Realising that he was 15 minutes late to work the other day because he couldn’t find a matching sock despite a collection of more than 60 pair, area man Bob Frapples, 52, is sorting through his sock drawer. Frapples, a research scientist with the Institute of Applied Institutional Applications in Hamburg, Germany, says the task he faces is an immense one.
“Look, maybe I’m going fucking colour-blind in my old age, but I just can’t tell them apart anymore,” he laments. ”I mean, look at these things. One’s blue, the other’s dark blue, that one’s black… you know, I’ve got better things to do that piss around on my day off sorting through socks.”
Frapples is not alone. In a recent poll, 65% of German men said they gave up finding a matching pair the other day and actually put on their Birkenstocks without socks, a major male fashion faux pas in a country that leads the developed world in awkward ways to dress.
Another survey found 35% of men would rather spend money on new socks rather than spend the time sorting through their old ones.
Specialists in the field of household psychology pin the problem on the pervasiveness of technology in modern life.
“People just figure they’ll be able to download some app for this sort of thing one day like they do for everything else, so they let their socks just sit there in the drawer, forever unsorted and ultimately unused,” said Bill Melater, Ph.D. ”Then they find they’re neglecting other household tasks, like getting around to doing the laundry or finally fixing that damned handle on the bathroom door that never seems to close properly.”
Economists have also picked up on the trend and say the growing under-utilisation of sockage in the market might be countered by external forces that will determine whether socks in the future get sorted.
“You might actually begin to entertain the idea,” said Gudeggs Getlaid of the London School of Economics, “that it is starting to look like the initial stages of a budding appearance of a growing societal trend wherein market demand for a strategic fit in the realm of sock drawer logistics is determined not by whether one ends up with two socks that actually match, but…oh… Oh shit. I’m terribly sorry. Where was I?”
iPhone developers have picked up on the trend. One group is now working on an app that could revolutionise the world of sock drawers and free up untold millions of hours now wasted on sorting.
“Alls ya godda do is point the iPhone at your sock drawer, and the app’ll do the rest, OK?” said an excited app man at some Starbucks somewhere. “The app will analyse the colours and sizes, then suggest paired matches on your screen.”
Frapples says he couldn’t be arsed with the iPhone or experts for that matter as he spreads his drawer out over half his living room. An organised man, his socks are now neatly ordered one beside the other according to length, not colour.
“That breaks it down a bit,” he said on a break for lunch three hours in. “I figure with my system in place, I’ll be done before it’s time to head to work tomorrow morning. I’ve already warned my wife that the living room’s a construction zone ’til the job’s over.”
Frapples has brought in extra lighting from neighbouring rooms to help out in the task. ”That helps to tell the difference between dark blue and dark-blue-but-not-that-dark-blue-could-be-black-for-all-I-know,” he said.
So far his method has resulted in about 20 matches.