Why Socks?

oldwomanknitting_russian1838

Why not?!

For centuries, socks have been an important feature of human attire.  Comfortable, useful, fashionable… and a bit silly.1

Socks are also rather universal.  From president2 to pauper, almost everyone wears socks.  And they tell a lot about us.  A wool argyle gives the impression of bookishness.  A black silk stocking suggests sophistication.  A threadbare gym sock reeks of brute energy.

In FOOTNOTES we get to actually hear what they have to say about their owners.  And when those owners are famous historical figures, there’s no telling what stories they’ll have up their… well, you get the point.

Because of the universality of socks, anyone can participate at home or school.  Just be sure to wash yours first.  There are plenty of sock puppet instructions online.

You can find a brief histories of socks here and sock puppets here.

And if you’re after information about history, the American Library Association has a great list of websites appropriate for kids.

ODE TO MY SOCKS, A poem by Pablo Neruda3

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.


1. Socks are known to have a wonderful sense of humor. Just don’t ask them to tell a knock-knock joke – they always forget the punchline.
2. President George H.W. Bush collects colorful socks.
3. Originally published in 1956 as part of Nuevas Odas Elementales