Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sock Glue

Some time in the late 1990s socks became an important part of the ‘look’ for Japanese high school girls. Since the start of that fashion fad socks and their size, color and manner of collapsing around the shins and ankles has been critical, determining the acceptable degree of cool, or in Japanese jargon, kawaii. The young girls achieve just the right sock look with meticulous adjustment and shaping, holding the socks in place with dabs of the indispensable sock glue.

This fashion is so widespread today it is practically second nature to the average person and most give it little if any thought—about as rare as the sight of a teenager anywhere listening to an iPod. During the time I lived in Japan it was my usual habit when riding trains to people watch. Ask any New Yorker and they’ll likely tell you it’s sometimes better than reading or napping. Careful not to be rude with open stares, I managed to learn quite a bit about the Japanese people through observation on the trains. The loose, baggy socks always intrigued me for a couple of reasons. First off, impressive as a great look that works well for the girls. Can’t say that about many school girl notions of fashion, but the drooping sock look is definitely a cool style that enhances the figure. Whoever first came up with the idea of oversized baggy white socks has a sharp sense of fashion.

Continuing to observe this style over a couple of years, it finally occurred to me that the fall of the socks around shins and ankles was anything but accidental, and was instead something not far from sculptured cotton. But how did they do it? Then one afternoon the answer was acted out in front of me. Waiting for a train a group of high school girls stood nearby laughing and enjoying the release from school. One shortened her uniform skirt by folding over the waistband a couple of turns; another applied a faint blush of color to her cheeks and another was bent over repairing the hang of her large white socks. I noticed she used something in a tube, applying it to her shins, then pressing the sock against it. Viola! The secret revealed. It was some kind of sticky substance that held the socks in just the right places.

Mmm…That could solve a now and then problem in my life too, I remember thinking. On the next visit to a drugstore I asked about this sticky stuff the school girls use on their socks, and without a blink the clerk pointed out a rack of colorful tubes, all of it the school girl requisite, SOCK GLUE. I bought the first of many tubes that day, a mild water based roll-on glue, and from that day forward never had trouble with badly made socks slipping down to the ankles. Hearing about my new and very practical discovery, a few friends laughed and swore they would never use such a thing. But the laughter didn’t stop me, and I only wish I could find some of the same stuff here to put the hold on troublesome socks.


  1. Granted, it may be my old lecherous side showing and my feelings about the beauty of Japanese women in general, but I, too, love the look of the baggy socks. Interesting view of one aspect of the high school culture of girl's clothes. Also, in an earlier post on Seidensticker, you commented on his wonderful daily life descriptions of Japanese life in his journal. Son, your descriptions of the same are as fine and are the "delicious nugget" of this ongoing blog.

  2. Wonder if sock glue would work for slipping shoulder straps. . .


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America