Sock aisles are bursting with bright colors, funky patterns and even a few new styles.
No longer just a functional piece of a complete wardrobe, socks express personality or make a fashion statement. Women can cover their feet in any shade or pattern imaginable. Men's socks are no longer restricted to blue, black or brown. There are patterns and hues to from which to choose. When it comes time to suit up for sports, there are socks for every activity. Sock departments feature wild styles -- velvety anklets and multicolored toe socks -- to pair with trendy shoes.
"We're seeing two different trends in socks," said Megan McGlinn, senior women's merchandise manager at J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 3311 Iowa. "We're getting highly functional socks for athletics. " The other side of what's new in socks is we're seeing a lot more fun socks."
Becoming more important
At J.C. Penney, the socks are displayed with other clothes for convenient matching and to catch the eye.
"We used to have them back in the hosiery department," McGlinn said.
Not anymore. Socks have become more fanciful and expressive, she said, and more of an impulse purchase.
The Hosiery Assn. predicts socks will be one of the season's "must-have accessories." Fashion runways are filled with knee-highs, bobby socks and sport socks to go with leg-baring fashions.
The sock section at SuperTarget, 3201 Iowa, covers three aisles. It's filled with socks covered in floral patterns, zigzags, stripes and butterflies. Some have fuzzy, fluffy cuffs while others have woven-in designs.
"We've got some pretty interesting patterns," said Melanie Bartlett, an assistant team leader at the store. She said most of the exotic socks were for the younger set -- career fashions remained sedate.
At The Casbah, 803 Mass., fashions aren't sedate, they're comfortable, said part-owner Jill Zinn.
"Comfort and function are just real, real important," she said. That's not to say that they don't have interesting socks. Customers can pick up trouser socks, ballet socks and even ones made of T-shirt material.
McGlinn said she sees pattern socks with animals, flowers and holiday prints on the market. As fall rolls around, she expects more socks that sparkle and shimmer to hit the racks.
"We're seeing a lot more colors and patterns on everyone -- even in the men's department," McGlinn said.
Patterns are picking up
Greg Easter, owner of Easton's LTD, 839 Mass., said men's socks haven't changed much in recent years, but patterns are popular.
"We sell more patterns than solids," he said. "" You don't just buy six black pair and six blue pair."
The colors and patterns men favor in socks are muted, McGlinn said, except in the young men's department. Designers are using brighter colors, she said, and the socks match the clothes.
Socks match the activity, too.
From walking to golf, there is a sock for every need. Manufacturers are making high-tech socks to go with high-tech athletic shoes. McGlinn said sport socks have specialized materials and varying thickness for the best fit and foot support for certain activities. Those can cost more than traditional sweat socks.
"The people that want athletic socks will pay extra money for a comfortable pair of socks," she said.
Just for fun
There are some foot coverings that aren't designed for a function or for convenient matching -- they are just for fun.
"We sell some pretty crazy ones," Bartlett said. "We've got some socks that look kind of look like gloves (toe socks)."
Funky socks are becoming more popular, McGlinn said, to go with the extreme footwear that is popular -- thick heels and platform shoes.
Socks don't just protect feet -- they make a statement.
"They're an accessory," Zinn said. "I think they have been for a while."
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