A pair of posh socks from Corgi, one of the brands with which Sock Club London has collaborated. Photograph: PR
The mysterious Sock Club London is, in its own words, “a newly formed club and movement set out to elevate and champion men’s hosiery … formed of a collective of like-minded individuals with shared passions, and led by member 001 and member 002.” Having arranged a clandestine meeting with 001 and 002 in a Soho coffee house, I asked whether they are allowed to talk about Sock Club, whether they are allowed to talk about Sock Club, and how to avoid losing a sock in the wash ever again.
I first heard of Sock Club London after writing an article in this paper about the world’s second-most expensive socks, when I was tagged into a discussion on the club’s sock-obsessed Instagram account. Soon I discovered that one could join by application only, and that upon joining one is anointed with a number – like that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer joins the ancient, secret society of the Stonecutters. As it turns out, Sock Club likes the anonymity of numbers so much that, when I ask to meet 001 and 002, they suggest a coffee shop known only by its number: No. 193 in Soho.
When I meet them, 001 is a round-faced, talkative Englishman with a background in fashion retail, while 002 is a more reserved Welsh photographer with salt-and-pepper hair and spectacles. They refer to themselves only by their numbers. Both are highly affable, but I try nonetheless to resist their charms; I’m wary of waking up in a strange wood wearing nothing but socks and an owl mask. Their club motto, after all, is: “No apologies, no regrets.”
Over coffee, they tell me that their club has already had a couple of hundred successful applicants, most of whom heard about it through word of mouth. Every one has his or her – and I assume it’s mostly his – own black membership card, embossed on the front with a unique number and on the back with the command that “the First Rule of Sock Club must be adhered to”. They won’t tell me what the First Rule is, though. “Can you reveal any of the rules?” I ask, politely. “No!” they say.
Corgi Socks press Photograph: press
What this Sock Club offers for its £20 application fee is a pair of socks from its exclusive collaborations with Pantherella, Corgi and Chup, and invitations to its special, members-only events. I imagine these as being like the masonic orgy from Eyes Wide Shut, but they tell me they’re more like chats in coffee shops. Actually, they’re rather affronted when I ask if there’s a fetish element to their activities. It’s a real sock-in-mouth moment.
“We used to meet up and have a coffee,” says 002, “and we would take sneaky photographs and expose people for wearing bad socks on Instagram, much like I was planning to do with you later today.” (I’m wearing beige socks with grey flannel trousers, and they both thoroughly disapprove.) “We would have a laugh, have a coffee and talk about people’s socks,” he continues. “We would see that socks shouldn’t be neglected, that socks can be designed beautifully and should be worn proudly.”
Indeed, socks are experiencing something of a boom at the moment – US shoppers spent $2.8bn (£1.8bn) on men’s socks in 2013, up 14% from 2012, which was the biggest increase of any item of men’s clothing – and 001 and 002 are socks’ cognoscenti. Today, both are wearing their own collaboration with artisan Japanese sock-maker Chup; indeed, 002 recently travelled to its small factory a couple of hours outside Tokyo to admire its low-gauge stocking frame machines. “If beautiful is the word,” he recalls, “it was a beautiful sock factory.”
Towards the end of our conversation, 001 and 002 hand me a black box containing a pair of socks bearing the words “no regrets”, and a black card. I have been ordained as an honorary member – number 047 – and I’m delighted. Now, I have no idea whether or not women have secret fashion clubs, but, if so, I imagine they are very, very different. Whenever I try to explain the concept of Sock Club London to female friends, they scoff at me. ”What’s wrong with you men?” they gasp, rolling their eyes in exasperation. Nonetheless, there’s something about this Sock Club that touches me deep inside. There’s a feeling of warmth and community and comfort; the emotional comfort of belonging, coupled with the physical comfort of a nice woolly sock. What could be better?
Sock Club London’s thoughts on sock etiquette
On shoes and no socks …
001: “There’s a rule that covers this one. Invisible socks are fine, but no socks? It’s an on-the-spot fine, it’s a strong talking-to, and it’s probably a stand-up argument. Brogues, jeans, no socks: we have to stand up and really try to help people see the error of their ways.”
On socks and sandals …
001: “I’ve seen a lot of Japanese guys wearing the Birkenstock covered sandal with Chup socks and they look fantastic. Socks and sliders, which was a big look this summer, can work. Socks and open-toed sandals, reminiscent of how my father used to dress, should be shunned.”
On white socks …
002: “With a pair of black brogues and suit trousers? Never.”
001: “This is where the club might rupture; I think if you’ve got a pair of crisp, clean white socks on, it can be a killer outfit.”
On how often you should change your socks …
001: “At least once a day. At least twice if you’re going out on an evening adventure.”
002: “You have to wear two different pairs a day, don’t you?”
On how not to lose your socks in the washing machine …
001: “The best thing you can do is hand-wash your socks. Don’t put them in a tumble dryer, either, air-dry them. And don’t roll them together, just keep them flat and fold the top.”
On the best sock brands around the world …
Ayame from Japan; Chup from Japan; Corgi from Wales; Happy Socks from Sweden; Missoni from Italy; Pantherella from England; Stance Socks from the US.
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