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The question

At my office, we're supposed to wear our best business attire. Recently a new person joined the company. He gets the work done, but he shows up to work in a dress shirt, tie, trousers, dress shoes ... and WHITE socks! A female colleague pointed it out to me after another colleague pointed it out to her. She and I have been talking about the best way to inform him of the proper dress code, which is that he should wear his socks in any colour other than white. This new co-worker only recently immigrated to Canada, so he may not know the "no-white-socks" dress code. We want to tell him, but we don't know if it would be appropriate, since we're women. What's the best way to let him know without embarrassing him?

The answer

I hope I can help. I'm no avatar of fashion, myself. My own style could best be described as "eccentric," which is not the compliment it once was – in my world, anyway.

"I don't want to be married to an 'eccentric' man whose hair stands on end and has dirty glasses all the time!" my wife Pam (gently) admonished me recently, smoothing down my hair and bringing her eyeballs up close to examine my specs.

"Hey, I thought eccentric was good!" I responded.

But apparently it isn't, not when it bespeaks a lack of attention to details, such as combing hair, cleaning lenses – or in your colleague's case, pulling the appropriate socks out of the drawer in the morning.

Moreover, there appears to be some connection between such details and the ability of Pam – who has always seemed to me an ambassador or emissary from The Land of the Babes – to continue to view me as an attractive entity.

So needless to say lately I've been combing and gelling, spritzing and polishing like a madman.

Details are what men's costume is all about. Consider Beau Brummell. His name is synonymous with dandyism, and we tend to imagine him all decked out in flashy duds.

But in fact he ushered in a more sober, understated era, rescuing men's fashion from the elaborately coiffed, outlandishly attired "macaronis" of the 18th century. His mode of dress was the precursor to modern men's "business attire."

And it was all about the details. He would polish the bottom as well as the rest of his shoe. He tied his cravat just so. ("These are our failures," his valet once proclaimed, carrying an armful of cravats, to some guests who had been waiting for Brummell to get dressed.)

Cary Grant, who was born Archie Leach and dirt poor, was a modern miracle of self-invention and an icon of manly elegance. He likewise kept a gimlet eye on sartorial specifics, saying it took attention to "500 small details" to create the urbane, lady-killing aura he emanated at all times.

Now, your colleague, who, according to your own testimony, a) does good work, b) otherwise dresses at least appropriately, has overlooked one of those 500 details: His gleaming tube socks have blinded you and your co-workers to his other qualities, and the way they twinkle and shine under the lights appears to be distracting you all from your work.

I don't see why you couldn't gently approach him – especially since everyone in your office seems to be gossiping. You'd be doing him a favour, especially since it sounds like he may not have a clue, whether it's because he's from another culture or just isn't the type to think about these things.

Even the dapperest Dans, I've noticed, can slip up in the sock department. Now, there are a number of "rules" for men's socks, but let me boil it down for you. Herewith, Damage's Control's Corporate Relaxed Unified Sock Theory (C.R.U.S.T.): When in doubt, your socks should be somewhere between the colour of your shoes and the colour of your pants.

You're welcome. That being said, rules are made to be broken, and these days men are daringly adding splashes of colour and bold patterns to their ankle attire.

In fact, socks are an excellent opportunity for a man to show a little flair, style and individuality in an otherwise conservative ensemble – like a tie, only subtler.

And maybe that's your entrée to slip a little hint to your co-worker.

Sidle up to him, steer the conversation around to clothes, then mention casually that socks are an often overlooked opportunity for a man to liven up his look and elevate his outfits to a new level.

Don't present it as an office dress "code" or rule, so much as a way to make him more dashing, debonair and Cary Grant-like.

You say you don't know if it'd be appropriate for you or your colleague to approach him, since you're women. I say: Who better? If he can be convinced that there's a connection between his ankle attire and his mojo with the ladies, I predict he'll be stashing those tube socks and swanning around in eye-catching argyles in no time.

Mojo matters, even if there's no specific intent or interest in intra-office dating. As I learned early on and have always said: Women compare notes. Therefore, if you want to date one of them, you've got to impress them all. (I'm assuming he's heterosexual, here. Not that that makes any difference when it comes to tube sock rules.)

And once you've done him that favour – of helping him become an extra-dapper, less sartorially distracting co-worker, may I respectfully suggest you pull up your own socks, ladies, and get back to work?

David Eddie is the author of Damage Control , the book.

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