Unleash your inner freak with some sock innovation – part 3

So, that difficult third post about the garment that can only be shown in almost subliminal flashes, the sock. This one will not be hugely drawn out, fluffed up or saggy of elastic, and I will be keeping my focus well below the knee.

The first matter that came to mind when playing with fun socks over the past week is that there is one major flaw in many of more deviantly designed variants. While it does appear possible to knit a sock with a complicated pattern (which I define as using several colours and having graphics of a certain intricacy), I suspect that there is a simple and not so simple way of doing this. And I strongly suspect you can substitute cheap and expensive for simple and not so simple. Hence almost every single “interesting” sock I have in my archival collection has the same problem, as illustrated here:

fluffy behinds

All those patterns result in a lot of fluffy loose threads hanging around on the inside of the sock. Out of sight, out of mind, but the second you thread a typical male foot into that sheath of downy cotton, you become aware of the problem. Yes, I did make a point of saying “male foot”, as I think I can state with a reasonable level of certainty that most of the guys aren’t on first name terms with our local manicurist or drop by a oft-spa on a regular basis. Our feet are basically there and much like your favourite wheelbarrow they get carelessly used and hosed down when dirty. So we have nails with jagged edges and ridges of coarse skin, and yes, I am being brutally and graphically honest here.

yes they are my feet

Had our feet been soft of skin and smooth of nail, our feet would have silkenly slipped into our socks, but they’re neither or smooth and my oh my do all those raggedy bits catch on the loose threads. So valuable time and energy is spent carefully rolling the socks on in a quite feminine manner.

This is obviously not a situation that is acceptable in 2015, where technology is rife and even clothes makers claim advanced engineering in their work! Yet, having observed home knitters over the year and how they assemble their intricacies, I have noticed that even complex patterns don’t need to have their excess sprouting out of the backside, it can be worked in. The knitting is the same though, and knitters know it as stranded knitting, where the colour that isn’t used is left at the rear until needed again. On socks though these are cut, most likely to allow more stretch in the sock, though possibly also to avoid toenails getting caught. A better option might be intersia knitting, though I’m well out on a limb here trying to teach professional sock-knitters how to do their trade!

For socks that have only stripes it’s quite simple, no loose threads are produced. After a good rummage in the archive I did find a pair of socks that were as perfect on the inside as on the outside though. They are more expensive and they are made in Japan, though I imagine the small volume and hipster brand accounts for part of the price, and given the universal nature of technology today I can’t see Japan having any exclusive access to the Perfect Machine for Knitting Socks. Look here, though, no loose threads. Isn’t that wonderful?

perfectly knit socks

I think it is not unreasonable to expect our socks to be sans le fluff on the inside and we should voice this to the International Federation of Sock Knitters forthwith. So there, it’s out there and it started right here, with a grumpy middle-aged man trying to pull his socks on.

Now, the other issue I wanted to mention was this: Most lower legs are really not very compatible with wearing socks. They start of thin and increase in thickness up to around 2/3 of the way to the knee, and then taper off again. For a sock there is quite in challenge in staying up, as it demands strong elastic indeed to cling to an object of this shape. I’m pondering and as yet undecided whether it helps or not to have hairy legs and will graciously accept input from other philosophically inclined sartorialists on this matter.

  • To formulate the problems as identified:
  • How can a sock be made to stay up?
  • How high should a sock go up the calf?
  • Can engineered solutions be used?
  • How strong can the elastic be before it becomes a health hazard?

Naturally, the physics behind keeping a sock up hinges on the friction between sock fabric and human skin (with varying amounts of hair to make the formula interesting) and the clamping action of the ribbed elastic. The friction factor could be increased by making the inside rubberised, though that may work less well in situations where the friction is reduced through sweaty leg syndrome. A situation that results in sweaty legs is unlikely to be improved by sudden sock slippage, though I sense I may be losing female readers at this point.

illustration of sock height

The height of a sock is another issue that plays in. One function of the sock is to hide unattractive legs, which often tend to be pale and hairy. For this purpose the sock must have a certain height to fulfil it’s purpose. On the other hand, the higher the sock gets the more the calf tapers and the more difficult it is to say up. A tricky proposition indeed! A left field proposition may be to artificially tan your lower legs, though I suggest going easy on the orange hue.

There is one solution that solves both issues and that is having socks tall enough to go over your calf. In that case they will be aided in their resilience by the taper of your manly calf keeping the sock in place. The downside of this is that you’ll have an awful lot of sock there and, well, a quick poll of my panel of female does sadly indicate that women do not find overly long socks to make them romantically inclined.

Which does also bring us to the traditional solution, which I admire for it’s thoughtful approach and fine engineering. There is neither wasted effort or any mode of failure, so in all respects a genuinely splendid solution to one of mankind’s most perplexing problems. Apart from the fact that at least half of humankind, or more precisely all of womankind, will laugh their socks off if they see you kitted out with it. And no, it would certainly not be a solution for the women to also wear sock garters as well. Silly man.

sock garters 2

Sorry, these are definitely not my legs. I stole this photo!

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