They say that we as a species have more in common than things that divide us. One of the things that everyone has in common, no matter where they live, is the basic need to cover up and protect our feet from rough surfaces and inclement weather. There is, therefore, a very good reason why socks, tights and other feet and leg coverings are popular, wherever you are in the world.
Despite this singular, universal need, however, there is a huge variation in sock fashions depending on which continent you live on or are visiting. Much of this is based on weather conditions and ways of living. For instance, the sunnier climes of Oceania will encourage people to go with lighter styles of footwear than their brethren based in the frozen Arctic might choose. Here is the lowdown on global sock fashion, continent by continent…
Thanks to the changeable weather in many European countries, there is a huge range of footwear that can be deemed ‘acceptable’ to wear. Many Europeans take their fashion very seriously indeed, making a lot of effort to match outfits, right down to the socks, shoes and accessories. Business clothing tends to be quite formal, with dressy occasions a great excuse to dust off the bolder, designer outfits, jewellery and bags. Check out some of the styles of socks in Europe on the catwalks of prestigious fashion events, such as London Fashion Week, Berlin Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week.
Socks in North America don’t differ in fashion all that much from Europe; however, the different US states tend to favour different sock styles according to the weather, national pastimes and overall vibe. California, for example, will be home to more people who are willing to take risks with their fashion, opting for bold designs and funky socks to ensure they are noticed right down to their toes. Washington fashion can revolve more around power dressing to reflect its status as the political hub of the USA, so darker, more serious socks are favoured. As you move further north, the colder weather dictates a move to chunkier knits and warmer materials to ward off the effects of the wind and snow.
While many South American countries have moved away from the more traditional, Latino styles of dress, the vibe is still present in many modern clothing choices as contemporary designers remain influenced by the vibrant colours and styles. The generally hotter weather calls for lighter materials to be worn and this is also the case when it comes to socks. Latino-style clothing can also feature multiple textures and details, such as embroidery, so socks in South America often follow suit.
Asia has a rich and colourful culture that can often be reflected in the sock designs found across the continent. Designs featuring dragons, animals, flowers and other aspects of Asian folklore can be widely found on socks in Asia. Many Asian people embrace the very latest ideas in technology, fashion and design and this is also apparent when it comes to the different types and designs of socks available. Japanese anime and manga have had a strong influence on many designers too. Conversely, business is often taken extremely seriously, so serious, sensible socks are preferred when conducting meetings and closing deals.
According to the UN, Oceania comprises 14 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and others. All places known for hours of sunshine during the spring and summer months. Many people chose not to wear socks to help keep their feet warm, however, this can expose the skin to such threats as insect bites, nettle stings and even attacks from snakes and other undesirables underfoot. Light socks are popular in this region that help keep the feet cool, especially those that can wick away sweat and moisture as you walk. Casual ankle or crew socks that go well with sandals, or ‘sliders’, as they are known out there, are also popular when it comes to picking out socks in Oceania.
Antarctica and the Arctic
While no people live permanently in Antarctica, between 1,000 and 5,000 people are routinely based at science stations on this frozen continent, carrying out important research and conservation roles. They live in close proximity with the native penguins, seals, insects and plants that are biologically capable of surviving in extreme cold. We don’t have quite so much protection as some of these hardier species, so warm clothing is an absolute must, including the warmest socks possible.
Visitors and explorers wanting to wear the right socks in Antarctica and the Arctic are advised to pull on multiple pairs of socks to add insulation between the layers to keep the feet safe from conditions like frostbite and to minimise blisters as they trek through the snow. The main pair of socks in the Arctic should have decent thermal properties and be specially designed to be worn in extreme weather conditions, with subsequent pairs adding warmth and comfort, e.g. merino wool.