Nonqaba waka Msimang is a photographer, academic writer, freelance writer, and food blogger.
One of the joys of summer in North America and Europe are vintage things. Car owners polish their beauties made from chrome and iron and put them on show, so do people who kept their old motorbikes and bicycles.
Fashion-conscious folks also raid their grandmothers’ and fathers’ closets and borrow Stetson hats, suspenders, or pedal pushers, but I’ve never heard the term vintage used in the same sentence with socks.
There are vintage shoes, yes, but they're not socks, supporting actors to shoes because once upon a time, we could not wear shoes without socks unless they were sandals.
Enter Pharrell Williams, singer and music producer with his signature no-socks style. He is part of the international metrosexual men who continue to flip the script when it comes to men’s fashion.
Socks not only protect feet from the leather, but they also absorb perspiration, making shoes the good guys to be admired when they are polished or brand new. Socks are the fall guy. They make us grimace and protect the nose with our fingers. So what if they don’t smell like roses?
When I see discarded socks in a garbage pile, I always think of the good old days (for socks) when they were an important part of the dress code. Not anymore because of sneakers and other soft shoes that that do not need socks.
Fabric shoes are popular for a variety of reasons. They are cheaper, pliable, do not need polishing, and they go to the garbage bin when the odor is overwhelming.
What Is Vintage?
Vintage (or old school, as the kids put it) is when we realize something was good after all, and we regret having discarded it because of the latest invention, like buying paper plates because they don’t break and we just throw them out after the potato salad.
One of the factors that determine vintage is demand. Do shoppers search for a particular item in second-hand shops like Goodwill or the Salvation Army? I visit them frequently for research purposes you understand, and that is the vintage truth.
Do people go to vintage car shows at home and abroad to find that one automobile that had style and grace? Who cares if it is as big as a whale and eats up a lot of gas, polluting the planet?
Socks have never been that lucky. Nobody calls them vintage. You don’t find them in elite auction houses like Waddington’s, Christie’s, or Sotheby’s. They end up in rubbish cans, alone or folded in a ball with their partner, if they are lucky.
Socks sometimes feel that they are the enemy of the people. The washing machine, for example. It is also responsible for their misery.
They are anti-socks for whatever reason because they stick to the side of the machine, and we miss one of them when we transfer the load to the drier.
Some laundromats are quite funny because they put abandoned socks on display with the hope that owners will reclaim them. They never do. It’s a dog’s life, no, socks’ life.
Socks in warmer countries have all the fun because somebody washes them by hand and hangs them out in the sun to dry. They are then folded nicely and put in the appropriate drawer. Holes are mended or darned, as my Domestic Science teacher used to say.
The education the British brought to Africa was gender-based. Girls were taught how to cook, clean, and darn socks. Boys went to woodwork or motor mechanics.
Darning socks is no longer an alternative because most women work or don’t think that darning socks should be proof of loving men.
Inheritance Socks in a Will
It’s not that socks are unreasonable. They understand the facts of life like nature. Summer is not their time. They chill out in drawers at home and let feet enjoy the fresh air that wafts in through sandals, but they don’t understand the animosity.
For example, they cannot be vintage items because there is no love. They are not feeling the love at all. People show love in different ways.
Your favorite uncle, Sizwe, might leave you in his will with a plot of land he bought in an undeveloped area of the country that has just struck platinum.
Socks are never in a will. Even Bollywood, Hollywood, Nollywood, and other "woods" do not make movies about socks in a will.
How would you react if Uncle Sizwe left you his collection of socks with or without holes?
“I never knew that he hated me that much.”
Just kidding. It's fiction, like movies.