For many of us, socks are simply a sartorial afterthought. We slip them on to keep our feet warm and our shoes fresh, but that’s not always the case.
For instance, morris dancers often attach bells to their socks to accompany their jig, while sportspeople up and down the country can be superstitious about the way they put their socks on. That transforms them from a purely functional item into something with additional relevance and meaning. And that’s just in the UK.
In this article, we’re going to take a comfortable stroll around the world of socks to see how sock fashion differs between cultures…
1. The UK
You might not know it, but that gap between shoe and trouser can reveal an awful lot about the wearer. They say you can tell a lot about a Brit by their shoes, but if you want to fill in the details, you must lift the trouser leg to reveal what lies beneath.
According to a recent London Evening Standard article, and that really is the gospel when it comes to socks, colour is all-important:
- Red socks are worn by would-be Casanovas and politicians;
- Yellow socks are worn by attention-seekers and office jokers;
- Blue sock wearers are trustworthy but lack the confidence to wear black;
White socks are the preserve of commercial radio DJs and those who are too lazy to get changed after the gym.
The oldest socks ever to be discovered were found near the River Nile in Egypt and date back to between 250 and 420 AD. The key detail about these red woollen socks is the fact that they have split toes. That means… wait for it… socks were designed to be worn with sandals! That’s an earth-shattering revelation in the sock world, but it still doesn’t mean it’s okay.
The Japanese have to be much more careful than most about the type of socks they wear. In Japan, your socks are on display much more than they’re likely to be elsewhere. The traditional code of leaving your shoes at the door means that your Asics sports socks from 1993 are probably not the best choice. Wearing dirty or worn socks is a big faux pas if you want to make a decent first impression. Equally, sports socks are not appropriate in a business setting, so make sure you have something respectable to reveal should you need to.
Okay, granted they’re not strictly socks, but did you know that nylon stockings once caused a riot? In 1939, the DuPont Company (now of Foxcatcher fame) revealed the first ever pair of nylon stockings at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and American women fell in love with them.
However, when the US entered WWII two years later, DuPont paused production to concentrate on making ropes, nylon parachutes and cords for the war effort. Such was the demand for the comfortable, durable stockings that high demand after the war combined with limited production led to full-scale riots. The result was that 40,000 women quite literally battled for a meagre 13,000 pairs of stockings in Pittsburgh.
Unless you buy local then there’s a good chance the socks you wear come from ‘Sock City’ in China. The Datang District in eastern China produces approximately one-third of all the world’s socks each year. In fact, in a single year, it has been estimated that the town’s factories make two pairs of socks for every person in the world.
Serious about socks?