Sock Strategies «


Fox in Socks

It’s easy for socks to go missing, and it’s annoying to have to match up socks. My girlfriend and I have developed two entirely different strategies for dealing with these eventualities.

She owns a good variety of socks which are safety-pinned together anytime they’re not actually on her feet. Her socks do everything paired up. This solves the matching problem and greatly reduces the likelihood any go missing (and at least they do it in pairs). If one should wear out before the other, though, they’re both lost.

My strategy is to own a large number of exactly two styles of socks: black unlabeled athletic ankle socks and black unlabeled athletic crew socks. Sorting is trivial, loss and damage are inconsequential. Wearing mismatched socks is only sometimes necessary on laundry day and is at least unobtrusive. When I notice one type of sock is low, I just go buy another dozen.

What’s your sock strategy?

2007-02-22: My girlfriend would like it to be known that she does not dispose of the surviving complements to worn out socks, they go into a drawer to be potentially matched up with other socks whose mates are lost. This distinction is vital, and I admit my sole culpability in its oversight.


  1. Every six months or so I throw out every sock I can find. From there, I go out and pick up a couple packs of new socks. Since all my socks are black, I’m of the same strategy as you. Losing a sock seems to happen still though… which is a shame.


  2. I pretty much have the same strategy as you, except I am all white socks, and a couple pairs of dress socks. I also own an insane amount of socks since I am a college student who lives off campus- It is not always easy to find time to get to a washer/dryer

  3. Random socks of many colors…

    To aid the sorting problem, I sort by length before matching by color/style. It makes things significantly more efficient. Sock matching is an O(n^2) problem; If my length sort lets me establish 5 partitions of the set of socks, that makes it O((n/5)^2), which is much better. At least it’s better enough that I haven’t felt tempted to throw-out and replace all of my socks.

  4. Normal days do not warrant socks. If your office requires shoes, fooey on them.

    However, there are plenty of circumstances in which socks are required. Sad, but unavoidable. I am a big fan of bulk purchasing like 10 pair of unimpressive black athletic socks (for padding) for interchangability and loss insurance.

    For special occasions (interviews, weddings, etc…) that require slightly more fanciness than standard issue shirt and tie, I like grabbing a $5 pair of dress socks with the intent of using them only once. If they last longer, so be it, but there is no emotional attachment either way.

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