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Sock it to me: Tales of lost socks, shoes and gloves

A cheerleader wears mismatched socks during a 2021 football game between Robinson Secondary School and South Lakes High School in Reston. For some, creating a mismatched pair is a way to salvage a lost sock. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch whirls in the waters between Asia and North America. The location of the Great Missing Sock Patch is a mystery. It may involve the multiverse. But every now and then, a fluffy survivor is spat back out into our world.

I wrote recently about the heartache and indecision of the lost sock: Is it better to throw away the remaining sock or keep it? I asked readers to chime in.

Karen Reznek of Berwyn Heights has always been quite fond of a pair of calf-length, black-with-silver-glitter socks, made from sustainable bamboo.

Alas, after she returned from a trip nearly four years ago, only half the pair came out of the laundry. Wrote Karen: “This past week, we took our first trip since then that required a large suitcase. When unpacking, I found the missing sock inside one of the interior pockets. It is now washed and reunited with its mate, which I have saved all those years.”

The District’s Cathy Winer says one way to minimize the problem of disappearing socks is to buy multiple pairs of the same style/color. “That way, you hold on to the bereft sock until another goes missing and then you pair up the mateless socks,” she wrote. “Also helps if one sock wears out before its mate. Think of it as a widow and widower finding happiness together.”

That would make a great movie. Somebody get Pixar on the phone!

Pat Minami of Olney has a more practical suggestion, writing, “I’m wondering why more (most?) people don’t do what I do: Pin the socks together before they go into the clothes hamper.”

Lois Ross of Annapolis takes another approach. “After suffering the loss of only one sock on many occasions, I have decided that, if you can’t fight it, join it,” she wrote. “So I have made new pairs out of the remaining socks. For instance, I have a pair with one sock that has dog bones on it and the other sock has elephants on it.”

Lois has five such pairs. “Neither the color nor the pattern match each other,” she wrote. “I wear them all the time. Children seem to love it.”

Joanne Madison of Springfield also counsels teaming up surviving socks, especially if they have similar colors or patterns. Or you can turn to the pros. She notes that a company called Solmate sells socks that are artfully mismatched. Though the patterns and colors of each pair aren’t exactly the same, they are in the same family.

“I have at least a dozen pairs (mostly gifts from husband),” Joanne wrote.

In my column, I mused that shoes don’t get split up the way socks do. Surely no one would hang on to a single shoe, right?

“Well, I did,” wrote Donna L. Linton of Ashburn.

More than 20 years ago, after a night of clubbing, a beloved Nine West heel — the right one — went missing, probably dropping out of Donna’s bag after she stayed at a friend’s house.

“I kept hoping my friend might find it, it was in the car, someone would play Cinderella with me,” she wrote. “I called the company, Nine West, asking if there was anywhere I could purchase these shoes, but they stopped making them.”

She started dating an “awesome guy” who was in the Air Force. He took the survivor with him when flying in C-5 transport planes to Italy, hoping to come across a shoemaker to fashion a pair.

“No success happened with that,” Donna wrote. “I just still love this shoe so much. It sits on the shelf in my closet where I see it every time I walk in. It’s still a fabulous shoe even if it lost its other half.”

Gloves are literally socks for the hands. Sometimes, they are symbols, too. Arlington’s Glenn Sugameli has always enjoyed a short poem by Danish polymath Piet Hein (1905-1996). Hein called his poems “grooks” and the one titled “Consolation Grook” goes like this:

Losing one glove is certainly painful,

but nothing compared to the pain

of losing one, throwing away the other,

and finding the first one again.

But there was more to the poem than met the eye. Hein published it during World War II, when his country was under German occupation and he was a member of the Danish resistance. The poem passed the Nazi censors, who didn’t see the hidden message.

As Danish blogger and physician Erik Christensen put it: “The Danes, however, understood its importance and soon it was found as graffiti all around the country. The deeper meaning of the grook was that even if you lose your freedom (‘losing one glove’), do not lose your patriotism and self-respect by collaborating with the Nazis (‘throwing away the other’), because that sense of having betrayed your country will be more painful when freedom has been found again someday.”

Tomorrow: Earrings!