~ Posted by Charles Nevin, October 26th 2012

On the chance that, what with everything else, you might have missed it, I have news on socks: 75% of British men admit to wearing odd ones from time to time. I am aware that there are probably more pressing things demanding your attention, things that might also seem rather more important than the state of male British footwear. But socks do have some interesting things to say, even though I note that singing novelty ones no longer seem in vogue, even at Christmas, which is a shame, because uncles, who are always difficult to buy for, used to love them.

Wearing odd socks, for example, reveals a pragmatic, focused character, untroubled by fussy convention. Some have gone further: Einstein, you will remember, never wore socks, regarding them as a superfluous affectation and distraction. Similarly, his long hair was to spare trips to the barber. (Sonny Crockett, one of the two detectives in the "Miami Vice" television series, also wore his hair long and went sockless, but I'm unclear whether this was a tribute).

I feel, too, that the great scientist might inadvertently have missed a trick with his non-sock policy, as his quest for a great unifying theory of everything would surely have benefited from a close examination of one of the great unanswered questions of existence, viz, where do the other odd socks go? My wife has an aunt in Norway who claims never to have lost a sock simply by pegging them together before putting them in the washing machine, but I remain unconvinced it's that simple.

Socked, the company that commissioned this ground-breaking survey, also discovered that the socks of 82% of their sample were more than three years old. They offer to send up to four pairs a month to your home, obviating the odd problem by supplying only black ones. This doesn't appeal: by their sock consistency and colour shall you know them. I have made it a rule never to trust anyone who always wears red socks, for example, as it demonstrates a wish to be noticed, but only a timid, safe one.

White socks, too, tell you exactly what you're getting. Billy Carter, the late younger brother of President Carter, for instance, used to say, "Yes, sir. I'm a real Southern boy. I got a red neck, white socks, and Blue Ribbon beer." Has anyone, I wonder, checked on Mitt's sock history? Meanwhile, I will never have a better opportunity to pass on the finest definition of what the wearer should be trying to achieve, from Saki, who said of his character the Duke of Scaw: “His socks compelled one's attention without losing one's respect”.

Finally, a warning: never try to dry your socks in a microwave. This was the method adopted in 2005 by the then Exeter footballer Craig Farrell, which ended in a fire at the club's training ground. "The thing I am most glad about is that he has managed to dispel the tag that footballers are a bit stupid," said his manager.

Charles Nevin is a freelance writer who spent 25 years on Fleet Street. His recent posts for the Editors' Blog include Kings under car parks and The British way with umbrellas