Decline And Fall In The Sock Department

The British exhortation, “Pull your socks up!” means roughly: get your act together, shape up. Its origin is probably the fact that school uniform usually involved long socks that came almost up to the knee. The consequence of this, and almost certainly the intention behind it, was that the socks slid back down towards the ankle. Devices such as garters to prevent this were, of course, against regulations. This Decline of the Sock happened every few minutes, except for the lucky few who seem to have been born perfectly-groomed, members of that subspecies (Homo sapiens elegans) who can sleep in a hedge and still look like fashion models.

Which is a clue to one reason for the design of the perpetually falling socks: only such artificial obstacles can show who really has what it takes in the grooming league. The socks are thus vaguely similar to what evolutionary biologists call a Zahavi Handicap, when animals labour under apparently pointless anatomical or behavioural burdens in order to demonstrate that they can in fact bear them and are thus superior genetic specimens. In the school case the test is imposed from the outside, and the object is to identify at an early age those superior schoolboy and schoolgirl specimens who possess the magical quality of effortlessly overcoming extreme grooming obstacles. These are the future leaders of society, or at any rate its celebrities. Concomitantly, the losers are also identified and made to know their place.

Another benefit of this set-up was that it maximised emotional utility for adults, who in the old days could command not only their own children and professional charges, but any child met on the street, and indeed, frequently behaved on said streets like sergeants-major inspecting recruits for grooming infractions. That is, it gave them enjoyable opportunities for domination of the weak.

Posted on February 6, 2011 at 12:43 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: PARENTAL STATUS TECHNOLOGY, Hugo Grinebiter's Schooldays

2 Responses

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  1. Written by James Beck
    on February 7, 2011 at 06:46
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    You did have some problems, didn’t you? I would be interested to know whether, after a lifetime of vigorous walking, you still have that problem. I, happily, never did. My socks have always stayed up. I was hardly a fashion plate, but I was athletic.

  2. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on February 7, 2011 at 09:30
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    Got a trick knee, see previous piece. I can’t tell about the long socks, I have hardly worn them since, or short pants. But I am definitely one of these people whom Jeeves could dress in the finest Armani/Gucci, and before I reached the door I would look as if I’d slept in a hedge. Don’t see why a lifetime of hiking would affect that.

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