A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Hooptedoodle #197 - The Joy of Socks


Left to myself, I am a creature of habit and of comfort. I like old sweaters - they are familiar and they are comfortable, reassuring - and I also tend to wear old socks.

Socks, sadly, do not last forever - even I, the Prince of Stinge, must fork out for replacements from time to time. As a sop to some faded concept of smartness, maybe just from a sense of shame, I do try to throw them out when they lose all elasticity, slithering (infuriatingly) down into my boots when I'm walking. I also kill off any that develop holes. The Contesse does an excellent job of replacing the casualties with pairs of new socks, and I have to say that any slight vestige of presentability which I retain is mostly down to her.

Recently we have made a special effort to get rid of some old horrors, and buy in quantities of new ones. I like simple socks - inexpensive, sports-style socks are my traditional choice. Well, I do not wish to spread alarm, but something odd has happened. I have started to find that my legs and ankles are swelling a bit as the day goes on, and I am caused some discomfort by my socks gripping too tightly.

Before you rush (as, I confess, I did myself) to point accusing fingers at the brandy, or my decadent lifestyle, I have to announce a shocking discovery.


Evidence. Here are two of my new socks. They are identical, apart from the fact that the one on the left is fresh from the pack, unworn, and the one on the right has been worn and washed a few times. The socks are badged Slazenger, as you will see, but I am confident they come from the same Far-Eastern factory with a variety of brand logos. What is going on? - some fiendish foreign plot? Little wonder I have been having problems - I am astonished that I haven't spotted this before.

The problem is that the shrinkage is not immediate - it takes a few washes to progress this far. I now see that another wholesale clear-out of socks is required, and soon.

I can't fathom this out at all. Is it possible that, like light bulbs and bananas, the physical properties of the common sock have suddenly changed, for the worse? Surely this can't be down to global warming?

17 comments:

  1. Its the dryer, now that their appetite for consuming single sock has been exposed, they are trying to be sneakier and just consume roughly 1/4 of a sock without leaving any traces. I hope this phenomena never crosses the ocean. Its bad enough that I wander around in really old baggy sweaters but feeling excessively guilty over filling landfills with perfectly good single socks, I've started wearing mismatched ones around the house. I suspect before long I'll be required to report for inspection before leaving the house.

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    1. I admire your style, sir - an inspiration to all. I recently turned up for jury duty wearing a rebellious teeshirt underneath my smart shirt - I feel we must make these statements from time to time, though sometimes I can't remember what the reason was.

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  2. Like Ross said, be a rebel and wear odd socks, I do it all the time and I don't give a sh!t. My wife on the other hand is horrified?? I now wear odd socks on purpose!

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    1. With a devil-may-care laugh, the Durango Kid leaped into the saddle, his bicycle clips revealing his trademark odd socks. Unfortunately, he failed to notice that one of the socks was actually from an old Action Man set, which would cause him serious trouble later in the day...

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  3. Martin P sent an email, pointing out that it is unlikely that I always wear old socks, since even old socks must have been new once. Martin usually reads my blog posts more carefully, so I shall assume he was short of time. I did not say, or mean to say, anything beyond the fact that I *usually* wear old socks - a situation which must apply to most people, I guess - one new pair of socks may be worn again many times as old socks. I suppose there are guys who steal used socks from washing lines, and there must be those who always wear new socks and then throw them away - in fact I once shared digs with an alcoholic roulette croupier who had a strategic foot fungus problem, and he used to do this, though he did not throw the used socks away, he kept them in plastic carrier bags under his bed, to the distress of his flatmates. It was said that he hoped that one day he would meet a woman with a washing machine - I find it difficult to believe that this ever happened - his foot problem would prevent his ever meeting anyone at all.

    I digressed. To stay off the thread, I might also state that the very worst pair of socks I ever owned were also the most expensive. In London once, on a business trip, I found myself short of socks, so on a wild impulse I went into Harrods and bought a pair of cashmere socks which cost an arm and two legs. Crazy. The first time they were washed they became very small, very fluffy socks. I am left to assume that we put them in the wrong wash programme, or else that real toffs do not wash their socks.

    That was Martin's fault.

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  4. Curiously, I find the reverse of the Harrod's story to hold good. The only things I buy from mass market chain stores are socks and jocks, and they never let me down. They are cheap, but last a long time. Expensive smalls are always rubbish, a bit like (I am told) expensive cosmetics. The key to surviving later middle age with one's dignity intact is to always buy socks of the same colour. Even the wife can't be sure one has a mismatched pair on then! I own many, many pairs of black socks and just wear the first two that come out of the laundry basket.

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    1. My past experience of cheapo socks has all been good, but maybe that just goes to show the planning that has gone into this - all those years of decent socks, leading up to the sting. The crafty devils.

      Black socks - yeah - good. For years and years I wore black towelling socks for work - they were comfortable, cool/warm and kept their shape. They probably don't make them any more. (Aye...)

      There is a famous old puzzle about a man with a drawer full of coloured socks - how many socks does he have to take out (in the dark, of course - his wife is a light sleeper) to make sure he's got a matching pair, etc. Just occurred to me how much easier this would be if all socks were black.

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    2. However, when trying to dress in the semi-dark, having only black socks, black underpants, black T-shirts, and black jeans makes things a tad confusing, especially since The Wind Beneath My Wings also owns a great many black articles. Then of course I open the closet looking for a shirt, pants and maybe a jacket ... you get the picture. It's a Melbourne things. Colours are just too Sydney.

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    3. Understood. On more sober occasions, what do you wear instead of black?

      Back to the theme of cheap smalls - I have tried to avoid thinking about this, but I would hate it if the underpants suddenly started this sneaky shrinking trick. We must be on our guard, I think.

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  5. I think you have uncovered a fiendish plot to bring down civilisation from the ankles up.
    Actually, I wear odd socks all the time - it's a Yorkshire thing. It just seems that to discard a perfectly good sock just because its companion may have worn into a hole is:
    A. Disloyal to a good and faithful servant.
    B. Unnecessarily profligate. Socks do not, after all, grow on trees.

    And frankly, anyone who actually cares that I have on one blue sock and one black really ought to purchase a life while they're in M&S.

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    1. I agree with all of this, though I am alarmed to learn that there are no sock trees. Where do they get socks, then? (I do know that there are shoe trees)

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    2. Not sure - I'll ask the office arborealist when I'm back at work.

      While we're on the subject of socks, why does no-one darn them any more? My grandad used to spend hours darning his socks in front of the fire, always (as a point of principle) using the most inappropriate shade of wool nicked out of grandma's knitting basket. Then a quick rinse in the sink and into the kitchen range to dry. When nylon socks came out they were a sore trial to him - they went all hard and brittle in the range, like little ribbed boomerangs..

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    3. Good question - one feature of darned socks was that they were very uncomfortable - if your sock wore through under the heel, a thick darned repair there would guarantee blisters thereafter.

      Nylon socks were one of humanity's mistakes, no question. Nylon flannelette sheets were not good either, I recall.

      Back to darning - all self-respecting mending baskets used to contain a wooden, mushroom-shaped thing to help with the darning. My posh Auntie May had a bakelite one, WITH A LIGHT IN IT. If we hadn't held her in such contempt, we would have admitted that we were deeply envious of such a leading-edge device.

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    4. Impressive!
      Grandad used to use one of those little round plastic tubs that you used to get margarine in - he considered that to be the acme of progress.

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  6. Most of the time I wear army issue socks to work, which are tough and hold their shape and size quite well, despite repeated washing. Commercial socks, on the other hand, are of wildly varying quantities. Even high end men's socks, like Calvin Klein, last about 1 year before they become sad and forlorn, even if only worn (as I wear them) on Sundays and holidays. But, as you say, brand marks like Slazenger don't mean what they used to when they can be knocked off by a computerized stitcher by shady characters. Now I buy backs of socks from a workwear store for yard work, walking, etc.
    I suspect real toffs buy nice socks, wear them once, and then throw them away.

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    1. Hi Michael - army socks sound like the thing to wear. Sadly, the shady characters you refer to seem now to constitute a big proportion of the admired entrepreneurial class much beloved of our neo-capitalist government, therefore trying to buy genuine branded goods in the UK now is not unlike the great days of buying designer clothes (with spelling mistakes in the labels) from Turkish market stalls in the 1990s. In short, you have to be drunk to consider it.

      Mention of army socks has made me start worrying about a threat to our national security. If HM Govt hands out contracts for army equipment (specifically socks) to their chums in The Private Sector, what is the chance that one or two tours in the tumble dryer shrinks all the socks and renders the army unable to march? Good grief. I'm really alarmed by this...

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  7. Following a tip-off from my main man Rod, it seems that Slazenger and a number of other respected sporting goods brands (Lonsdale and some Dunlop ranges among them) have been bought out by Sportsdirect, Mike Ashley's noted budget chain (which I think also owns JJB), and are now manufactured as cheaply as possible in Asia. Strangulated feet a speciality?

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