Socks are a common holiday gift in our family. In fact, Theresa’s daughter teased us after she asked each of us for gift ideas for the other and we both, with complete sincerity, suggested socks first and foremost. I really hope she gets us socks.

Socks, after all, can be all the things: Cute, cozy, funny, useful, and inexpensive. And while we do default to donations in lieu of gifts for the most part, a new pair of socks can be a nice way to still have the fun of gift wrapping and unwrapping.

Despite this being a many-years tradition, I’ve learned some new things about socks during this season’s shopping. Or, some old things were, for whatever reason, far more apparent to me. Including:

  • Men’s novelty socks are in the cool color range except when featuring a logo (like Bubble Yum), certain pop culture characters (like Sponge Bob) and unavoidably pink food (like bacon).
  • Men’s novelty socks are crew cut.
  • When I clicked on the filter for knee-high men’s socks on one popular sock-centric site, I got a large and aggressive pop-up that was just a giant grey box bearing a circle with a slash through it and
  • No image written across the bottom.
  • Women’s novelty socks cover the rainbow, may include flowers unironically, and range from tiny little sock cozies that end before the ankle all the way to knee-ticklers – and even some that go right on past the knee.
  • All of this goes right out of the window, though, if the socks are coded as For Athletes. If, and only if, the sock is meant to cover a shin-guard or protect skin whilst sliding into bases or other such manly things, then the knee-high sock may be for men and may be any color or pattern under the sun.

When we sent pairs of socks to my nephew and his girlfriend, one pair was clearly coded for women (knee-high and featuring sassy, multi-cultural women inspired by Rosie the Riveter with, directly enough “Women’s Socks” written on the label) and the other was implicitly coded unisex with their neutral color palate and simple inscription of, “Maybe cussing will help.” (Given that they’re both in the same intensive undergrad program, I’m guessing they’ve tested the theory of cussing helping many, many times.) I opted not to wrap them or further code them; they just got dropped into a box with a Penzeys box of spices and some crinkle filler salvaged from a gift sent to us.

Who will wear which socks? Knowing them, they will either share or decide based just on who likes what. My nephew has never much been one for abiding to social norms or characterizations.

Question is: Why are the rest of us?

Where are gender norms keeping you from your fullness?
Where are they keeping you from the fullness of your relationships?

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