Justin Trudeau’s socks are in the news again. I love it when they are, as it makes for light relief from the other heart-sink stories that abound. Whilst on a trade mission to Canada, a Ukrainian representative delivered a present from the Ukrainian Prime Minister to Canada’s Prime Minister of…. an assorted box of patterned socks. It must be the equivalent of getting a plug-in air-freshener for Christmas (I know someone who received just that). However, given his track record, it seems Trudeau will put them to good use. When Trudeau came to Ireland this summer he had a ‘sock-off’ with Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s PM (Taoiseach). Varadkar gave him a run for his money, wearing maple leaf and Mountie socks to their first meeting – apparently they hit it off. Oh, for gentle sock diplomacy to pave the way to world peace!
All that to say, Justin’s socks reminded me of something I saw last month in Dublin. Dublin airport has a wall of thought bubbles, it is called the ‘Sky Bridge Banter Wall’; a name that perhaps makes it seem more than it is. It’s just a mural of clouds containing phrases to get you thinking, or to make you smile. One says: “Life is too short for matching socks.” It’s not so subversive or controversial a statement, is it? With some passion, S. tells me that she entirely disagrees. She loves wearing matching socks, jazzy ones à la Justin Trudeau. S. says it gives her a sense of control over her life by retrieving her clean, dry socks from the washing line and being able to match them up. When she ends up with a partner-less, rogue sock, she’ll keep it for one month – no more – and if its partner has absconded, she’ll get rid of the solo sock. I tell her she is a merciless, brutal, sock-murderer! I tell her about the lone sock I nurtured for four months, maybe more, bewildered as to where its mate had disappeared. Then, a fortnight ago, I dug out my winter duvet in which it was nesting, and they were happily reunited. S.’s husband, E., tells me to stop anthropomorphising socks. I say to him. “I’ll anthropomorphise you, if you don’t stop using big words!” He tells me my statement really doesn’t work. I suppose not.
I don’t know if it is down to Canada’s debonair Prime Minister, but since the rise of Justin and his socks, all of a sudden colourful, ‘happy’ socks (actually a brand name) are everywhere. Mostly, they are matching socks, but there are some brands that deliberately trade on mis-matched socks. That would be fine if they were half the price of the matching socks, but I actually think they are more expensive. One of the silver linings of summer being over, is that the fluffy, comforting, thick, slouchy, night-time, bed-socks can come out from the back of the drawer and give your feet a hug.
When it seems as if basic human decency is breaking down, and every page you turn, or click you make leads to another story of misogyny or degradation, it is good to be distracted by socks. I knew a fine man who got married in clashing socks, shuffling off conventional constraints, much to his mother-in-law’s horror. There is a simple silliness to be had in seeing someone wear mis-matched socks. Airport security is great for sock-spotting. Not only will you see an abundance of socks that don’t match, but you’ll no doubt spot threadbare socks, socks with holes, big toes poking through in a run for freedom, and – very definitely – socks that are crying out for the mercy of a washing machine.
In a marvellous non sequitur, I’m going to leave you with a sock-quote for the day:
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” – Socrates