I read somewhere that odd socks are the larval form of coat hangers.

If that's the case, I am in big trouble.

I don't know how long it takes for the transformation to occur but I live in fear of waking up one morning and all the odd socks have hatched and there are coat hangers bursting out everywhere - from under the bed, behind the washing machine, squeezing out of the gumboots on the back doorstep...

And there would be coat hangers all over the spare room, because that's where we keep the sock orphanage.


The sock orphanage used to be a plastic supermarket bag in the bottom of the linen cupboard, but it grew. It took over a trendy cane shopping basket and then it expanded into a laundry hamper.

That hamper is more than halfway full of single, lone, unattached and unpaired socks.
I have no idea how this has happened and it worries me that somewhere in or around my house there is an equal mass of single unpaired other socks.

But where?

And why, when I wear them in pairs and attempt to wash them in pairs, do socks become irreparably unpaired as soon as you take your eyes off them...or more to the point, your feet out of them.

Are socks by nature solitary?

It would be handy if you could string them together, as I have seen done with mittens, but I can imagine there would be issues with walking.

So where does one sock out of every third pair go, once you take them off your feet and consign them to the washing machine? Do they dissolve and turn into lint?

And why, when you put in three pairs of black work socks and one pair of white, adult sports socks, do you get back three individual black socks, one red one, a child's green sock with blue robots on it and a one greying white sock with a hole in the heel?

On a particularly bad day, you might only get one sock back, and it will be one of those black multi-pack jobs that extrudes a thin strand of thread that winds itself around all the rest of the washing and ties it all together.

The theory I work on is that socks that come out of the wash as pairs get folded lovingly together and repatriated to the owner's sock drawer.

Those that come out as renegade singles are flung into the sock orphanage in anger, to languish there until their matching miscreant sock-partners come back from where odd socks go and are flung in after them.

The theory continues along the lines of - once the sock orphanage is more than halfway full, surely there will be pairs in there, should I go searching.

So every once in a while I tip them all out on to the lounge floor and I start sorting: a pile for white socks, a pile for black socks, a pile for funky coloured fashion socks and a pile for thick fluffy gumboot socks. Let the pairing begin.

Or not. The black socks will be all different sizes and lengths. The white ones might relinquish a couple of pairs, the fashion socks will all deny that they know each other at all and there will be five gumboot socks, none of which match.

At this stage I go wild and pair up anything that is vaguely similar. Colours first, then I resort to textures and then, almost the right size. Towards the end of the exercise a pair could consist of a fluffy green gumboot sock with a black work sock with the excuse that they are both mid-calf length and that's as close as it's going to get.

What's left - a yellow rugby sock, a toddler's sock with numbers on it, and one multi-coloured toe-sock - will be reconsigned to the depths of the hamper.

Yes I could chuck them out, but that's exactly what these odd socks want.
If you give up on that last remaining mismatched item, its twin will - within 24 hours - turn up.

As soon as you chop up that purple fluffy sock to make a tiny jumper for a sickly puppy, its partner will appear. The moment you cut the toe out of that thick woolly number to make a padded sleeve for the front strap of a horse-cover...there's its mate sitting on the laundry floor like it's been there all along.

Turn a white sports sock into a sock puppet...

Which explains my husband going to play badminton with a pair of felt pen eyes peering out from his sneakers.

Hang on to those odd socks. If nothing else, they could turn into coat hangers. Which at least don't need to match.