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Why the humble sock has become the ultimate in Christmas gifting

Pink Key Licensing’s Richard Pink on why he’s embracing the prospect of getting socks from Santa this year.

I think the best Christmas gifts are the ones that are not too married to the season itself, ones that will have a life after the festivities are over.

I have always thought ‘Christmas’ socks (you know, the ones with Rudolph or minced pies or turkey legs) are totally illogical: a present you open when you are already wearing socks, that you would only ever wear on the day you open the present – no one wants to see you whip off your current socks and change into them; by Boxing Day the moment is gone and, if you try to save them for next year, you’ll lose them in a drawer somewhere. If you do happen to find them it’ll be just in time to be wearing them to open up another pair for next year! I must be up to about eight pairs now and am trying to justify wearing them in early December on the basis that they are ‘winter NOT Christmas’ socks.

However, whereas in the past giving socks was next to only a tie in the ‘I don’t understand or care too much about you’ league of gift giving, things have changed – socks have become a statement, and this has certainly been enhanced and accelerated by the whole population’s need to wear shoes this year.

In 2020 I’ve become a lot more aware of what I’m putting on my feet on the basis that, as I’m not going out anywhere, what I’m looking down at all day has become way more important.

This year, when the population's need to wear shoes everyday has been curtailed, socks have become a statement says Richard.
This year, when the population's need to wear shoes everyday has been curtailed, socks have become a statement says Richard.

Back in my early career I had a friend who was extremely sensible and career driven but, insisted on wearing white socks to make himself (in the words of Billy Connolly) more ‘windswept and interesting’, even when he had a suit on. To me it gave him the air of someone you’d definitely want to avoid, but it’s very possible that his expressing his individuality through his socks may well have been ahead of his time (not because they were white though – that’s still ridiculous).

Socks became more important to me at 18 years of age when I was handed a pair for Christmas by my brother; to this day he tells me the look on my face was a picture, particularly the way it changed when a set of car keys dropped out of them. It may have been an old banger with no brakes but it was mine (that’s my Mini I’m talking about, not my brother). I kept the socks, too.

But socks aren’t just socks anymore. Even the briefest of scans of Christmas gifts online will give you a range of products that are ‘socks with….’ – socks with a mug, socks with a candle, socks with beer. You can get socks with your face, your wife’s face, your kids’ faces, even your dog’s face. I bought my brother a pair of socks with his own face on it – I’m not convinced he thought it was a fair trade for the car, but he made all the right noises.

The thing is, as an item on their own, or as part of a combination gift, socks are extremely adaptable, and, with the ability to personalise, they have had a huge resurgence of popularity. I’ve become a huge convert especially with the success that our licensee Roy Lowe (Roy’s Boys Socks) had with both Pringles and Kellogg’s.

I was particularly taken with the Pringles socks that fitted into a small container that, once the socks had been removed, became a handy little container for you to carry your small stash of Pringles in. However, Roy’s Boys walked off with a much-coveted B&LLA’s award for its magnificent Kellogg’s socks sold through Primark. The product was a small piece of genius – fantastic socks in a replica cereal box. We don’t know exactly what the judges’ thought process was but we can guess: the simplest idea, executed brilliantly, beautifully packaged and with a sense of humour – oh, and they sold shed-loads.

So, despite already having a drawer full, I’m actually looking forward to which socks I’m getting from Santa this year. Bring on Rudolph!

Richard Pink is md of Pink Key Licensing. He can be contacted by clicking here.

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