Most men's socks are threadbare and more than three years old, a state of affairs that has been branded "a national disgrace" by sock aficionado Mark Hall.
He runs a subscription service called socked.co.uk, which will, for a fee, send you a new pair of black socks every month. "Guaranteed to make you a gentleman" is the company promise. Keen readers of this column will recall that it featured news of a similar subscription service for ties. The difference here, of course, is that you get to keep the socks.
Intrigued by this, I count how many pairs of sock I have and tot up their average age. I stop at 30 pairs and reckon most of them are well past the 36-month mark. Quite a few are older than my kids and at least one pair is older even than their combined ages (12, since you ask).
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I could further divide my sock collection into those with holes in the toes or heels and those without, but life's too short to worry about such things – which, in essence, is the kind of woolly thinking (sorry) the survey by socked.co.uk is trying to eradicate as it seeks to place the sock on the fashion pedestal.
Among the other findings, 73% of men said the "distressed" nature of their socks had been commented on, 75% admitted to wearing odd socks in public at least once a week, and a whopping 64% said their socks only got replaced if someone bought them new ones. That "someone", I imagine, is a woman – mum, wife, girlfriend, maybe even mistress.
Staying with the distaff side, 83% of female respondents said their partner was guilty of wearing worn-out socks, 78% said they were ashamed of the fact and 89% said they were a sexual turn-off. (Contrary creatures that they are, 86% of women also admitted that they do sometimes wear their partner's socks, which goes some way to explaining why we men are left with the old, holey, mismatched pairs.)
Now I know I dipped into Hardy Amies's ABC Of Men's Fashion for last week's missive on berets, but it's worth noting that where he had only a dozen lines on the headgear, he devotes a page-and-a-half to socks. Among his words of advice: match your socks to your suit, not your tie; wear ribbed socks if you want to make your ankles look slim; wear socks that come over the calf otherwise they'll sag and show your ankles; and don't ever wear pale socks.
And, for the record, Mr Hall could be on to a winner with his black-socks-delivered-monthly venture. "Young men often wear black socks with almost everything," Amies writes. "I do not find this objectionable. It has a rather pleasant insouciant air." n