22 November 2008

The Sock Crisis in America

I was downhearted, because I had no shoes.
And then I met a man who had no socks.

Dear Friend:

If you’re like most Americans, when your sock gets a hole in it, you ignore it. “Maybe it will go away by itself,” you think.

If the hole is in the toe of the sock, perhaps you pull the sock forward, then tuck the end under your foot as you slip on your shoe. If the hole is in the ankle region, or on the side of the foot, you tell yourself that no one will notice, or if they do, they’ll think it’s just an unusual pattern in the knitting.

If the hole is in the region of the heel, or the ball of the foot, you avoid wearing mules, clogs, or flip-flops, that might make the hole too conspicuous, while each night you come home to find new blisters, to say nothing of the head colds, influenza, and irritable bowel syndrome that can come from exposure of the feet to inclement conditions due to global warming.

And then, as the hole in the side of the sock grows larger, you do what we all do: you take a Magic Marker and draw on your skin until the color matches the sock, unless of course the sock is white, in which case you use Liquid Paper.

But one day the hole can’t be ignored any longer. We’ve all been there. We’ve suffered the cruel taunts and jeers. “Holey Socks.” “Poor Man’s Fishnets.” “Guess He’s Got Foot’n’Moth Disease.” “No Knit, No Wit.” “Woolly Bully.” And the cruelest of all: “Yarn Killer.”

“Sure,” you tell yourself, “I’m a big boy, and I can handle it.” Eventually, the cycle of shame forces you to go out and buy a new pair of socks. But what of Distressed Knitwear Syndrome’s youngest victims?

Sociologists are only now beginning to analyze quantitatively the psychic damage that’s done on these occasions; the results of a ten-year study on DKS by the International Institute for Advanced Yarn and Thread Studies, in Lanolin, Montana, are eagerly anticipated. But a few conclusions are clear already.

“Given the current economic crisis, Americans won’t have the financial resources to purchase new socks,” says Dr. Pearl Needleman. “Already, large numbers of us are being forced to choose between new socks and basic, everyday requirements, such as medicine, gasoline, and beer. Cheaply produced knitwear, often outsourced to other countries where standards of yarn density fall below regulated American norms, means that socks are wearing out faster.

“America is unraveling,” Dr. Needleman continues. “The emotional and psychological repercussions for the next generation of consumers, those currently between the ages of twelve months (when walking typically begins) and twelve years (when many of the girls begin wearing synthetic hosiery), represents a grave thread to this country’s future well-being, into the 22nd Century and be yarn.”

Current trends pose a threat to the American economy, as well, independent yarn-industry analyst Melvin Fliess argues. “According to the latest figures, Americans don’t even outsource knitwear repair anymore,” he says. “Ultimately, either they patch the hole — which is only a Band-Aid solution — or they throw the garment out. We’re pulling the wool over our eyes if we don’t accept that we’re on the brink of shear catastrophe, spinning toward disaster.”

But there is a solution.


Yes, darning. It’s a word few of us know, a skill even fewer of us possess. But if we at the Drive for American Repair Needlework and Interrelated Techniques have our way, soon every youngster will be able to mend his or her own socks.

No more surreptitious tucking, no more unsightly patches, no more toxic Magic Markers or hazardous stapling. Just good old all-American darning. It’s the cheapest, safest way to repair socks — and it’s great for sweaters, too!

In one national survey, last year, the majority of third-graders (63 percent) believed that “darning” was merely a polite way to say ‘damn.’ A significant number (27 percent) believed the word to be a euphemism for “sexual intercourse,” and of those, 2 percent of third-graders “strongly believed” they could do it better than most adults, having seen so much of it on the Internet. In all, only a shocking 6 percent of third-graders could define “darning” correctly.

“We’re gamboling with our children’s future!” warns Fliess. “This isn’t simply a problem for me, it’s a problem for ewe, for all of us, and weave got to do something about it.”

Clearly, it’s time for a change — not a change of socks, but a change in the way we think about socks. We’d like to give every boy and girl in this country a darning egg and a needle, and we’re lobbying state school systems to make darning education mandatory nationwide, effective immediately.

You know the old saying: “Give a man a pair of socks, and his feet will be warm for the rest of the day. But teach a man to darn, and his feet will be warm for the rest of his life.”

Unfortunately, our campaign can’t succeed without your help. Qualified instructors must be trained: there simply aren’t enough nuns and Amish ladies right now to do the job. Eggs must be lathed, or whatever you call it. And lobbyists must be paid, in order to ram this sweeping change through every state legislature.

So won’t you give today? All it takes is a little bit of money — and a lot of wool power.

Yours sincerely,

Lambert Merino
The Drive for American Repair Needlework and Interrelated Techniques

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