Socks – the Forgotten Hero

Here’s an insights study on how a brand called Mustang Socks & Accessories changed the face of socks in the fashion and retail segment in the country. 

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Socks in the earlier days. Pic courtesy – SheepandStich

Socks have come a long way from its early origin in the 8th Century BC, where the Ancient Greeks wore socks from matted animal hair for warmth. Gradually when we moved on to the 5th century AD, socks came to be known as “puttees” that were primarily worn by the ‘holy people’ in Europe to symbolize purity; and later by 1000 AD, socks symbolised wealth but was only limited to the noble class.

By the time the knitting machine was invented way back in 1589, socks were being knitted almost six times faster than the handmade ones, however both the knitting machines and hand knitters worked alongside until the 1800’s.

Socks is more than just a humble piece of clothing, it is so much more than that. Thankfully we don’t have to wear matted animal hair anymore, but now we have a whole array of socks available right from Men’s Socks, Athletic Socks, Dress Socks, Work/heavy duty, sports socks, Diabetic/medical needs socks, Nylon/Knit Socks, Trouser Socks, baby socks, anti-skid socks and lots more.

The Lifestyle Portal researched about this humble clothing that’s often lost somewhere in the background of our wardrobe and everyday life. We thought it’s high time now we bring it forward and let it enjoy some limelight. It was during an in-depth research and study that we came up with this report which we thought ought to be shared with our readers. We picked several factors that led to the evolution of socks as a fashion statement, you’re going to love knowing more about it. Read on… 🙂

Earlier, clothing was more of a necessity and pricing was one of the major factors at a time when the purchasing power parity was limited owing to more of a single earning member of the family. Of course, over the years, this began to change which led to a far more change in the way we percevie fashion today.

Fashion was out of reach

As a generation (coming from the ’80s) in the early years our exposure was only limited to books, newspapers, magazines and the telly (that too only Door Darshan). We grew up looking up to models such as Meher Jesia and Karan Kapoor. That was probably our first brush with the fashion world but it still seemed way out of reach for us. Many of us still lived in tier 2 towns and cities and gradually over the years we moved to metros which then expanded our changing horizons about dressing, fashion and style.

Remember him? Photo courtesy - s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

Remember him? Photo courtesy – s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

What worked and what did not

What’s interesting to note is that the so-called ‘fashion trend’, or a ‘sense of dressing’ that worked in a tier 2 town, didn’t necessarily work in a tier 1 and also if we were to include the cultural ethos and the climate/ weather conditions as well. People living in smaller towns when migrated to for instance a Delhi or a Mumbai were exposed to a busier lifestyle and different climatic conditions which changed the way they dressed. The sense of dressing became gradually more thought driven rather than just putting on something and heading out for the day.

Pre-liberalisation

Before the liberalisation, we as a generation grew up to brands such as Bombay Dyeing, Garden Saris, Mafatlal, Raymonds and Vimal Suiting & Shirtings.

Pre-liberalisation was also a time when our parents would buy fabric and get it stitched into dresses, skirts and tops and salwar suits by a neighbourhood masterji while the boys would mostly get their shirts and trousers stitched from the cloth bought from brands such as Only Vimal and Mafatlal. Our sense of fashion probably ended there.

Post-liberalisation

Then came the liberalisation and that opened up the window to the world. With the arrival of cable TV it opened our visions to what the world was up to in terms of political, social and fashion.

But this was still more concentrated to tier 1 cities with the tier 2 and 3 – a long way to go – owing to electricity and connectivity issues. Over the years now some tier 2 cities have also gradually grown into tier one and even though it has been a long journey from 1990 to 2016 – our country has progressed and so has all its other industries including fashion.

And gradually over the years as the television, internet and mobile penetration that took place in India, there was no looking back as now even the best of brands are available in small towns and cities of our country.

These fashion and retail brands have ensured that they enter into every nook and cranny of the country and make their products and services available to their consumers.

How fashion as a statement gradually started evolving. Photo courtesy - nitawriter.files.wordpress.com

How fashion as a statement gradually started evolving. Photo courtesy – nitawriter.files.wordpress.com

Challenges

Pre-liberalisation, fashion usually meant it was for the bourgeoisie (wealthy) and not for the proletariat (the working class). It was something that we considered was out of reach for the masses.

For instance, denim wear among may have been mostly concentrated in the urban areas before the liberalisation, let alone in smaller towns – unless of course there were educational hubs or tourist locations like a hill station that saw a lot of traveling population from around the country and abroad that itself brought with it a sense of fashion and style to those areas.

In spite of all the progress we’ve made post liberalisation, fashion was and even now still is a personal choice and a mindset; and as a result, some products such as the socks took more time to make a stand alone mark of their own.

As it is, clothing and accessories had to break through decades of social conditioning and cultural mindset and even though it was an integral part of one’s personal dressing, socks still remain like an afterthought – just like a ‘forgotten hero’.

Fortunately, the growth of the retail segment propelled the socks industry, but sadly even now it falls under the category of an unorganised sector in the lingerie market.

When looking after your feet became important...

When looking after your feet became important…

Importance of Feet

There was a time when people never looked after their feet. They only probably looked after their face by going to facials and applying loads of makeup. But then gradually people started realising the importance of their feet because they carry around our weight all the time; and once we started looking after our feet, did the highlight also fall on socks.

Insights & creativity

It was in the early ‘80s that Naazneen Katrak the founder of Mustang Socks realised the vacuum of good quality socks in the country which could only be availed from stores that sold imported items. It was out of a personal need and a strong belief to give the country its very own indigenous good quality socks, made her launch Mustang Socks & Accessories.

Naazneen along with her co-founder Lubeina Shahpurwala decided to reinvent the entire concept of socks from its mundane existence into something more exciting and fashionable.

Founders of Mustang Socks - Naazneen Katrak and Lubeina Shahpurwala. Photo courtesy - Forbes.com

Founders of Mustang Socks – Naazneen Katrak and Lubeina Shahpurwala. Photo courtesy – Forbes.com

Strategy & Execution

One of the biggest challenges that Naazneen and Lubeina had to deal with was to change the way people perceived socks. They wanted to give the humble pair of socks a more glamorous avatar rather than just a utility item, an afterthought or just an add on.

Hence what they focused on was on revamping the socks manufactured by them with attractive colours, patterns, styles and themes. They even procured the licensing for Disney and Marvel which introduced cartoon themed socks in the market.

Apart from offering diabetic and other health socks, what Mustang endeavoured through their approach is to give a pair of socks a new lease of life and make sure it became a household name in the country.

With the help of social media, Mustang Socks & Accessories is reaching out to more and more people so that they associate a fun element to their socks and make it a part of their everyday living – whether it is at work, play or home.

Socks as a fun fashion statement

Socks as a fun fashion statement. Photo courtesy – Mustang Socks

Results

Today the consumers are more open to new ideas when it comes to personal style and dressing; in fact it is heartening to see that items such as the socks, scarves and ties are making their presence felt in the market and the audience are more accepting of it as a part of a dress code and a fashion statement.

Mustang Socks & Accessories having clocked in almost three  decades in manufacturing high-quality socks across all age groups and can definitely vouch for the receptiveness of the market that has gone up in the past few years.

Socks as a mindset

During our research we’ve spoken to quite a few people between the age group of 27 – 60 years and their first memories of buying and wearing socks were mostly during their school times where their parents would buy from the local retailers or school suppliers and now as they’ve grown up to be adults, they’re the decision makers and now buy branded, high end socks for themselves and for their families.

While many were open to the idea of online shopping for socks, but most of them preferred to go to a store and see the material themselves before buying a pair of socks.

So even while the colour of our socks were limited to black and white owing to our school uniforms, as adults we’re gradually opening up to the ideas of wearing colourful socks to match or compliment our attire.

Socks and your everyday play friend. Photo courtesy - Mustang Socks

Socks and your everyday play friend. Photo courtesy – Mustang Socks

As we started climbing up the social ladder and our purchasing power increased, we started going out for treks, holidays, gym and walks – so did our need for socks go up.

Today, consumers are more aware about their expectations from a pair of socks – that it should be well fitting, durable, extra cushion, sweat absorbing, 100% cotton and perfect size.

Interestingly, though having asked them if they’d like to receive or gift socks, most of them feel that it is culturally and socially unacceptable because socks are a personal wear, and gifting socks could have a negative connotation of smelly feet, but with the arrival of Christmas and for novel gifting ideas, some felt that if the patterns are fun, cute and of high quality and branded, then why not.

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