Many of us are still wading slowly back into the waters of creative self-styling after dressing purely functionally for so many months. A smart approach: Start with smaller elements of your everyday look, and let accessories and accents give new life to the basics that have been starring in your rotation.
For an easy way in, look to your feet. Shoes are the obvious styling power players, but the socks they’re paired with are an even lower commitment. Think of them as a whimsical piece you can change out every day for a new injection of flavor. From there, you might just feel more empowered to mix it up from head to toe.
For some sock-styling expertise—and overall direction on livening up our looks—we talked to Happy Socks Creative Director Paula Maso, a self-professed advocate of color and pattern. Originally from Venezuela, Maso has always loved color. So when she later moved to Sweden and discovered Happy Socks (and their mission of mood-enhancing footwear), she knew it was the perfect fit. Having been with the company as a designer since 2016 (she’s been creative director since 2020), Maso has overseen collabs with cultural forces like The Beatles and Billionaire Boys Club. She also sowed the seeds for Hysteria—a first-of-its-kind women’s “fashion sock” collection.
We asked Maso to share some insight on (mis)matching colors and patterns, why she likes contrasts in fashion, and how to use the sartorially underrated sock to pack a subtle yet stylish punch.
“I love strong women who are not afraid to stand out,” says Maso, who cites female pop-punk icons as major style role models. It’s about “the perfect balance between sweet and tough,” she says of one platinum-blonde favorite. “She mixed dog tooth patterns with leopard prints like no other, and I still think she is an ambassador for color and patterns.” Of another legendary blonde frontwoman, she says, “Her iconic hairstyles and makeup are still absolutely incredible.” Lately, she’s loving prestige TV’s most badly behaved edgy-glam teens. “I adore their creative makeup, dreamy clothes, and that they do not apologize for their individuality,” she says.
Maso’s boyfriend once described her outfit-matching formula as “party on top, business on the bottom.” The description is fitting. The designer says her looks usually consist of a patterned or colorful top with a pair of tailored plain or checkered pants (“the only pattern I choose for pants”). “I love contrasts and usually add a little bling with jewelry or makeup, and then break it off with a pair of loafers or a pair of [chunky Oxfords],” she says. “It’s been my uniform for several years!”
When asked whether it’s a no-no to mix gold and silver, Maso says, “Va? It must be one of the best mixes!” She stands by her belief in the beauty of contrasts, saying, “Fortunately many people and brands have understood that. I think we live in a fantastic time where we mix things up and create interesting and new combinations.” Another once-questioned combo, pink and red, is one of her current favorites. “They go so well together—red brings out the strength in the duo and removes the sweet from the pink,” she says.
Daring to stand out
The Venezula native studied graphic design at the University of Caracas and fashion photography from the London College of Fashion, before moving to Sweden several years ago. “Now that I have lived [in Sweden] for a few years, I have come to both appreciate and dislike the mentality of not wanting to stand out,” says Maso, adding “It works to create an equal society, but it does not always create the most interesting fashion choices.” Though she notes that in recent years people have become more daring and open to standing out a little more. “A little glam has never hurt anyone,” says Maso. “It can also be difficult to shake off old stereotypes, but in reality, I think Sweden is more colorful than we give it credit for.”
Starting with socks
“Happy Socks has managed to find its way into people’s drawers all over the world [because] it’s much easier to start with something small,” Maso explains. “It’s a contagious feeling!” she says of the infectious joy of a bit of a flair. To help us get started, Maso shares a few tips here for pairing socks with different types of shoes—whether you’re a slides-and-tube-socks type or are going for a celeb-worthy high fashion statement.
“Hysteria is our party-friendly collection; unlike our other collections, we treat Hysteria a little differently after each season,” Maso says. “The majority of the collection has no patterns so we let our imagination run free when it comes to colors and textures. We are happy to add glitter, transparent materials, and embellishments, which makes them perfect for heels and sandals.” In other words, pick up a pair when you’re ready to be the star of the party.
Embroidery, Maso shares, is the minimalist collection at Happy Socks. “We wanted to introduce a simpler product that still has a fun feel,” the creative director explains. “We put a lot of effort into choosing embroidered motifs and contrasting accent colors—simple, but never boring.”
Paula Maso in Hysteria socks. Photographer: Elena Ramirez Styling: Elena Ramirez and Asia Pietrzyk.