I don’t wear short pants much anymore, not even on hot summer days because I don’t always have available matching socks. It’s embarrassing to walk around in public wearing unmatched socks and it might be weeks before a matching sock turns up after hiding inside a shirt that it crept into during the rinse cycle.

Or maybe it will never turn up. That’s a great unsolved mystery that the government, and even the public, fails to take seriously. If they would only do the numbers they would realize the enormity of the problem.

Each year my socks drawer loses about 10 escapees. That doesn’t sound like much, but if every American has the same AWOL sock count, and assuming a couple of ounces per runaway sock, that would come to over 200,000 tons (yes, tons) of footwear wandering around out there someplace. Wake up America!

If all those missing socks are marching through our waste water systems to our rivers and oceans, they’re creating rising underwater mountains of hosiery that will eventually become hazards to navigation. Also, the addition of over three billion sweaty socks into our seas is bound to have a harmful effect on marine life and the delicate taste of broiled tilapia.

There is also an unsubstantiated report of sighting Emperor Penguins in Antarctica wearing unmatched argyle socks. Although we knew they must have cold feet, we’ve resisted interfering with their life style which could be harmful.

This problem is not going to go away. We’re not going to run out of socks. Datang, a small Chinese town, has been nicknamed “Sock City”. Its plants turn out 8 billion pairs a year. In 2011 Datang made enough socks to provide two pair for every person on the planet. It has enough capacity to clothe the feet of the United States and British armies with sideline designs for rugged hikers and pampered pets.

Instead of casually tossing our socks into our washing machines without keeping proper inventory records, we could have them dry cleaned. It would be more expensive and time-consuming, but there would be a paper trail with receipts and accountability. Completely biodegradable socks would be good for the environment but would not reduce the runaway count.

There is one possible solution that was invented over 5,000 years ago during the Bronze Age – tribal tattoo socks. We could wear fleece-lined boots during the winters.

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