There was a time, not so long ago, when socks paired for life. In those days they were bought as a pair, worn as a pair, and often met their demise as a pair. Nowadays this is not the case. It is quite a difficult task to find a single pair of socks in a shop. They are usually packaged in sets; occasionally a pair of pairs, sometimes a six pack, five pack or buy two get one free pack, arranged in cardboard retainers or plastic packets and hung on display stands to catch the eye of the passing shopper.
Back in those innocent days sock were in general made of wool or cotton, with a small exclusive provision in luxurious silk. The public had little difficulty in keeping their socks in order having just sufficient to maintain their feet from one washday to another. Furthermore socks were more cherished. They were looked after, hand washed when noticeably niffy, darned when holed, and even when beyond repair unpicked to provide wool for the next generation, thus extending their DNA (Darning, kNitting and Alterations) to further modifications of the genus. In this day and age, while not necessarily discarded at the first sign of wear or tear, they are at least semi retired and never recycled in to the community.
Socks by their nature have always been somewhat downtrodden and in the case of size nine and above heavily downtrodden. Unlike other clothes, that exist in the egalitarian society of the wardrobe, socks have always been consigned to the ghetto of the sock draw, shunned by jumpers, shirts and even underpants, not even ironed or folded and laid in piles, but rolled into balls and tumbled willy-nilly together, for the most part used but unloved. That is why the instinct for pair bonding is so important to the honest god fearing sock.
Despite their pedestrian nature, monogamous behaviour among socks is not a foregone conclusion. In the case of a multi pack of same colour footwear it is positively incestuous. From the moment one breaks the cotton umbilical that has held the pair together since leaving the factory there is a propensity to be unfaithful. It has to be said that there is also a tendency towards racialism among the sock community, marriage between even similar colours is rare and any such accidental mismatch is treated with derision among socks and their wearers alike.
There are of course always those who are rebellious enough to go their own way, plough their own furrow, or go AWOL. It is hard to say what motivates these individuals to go walkabout but it is evident that this is happening more and more often.
Since the advent of the washing machine, the conundrum of the lone sock, when all the others are balled and put away, has been on the increase. It can be accounted for in part by the thrill seeking sock, which adheres itself to the drum of the washing machine intent on getting a second ride. These are easily spotted by their paler colour and a tighter fit from shrinkage. Modern techniques in sock management can almost eliminate this by pairing the socks as they are hung on the line and investigating the drum to find the partner of any poor benighted sole left to hang alone. Not that the discovered loner need be entirely innocent, it could be the return of one that has had a sojourn in the hosiery version of Never Never Land, maybe having enjoyed the pleasures of the flesh from some other athlete’s foot.
Currently there is no knowing where socks go in the dream time but a straw poll suggests that about one sock in thirty is missing at any one time. Given the population of Europe at about eight hundred million of whom sixty percent own seven or more pairs of socks, the sock population of the EU would be about ninety six million. That means that at any one time three point two million socks are unaccounted for. Could it be they have been abducted by aliens in order to extract our DNA to prepare for some fiendish invasion plan? Or are they, the socks that is, simply moving around among us according to some will of their own.
I call upon the European Government to commission a research project to investigate the matter with some urgency. Surely it is not impossible in these days of satellite tracking and global positioning to trace the movements of a simple sock.
All offers of research grants to John Goodwin Pegeia Cyprus.