Uni Watch’s coverage has always been very sock-centric. Hell, our logo is a stirrup! Until now, though, I don’t think I’ve ever written about cycling socks. But the situation that’s been developing with the American cycling team EF Education-EasyPost is weird enough to merit a full post.
Here’s the deal: EF’s current kit includes a darker-colored sock for the right foot and a lighter-colored sock for the left foot (as shown above). This led to the creation of an amusing Twitter account devoted to tracking which team members were wearing the socks in their proper configuration and which members were getting it wrong. The Twitter feed, which made liberal use of the hashtag #leftlightrightbright, was itself the subject of some media coverage.
All in good fun, right? But then things got more confusing, as longtime Uni Watch reader Bernie Langer summarized in Sunday’s Ticker (which I realize you may have missed, because we have fewer readers on the weekends):
In all the press photos from when the kit was released, the lighter-colored sock was on the left, matching the shoulder panels on the jersey. However, it turns out that the team has two different types of socks — regular socks, and aero socks. The aero socks actually have “L” and “R” designations labeling the correct foot – and they’re the opposite of what was shown in the press photos. American Neilsen Powless finished second in a stage of an early season race [on Saturday]. The Twitter account noted his socks were on backwards:
Put them the right way around and it’s an easy win.
— Are EF’s socks on right? (@efsockcheck) February 4, 2023
Powless replied that no, he went by the L/R markings on the socks [with an excellent use of “actually”! — PL]
So that was the situation as of Sunday. Now Bernie Langer is back with an update:
Our mid-calf national nightmare is finally over. The team issued a blog post settling the subject, saying that according to the kit’s designer, there is no right or wrong way to wear the socks. The designer states: “For us, the design journey doesn’t stop once the kit has been produced. We want riders and fans to interpret the kit in their own way and bring a little personal style to the bike. We want to give people the chance to express themselves in how they dress, all through a pair of socks.”
For a uni-watcher, this is very disappointing, as it gives us one less detail to track. It also adds to the troublesome trend throughout the uni-verse of socks not requiring the same level of standardization as the rest of the kit.
However, the blog post has two interesting details. First, it turns out that the team’s socks were also mismatched last year, which escaped everybody’s notice. The mismatch last year wasn’t based on color — rather, the team’s name, “EF,” was split between the socks, so one had an “E” and the other had “F.” Since branding was involved, left-right compliance was strictly enforced. (This year’s socks both have “EF.”)
Second, team member Łukasz Wiśniowski has his own system, according to the blog post: “He leaves it to the weather. If it’s raining, he goes light-left and bright-right, and if it’s sunny he’ll wear bright-left and light-right.”
Even if you don’t follow or care about cycling, this story strikes me as very emblematic of where the uni-verse is at these days. First, as Bernie points out, it speaks to the diminishing status of socks as full-fledged uniform elements — not just in cycling but in most sports. (Thank god for hockey!) Moreover, the kit designer’s comments about wanting riders to “express themselves” and “bring a little personal style” to the proceedings is very much in keeping with the increasing focus on the individual as opposed to the team, something we see throughout the sports world these days.
Meanwhile, the heroic Twitter-er who tracked the pink socks has now been pink-slipped:
While your job performance has been excellent, unfortunately your position has been made redundant. Please collect your belongings and security will escort you from the building.
— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) February 8, 2023
Perhaps we should hire him to track NFL socks.