One type of clothing that every person in Britain – man, woman and child – possesses, is socks. This article takes a light-hearted look at just some of the occasions when not just any old sock will do. There is even a Sock Club, in London which is about only men’s socks at present, as this article describes: http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/fashion-blog/2014/dec/10/inside-secretive-world-londons-sock-club, but perhaps there will be an equivalent for women’s socks in the future.
Part of the unspoken “uniform” for male white collar workers is a pair of fine-knit black or dark grey socks to wear with both traditional suits (think banking, management consultants and accountants) and what is classed as “smart casual” wear – IT departments, marketing and advertising agencies for example.
Many children wear school uniform from primary school upwards and this often requires children’s socks, either white for girls, grey or black for boys, or perhaps in particular colours for the school in question.
As many women wear tights or stockings under skirts and dresses – especially in Britain’s cooler summers – women’s socks are more likely to be worn with trousers and to have more flexibility in terms of colours when worn for work.
British socks for fun
Modern technology, with computerised design programmes linked to hosiery knitting machines, means that sock patterns can be far more creative. Stripes have been possible for many years, but yarns can now be knitted into spots, zigzags, stars, flowers or animal shapes, making British socks a desirable Christmas or birthday gift, rather than simply a fall-back when other ideas run out.
Of course, there is a luxury market in socks, with cashmere heading the list. Corgi Hosiery, a UK sock manufacturer, specialises in hand-finished cashmere socks, with the ultimate being monogrammed socks, as described at http://www.corgihosiery.co.uk/shop/gifts/80-109801-pure-cashmere-monogrammed-socks/. Each of these socks is produced individually on a hand knitting machine, so an early order is required if the socks are for a special occasion.
All sports have different requirements for their socks – unless the sport is performed bare-footed, of course. Some sports, such as football and hockey, need socks which will hold shin pads, to prevent some of the worse injuries. Mountain climbing and rambling need tough, thicker socks, often wool socks or a wool mix that will keep feet warm, comfortable and blister free.
Tennis and cricket used to have a dress code for all white clothing, including socks, but this has been relaxed in recent years, with different coloured clothing now seen at Wimbledon and for one day cricket matches, although Test cricket still requires all white apparel.
Sports teams, both national and local usually have a particular colour scheme for their kit, including the socks. A football referee, for instance, has to be able to distinguish between different teams, which is why clubs have an “away” strip as well as their traditional home strip.
There are also specially designed socks for sports such as squash or badminton, with cushioned areas and elasticated sections to ensure maximum support.
Socks as corporate gifts
Many larger companies have a range of corporate gifts for their clients, or potential clients. These can include ties, bags, diaries and, naturally, socks. It is important to have a range of different sizes when giving socks as corporate gifts, though most socks stretch to fit at least three or four different shoe sizes. A little tact may be required when offering socks as a gift, as it probably isn’t really polite to ask someone their shoe size when you are hoping to win a large order from them!
As you can see, socks are an integral part of the British clothing scene – and some are real fashion statements.
About the Author
A freelance fashion journalist for several years, Jenny Hayes enjoys exploring the more unusual facets of the fashion industry. She has moved house frequently, because of her husband’s work, but is hoping to be in her native Yorkshire for the next few years, to see her children through their secondary schooling.