Socks in Bad Places


No-one ever told me that I would be forced to become a curator.

In  small way. The Oxford Dictionary defines a curator as: “A keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection”

That other collection. That’s what I’m curator of: and not a very good curator, either.

When having a baby managed to take me by surprise- despite a nine-month wake-up call- one of the enduring bafflements of early motherhood was how to look after the socks.

They were tiny socks then; gorgeous little thick half-slippers made for the multi million pound baby supply industry. Taupe, or blush pink, and soft, they lasted a day and then needed to be tucked together for a perilous journey through the washing.

It might as well be a journey through the underworld. Even early on in my Sock-curating career, I fell at the first hurdle.

Those socks, somehow, would give me the slip, back in the days when the only socks I had to watch were mine, those of my foot-size-9 husband, and the tiny foot gloves of a baby daughter. The socks would somehow evade apprehension, like wily purveyors of street crime keeping just beyond the clutches of Wormwood Scrubs. Can an inanimate object develop Darwinian evolutionary tendencies, evolving to meet new challenges? The idea is daft, isn’t it? And yet I have 14 years which lead me to the unavoidable conclusion that socks have minds of their own.

It is telling indeed that the term ‘curator’ can apply to a collection of living, breathing animals.

For three years, I battled with three sets of socks: Daddy Socks, Mummy Socks and Baby Socks, much like Goldilocks’s family of bears.

And then nature threw me the cruellest wild card of all: a son whose life’s work is to free the socks, and send them out into the wild. Singly, usually.

From a young age, Felix would remove socks – singly – and distribute them in a fashion which made an art out of the random. I would find socks under sofas, in sinks, on the table after dinner, in the dog’s basket. I might find them sandwiched in the upholstery of chairs, or enjoying the liberty of the careless abandon of the bathroom. Where I was a zoo curator, he was more of a wildlife reserve manager. Socks were valued for their individuality.

When Felix was about seven, Phil observed wryly that socks were not an occasional purchase in the Shrewsday household. No: they were consumables. They needed to be purchased at the same rate as cornflakes.

As my son grew, I hit on what I considered a master-stroke. If I bought standard, generic black socks, we would avoid the problem of having to pair them up during vital seconds in rushed morning routines. Accordingly I bought lots and lots of black socks. We patted ourselves smugly on the back.

But now my son is a size eight. That’s correct: aged 11, he is just one size below his father. And I buy slightly smaller socks for him, and bigger ones for Phil. And I never my them for myself, I just steal everyone else’s. Maddie has her own stash, but somehow she, too, appears day after day clad in black socks.

And now the sizes are irretrievably mixed and people are appearing daily in One Bigger Sock, One Smaller Sock.

My curatorship is getting out of hand.

Ideas, anyone?



48 thoughts on “Socks in Bad Places

      1. Maybe different coloured bags, or bits of ribbon in each to identify the owner. I am imagining happy family evenings with each of your clan unzipping his or her bag of newly dried socks and folding them into neat, matched pairs. If you line dry, as i do, it might be a little mire difficult. But Cash do some v nice name tapes, so each person could choose and sew their tapes on.

  1. In the sink? LAUGH OUT LOUD!! There is no solution to the sock quandary, I’m convinced. I once held onto one gray sock, neatly tucked into a drawer, and waited for months for its mate to emerge. Nothing. In a fit of cleaning, I threw it out. Two days later, my daughter found its mate under her mattress. Wretched socks.

  2. No ideas, but plenty of chuckles! I am still trying to sort out what happens to my baby’s socks. I use laundry bags and they still disappear. D’oh.

  3. No Ideas… Just advice – Live with it because it’s almost certainly the norm in most families including those who wear socks inside their sandals 😉 It’s the same in our home because my son aged 12 wears the same size socks as I do. Needless to say he’s commandeered my Bridgedales (or perhaps his mum put them in the wrong drawer?) leaving me to buy a set of Caterpillar work socks to wear in my boots so we don’t get confused 😦 Fortunately his school socks are uniform black and his day to day socks tend to have Simpsons Characters on them so there’s no confusion there but somehow socks seem to find ways of getting into separate washes and then losing themselves for weeks on end! My wife is less affected by this phenomenen as she is only a size 6 (nothing she wearas will fit Alasdair or I) and mostly wears short stockings or tights… No danger of those winding up in the wrong drawer 😉 Watch out – the syndrome spreads to other items of clothing… I had a sweatshirt disappear for nearly a month after washing before finally being captured and ironed into submission!

    1. Oooh, thanks Martin, I’ll start farming the other clothes with a little more care….the Simpsons character idea has real possibilities for me. My son loves them..this just might work. Thanks!

      1. No embroidery. Get white socks for everyone, a good old fashioned laundry marker and an initial on each sock. l dealt with 5 kids, a spouse and myself. As the children were old enough they either helped with their own laundry or were given a laundry day and tended to their own washing, drying, folding and putting away. We once had a sock box but quickly abandoned that. After everyone was made responsible for their own clothing, we stopped having lost socks.

  4. Every week when I do my laundry and all socks are accounted for I feel triumphant. But socks do seem to have a mind of their own. Fourteen can enter the wash, but only thirteen might emerge. If I could have all the minutes returned that I have invested in searching for lost socks, I’d surely have at least one full day of life back. As to where lost socks go, I just assume they are all end up on Lost Sock Mountain somewhere in a black hole in outer space:

  5. Socks are always making a run for it. Usually alone, without their partners. If you see a pair of socks quarreling, weeping, and overeating, the next time you wash them, one will hit the road. Earrings, to some degree, split up from time to time. Always an earring I like. The ones I don’t like never try to escape.

  6. I knew a washing machine repairman who said that many socks somehow get caught between the two layers of the tub.
    My MIL had a color-coding system whereby she would take a needle threaded with a colorful thread of choice and tie a short length into the toe. She had a husband and 3 boys so each one had their own color. She wasn’t a curator; she was a general. Those socks listened and behaved accordingly.

  7. Brilliant! I always knew the sock-monster story was true, you hear about it across the land and now I know!
    I suppose you could always go barefoot but I suspect school may disapprove and you can get hellish blisters from shoes that rub on bare skin!

  8. Hilarious!
    Sockology should be the subject of doctoral thesis. Their behaviour defies logic. I resorted to sewing little shocking pink (well, that was the colour of the reel of cotton I purloined) tags on all the toes. Socks bearing pink tags still migrated to everyone else’s sock drawers. I also have a collection of perfectly good widow/widower socks whose partners have gone to the great hosiery in the sky. Let us spray.

  9. The mystery of life! Where do all the missing socks go? Comedian George Carlin used to joke that when you die you get all of those socks returned to you. 🙂

    Reggie eats socks occasionally. I really don’t want those back in the afterlife.

  10. No help from me. Several months ago, I bought several pairs of white socks. Each pair has an L on one and an R on the other. Now I can find only Ls. I’m the only one who wears them. My husband wears black socks. His come out even every time.

  11. I’m convinced that socks go in the washer and dryer and then vanish into the abyss … never to be seen again. I resorted to buying about a dozen white socks – all the same type. Now if I lose one, I still have one to match another that will soon lose a mate.

    Best wishes on your quest, Kate. 😉

  12. I went the black sock route with occasional pairs of dark blue, which is a mistake as I only realise that I have one black and one blue on when full daylight falls upon the ankles. Could this be the origin “black and blue”?

  13. My mother-in-law had four boys and her solution was when she bought new socks they had to see an “X” on the toe in a specific color for each son. It was easy to sort at laundry time. I thought she was pretty clever! Happy sock hunting 😉

  14. This made me laugh – I have exactly the same problem (even down to the son with the ever growing feet and the constant mismatching of sizes) – I have come to the conclusion that there is no solution!

  15. I wrote a post about this very sad state of affairs ( but, if the truth be known, Kate, even my simple strategy no longer works because my eyes are no longer as sharp as they were and the matching has to be done in the brightest of lights (i.e. blazing sunshine, instead of over a glass of champagne in muted light). And there are only two of us in my household, so I’m afraid I have no solution for it. Maybe someone could create an app for that…

  16. This is so timely and really made me laugh. I have been desperately trying to organize, organize, organize and make more space. Almost two weeks ago I took everything out of a couple of bedroom drawers in hopes of making sense of it. Guess what is still sitting in my bedroom in a big tub? A huge collection of unmatched socks! It’s a mess. I just can’t seem to figure out what to do with them. I have plenty of socks but never a nicely matched pair when I need them. It would help you to live in Southern California…I don’t have cause to wear socks too often which makes me also wonder how I have collected such a large unmanageable assortment. And when the kids were young and at home I was sure the washing machine was eating them!

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