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Socks and All

Parents these days can’t sit on the sidelines while their child goes berserk on a padded mushroom inside a play center. They need to get involved. And that means one thing: investing in lots of socks.

Every parent faces the same thing when they’re forced to go to an indoor play center. On top of rambunctious children getting in the way of drinking their sixth cup of coffee, the padded floors drain all socks of any color or life. It’s a known fact that parents pay good money at these child jails for their socks to look like they’ve been thrown on hot coals. And, by the time they leave, they’re practically barefoot. You’d think they’d reimburse us!

It’s unfair that parents only learn this after they’ve had a child. Prospective parents need to know what they’re getting into. I just hope at some point “sock-purchasing techniques and requirements” becomes a prerequisite in every baby book.

Within the first hour of running with my son James, my socks become hair and dirt magnets. In the last hour, I’m picking bits of raisins from my heels. I’m sure an entire documentary can be made on the buzzing life inside my socks after a sweaty session.

But they’re necessary. They help prevent warts, athlete’s foot, and looking completely out of place.

This leaves parents with two options: purchasing a department store’s worth of socks or hiring a nanny to become a proxy parent. Both cost roughly the same.

If they choose the former, parents must get the best socks in the market. These aren’t your everyday socks, the kind where six cost the same as a can of soup. These also aren’t the “good” socks that parents wear to friends’ homes -- if they ever get a chance to leave their child for an entire eight minutes. Parents need socks that are way better. Socks that are so good, they’re a shoelace away from being a pair of shoes.

Good quality socks, from my own horrifying research, cost close to a second mortgage. Sock -manufacturers know this and have exploited parents for years. In fact, I’m sure over 95% of their revenue comes from young parents.

Even more worrying, wearing cheap socks is the number one cause of social suicide amongst parents. There’s a palpable undercurrent of sock superiority going on in every soft play center throughout the world. I know because I’ve seen it.

Once, while chasing James up a tricky set of padded stairs, I found myself above a parent who noticed a hole in my sock. She gave me a look as if the exposed bit of skin had winked at her and called her a toad. I tried to explain myself ("I've been here for hours!"), but it was too late. By the time I opened my mouth, the parent had already wiggled themselves down the stairs, shocked. “What was this pauper doing in a soft play?” she probably thought.

I burned the socks when I got home.

Why does this happen? Why do parents care so much about other parents wearing good socks?

It’s simple. Parents are bored. By the time their children are old enough to go to soft play, parents are at the stage where they can’t compare strollers, cots, and fancy thermoses anymore. They need something else. Something more obvious, where they can feel superior to other parents again. Like sporting Gucci or Versace socks, though those are of the cheaper variety. Soon we'll be sourcing imported Peruvian hand-woven ones just to keep up.

It’s the new social status. I’m surprised influencers haven’t taken advantage of this yet. (If either Gucci or Versace are reading this, I’m open and available to receive free socks).

Parents have a lot to say about socks online too, and with more aggression than I expected. One forum I visited had ten pages of virulent responses to one parent’s point-of-view of being barefooted. Another questioned a parent’s mental age for asking about toe-socks. I don’t feel so bad about the last one.

Children, on the other hand, don’t seem to care what other socks children are wearing. Their brains are only concerned with picking their nose or their friend’s nose, with their toes. And we foot the bill… for their socks, anyway.

If only we shared their wisdom.

Maybe we can learn from children how to get along, accept each other for who we are, good socks or bad.

Or maybe it’s time to stop going to soft play.

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