Time to Change Our Socks?

It’s the morning after the day before and across the globe odd socks wait to be reunited with their rightful pairs.

Until last summer, when the glorious Baby Scribbles grabbed an extra chromosome in his rush to join us, I’d *never heard of World Down’s Syndrome Day so I really wasn’t quite sure what kind of occasion to expect.

As the day neared, my Twitter feed bubbled with excitement. Every second tweet contained phrases like #RockYourSocks #LotsOfSocks or #OddSocks. Brightly-stockinged feet blurred as I scrolled. My phone pinged with lovely messages from friends and family telling me they had their odd socks at the ready.

And yet…

On the morning of WDS2021, I had serious misgivings as I rummaged through the sock drawer looking for a likely ‘unpair’. There were plenty of contenders, including socks that had become odd organically. (I’m optimistic that the missing pairs might appear.) In the end, though, I went with my heart and pulled out a pair of resolutely-matching socks.

Rocking your socks for WDSD is a fun, light hearted and accessible idea and I love that. But I must be honest: I hate everything about odd socks. Odd socks look and feel wrong. Foolish. Like wearing colours or patterns that clash, wearing mismatched socks makes me feel ridiculous. (In a slightly unfair comparison, Malvolio’s yellow stockings spring to mind.) It’s fair to say that while I have an immense sense of fun, I don’t want to be a figure of fun.

Neither do I want that for my son.

Particularly not when even some well-meaning people believe the odd sock campaign stems from the inability of people with DS to match their own socks. Society’s knowledge and understanding of DS is straight out of the ’80s – and we all know those attitudes and the words that come with them. If we truly want to change perceptions about DS, we have to be so careful not to perpetuate these myths.

Apart from a few deliberately quirky friends who wear odd socks as a statement, most people I know wouldn’t dream of not matching their socks, particularly if they want to be taken seriously. And after mismatching their socks for WDSD, people will (possibly with a sense of relief) go back to ‘normal’ and dress themselves ‘properly’…

Shouldn’t we aim instead for a campaign that allows people to be true to themselves at the same time as making the space to embrace the DS community? Can’t we have a campaign that doesn’t make people with DS look foolish – even in fun? I want a message that says people with DS can be taken seriously; that they have potential.

I also want a message that says aligning yourself with the DS community is 100% compatible with your ordinary life, not something quirky and slightly awkward that you do one day a year.

I’m not sure what such a campaign would look like but, if we’re sticking with the sock theme, someone suggested using three matching socks. It makes more sense: the extra chromosome isn’t ‘odd’; it’s simply another copy. A third matching sock, worn in any way that takes your fancy feels like a more appropriate nod to the science and the magic of Down’s syndrome: extra not odd. 

Now, about those odd socks…

Perhaps it’s time to pair them up.

*That in itself is worthy of another blog.

One thought on “Time to Change Our Socks?

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