you can’t see over the top of shoes – essentially podiatric prophylactics, or condoms for the feet. Advice online about “how to go sockless with style” suggests you roll up your existing full-length trousers a few inches, as if you’re going paddling in the sea rather than commuting to work.
All of which is very unfortunate. A handful of men, like the ones who strode those first catwalks bare-ankled, may be blessed with legs like racehorses and ankles shaped by Michelangelo. But even the best men’s ankles look good only when well-tanned and complemented with deck shoes. Most men’s ankles miss that standard by a mile: pasty, hairy enough to qualify their owners for a part in “The Hobbit”, so gnarled they could enter a knobbly-ankle competition, and attached to over-fed legs and over-sized feet. The mankle fashion serves to draw attention not just to ill-shaped ankles but chunky legs, rendered even chunkier by tight trousers, and long feet rendered even longer by giant trainers.
The great bare-ankle revolution sits poorly with other fashion revolutions. Men who combine naked ankles with bushy beards are the modern equivalent of ancient Greek centaurs who had the torsos of men and the legs of horses. They’re also unhygienic. The Royal College of Podiatry reckons that men who go commando rather than sport secret socks are at unusually high risk of getting athletes’ foot and fungal nail infections: sweat and shoe insoles form a breeding ground for noxious bacteria.
Then there is the ultimate abomination: the ankle scarf. Manklers have discovered that most places are cold in winter (and sometimes on summer nights too). To warm naked ankles they’ve invented brightly decorated ankle scarves. “Wrapping the bare flesh between your foot and your shin with a colourful silk scarf has never been more on trend,” according to Esquire magazine. One day soon, perhaps, the fashion mags will be lauding a new revolution: knee-high, cotton-rich, distinctly decorated long sleeves for feet that keep you warm in winter, prevent chafing and absorb sweat (feet produce an astonishing half a pint of sweat a day), and, of course, cover up unsightly body parts. Bring on the sock revolution.•