09:47:51 pm on
Saturday 22 Jun 2024

Orphan Sock Policy
David Simmonds

After having devoted an entire column to my unfortunate experiences in the world of underwear, it seems only fitting to turn to what bedevils almost every man: what to do about orphan socks.

Socks have never been more important.

With the decline in use of the tie in the business environment, socks have become a way for a man to make his personal statement. A pair of black executive length socks underneath that standard issue gray suit signals that the wearer is gunning for the top, whereas a pair of recreational length Jerry Garcia or Grateful Dead designer socks signifies the wearer marches to the beat of his own drum even in the most conservative environment.

Socks have a significant drawback: they get lost. You consign a pair of socks to the laundry and you get back one freshly cleaned sock; its companion nowhere to be found. You may get lucky on occasion and find it in the dryer or wrinkled up in some bedsheet, but usually it will simply disappear.

My wife takes the position that “The Borrowers,” miniature people living inside the walls of a house, in the 1952 book for children by Mary Norton, are real. I tend to the view that socks are creatures with consciousness and that occasionally a sock screams to his mate “I can’t stand being on this guy’s feet another minute. You cover for me while I make a break for it.”

I have an impressive collection of orphan socks, which grows steadily. Why I bother to keep them I don’t know. It’s not as though one day six months from now a stranger is going to knock at my door and proudly deliver a missing sock back to me as its rightful owner.

This brings me to the crux of the matter.

What is the right purchasing policy to adopt in order to minimize the heartbreak of orphan sock? Some argue in favour of the ‘uniform purchase’ approach, wherein you don’t just buy one pair at a time; you buy enough pairs to last you from washday to washday, as well as several extras to compensate for predictable sock disappearance.

Just as important, you buy identical socks. That way, proponents argue, if you lose one sock, you are always sure to find a mate for the remaining one. There will never be more than one orphan sock in your collection; you will always have an even number of remaining socks every second disappearance.

Others, myself included, are prepared to adopt the less boring ‘high risk, high reward’ approach of buying interesting socks a few pairs at a time; after all, who can resist a package of three pairs of Star Wars branded socks for $9.99. The risk is that you’ll create many more orphan socks; the reward is that you develop a reputation as someone that uses his or her socks to make a fashion statement; someone prepared to undergo the high orphanage rate as part of the cost of being different.

Wait, you say: perhaps you can have both. Buy enough Star Wars socks to cover off the uniform purchase approach. Theoretically, that would work, if you could find enough identical socks. This strategy locks you in to your singular fashion statement until your socks wore out or you were prepared out to restock your complete inventory when you grew tired of them.

There is one other alternative, which involves a big leap of faith. That is the deliberate wearing of mismatched socks. For instance, a photograph on the web site of the biologist and notorious atheist, Richard Dawkins, shows him proudly wearing one blue sock and one red sock. His conclusion is that the fallacy we are falling victim is that socks must always be matched pairs. Here’s his war cry:

“My solution is to abandon the attempt to match socks altogether. Wear odd socks deliberately, the more different the better. Brazen it out. Wear one red and one blue sock, as I am today. Or one yellow and one green.”

There are other advocates of mismatching. The Washington Post reported on a company that markets mismatched socks especially for children. The claim is that wearing mismatched socks teaches kids to embrace their differences and insisting that it is cool to stand out from others. Cool, especially if your parents are paying.

Accept the mismatch solution.

The acceptance of mismatched socks as a cure for the heartbreak of orphan sock would be a major change in social convention. After all, who would want to be caught dead wearing one garish Homer Simpson illustrated sock and one elegant polka dotted Ralph Lauren sock? Still, revolutions have begun over less. Maybe it’s time we jumped into mismatching with both feet, even if they’re in different socks.


Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

More by David Simmonds:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.