Archive for August 22, 2008

Sock it to Me

The International Herald Tribune’s got a great article on Japan’s love of socks, particularly the five-fingered sock, which looks like a glove for your feet and lets you waggle your toes individually. This style supposedly helps boost circulation. It doesn’t hurt that it’s extra comfy, too.

Like many things in Japan, five-fingered socks have a history dating back to the 16th century Edo Period: in a sense, they evolved from tabi, which are split at the big toe for use with wooden sandal clogs (think elevated flip-flops) worn with kimonos. Today, tabi with vinyl or rubber soles are popular among martial artists, as well as traditional dancers or theater performers, because they help grip the stage.

Why do socks matter? ‘Cause when you’re in Japan you’ll be strutting your stuff in them more often than you might expect. It’s customary to remove your shoes when visiting someone’s home, certain restaurants, shrines, classrooms or traditional inns, so there is definitely an incentive to make sure your socks A) match B) are neat and clean C) are cute or trendy, depending on the situation.

Since 2005, a Kyoto-based shop called Sou Sou has been reviving the tabi look, with a funky modern edge. (The slip-on mules are my favorite.) For cute, colorful, constantly-updated selections, take a look at this Japanese Sock Shop.

So kick off your shoes, but check your socks first!

Sarah S.

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August 22, 2008 at 9:55 am 3 comments


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