Since the dawn of humanity, or at least since the invention of socks, this problem has plagued mankind. Why is it that no matter how many socks you have, how careful you are to transfer them directly to the hamper when you take them off, directly to the washer/dryer when they need to be cleaned, directly to the drawer once they are clean, you eventually end up with fewer socks than when you started? Why is there always one single sock that’s a completely different color or pattern or shape than all of the others? I will attempt to address this today, and bring to an end an age of indecision and torment in the human psyche. What follows are a series of theories and explanations. Perhaps you will find your solution in then. I certainly hope so.

Theory #1: Evolution

We’ve certainly all run into the situation where not only have half of some of your matched pairs disappeared, they’ve been replaced with other socks which you’ve never even seen before. Where the hell did this sock with the mauve stripes and the diagonal pleating come from? And what the hell happened to the left (or is it right?) of your favorite socks, the ones with Abraham Lincoln giving Jefferson Davis the finger on them? Why is it that you have six socks with different-colored stripes on them? Evolution, obviously.

Take a look at some of Nature’s weirdest creatures, like your average chameleon or shapeshifter. These guys can change their appearence to fit a new situation. It’s a survival reflex. Long ago, your socks realized that if they continued to match and look like socks, you’d keep wearing them, develop large holes in the heels, and eventually throw them out to live the rest of their lives in obscurity. They don’t want this. They want to be thrown out now, so that they can live out their days at the dump, amongst the old cardigans and G. I. Joes. So they change. They develop new shapes and patterns, ones that they noticed when you left them on the floor next to old Victoria’s Secrets and Soldier of Fortunes. They’re hoping that you’ll say, Feh! I don’t need this sock with the neon-green hatching and the googly eyes at random intervals! and throw them out. But they can only effect this transformation in the presence of water and then heat, which (as everybody knows) are to socks like toxic waste in old movies is to people.

Defensive tactics:

The only really good ones is to wash your socks by hand, one at a time, to ensure that they don’t change while you’re not looking. Make sure to air-dry them in a prominent location. What you’re relying on here is the fact that socks are extremely shy and will not shapeshift in the presence of humans.

Theory #2: Sock gnomes

You guys know gnomes. The little bastards are only dependable for one thing, and that’s mischief. Gnomes are like a tiny version of the Mafia: they insinuate themselves into everything, usually without the general populace knowing. Here’s the general routine for a sock gnome:

  1. At Gnome Central, locate your washer and dryer on the GSC (gnomish supercomputer).
  2. Using advanced technology and the RFID tags previously placed into your socks at the factory by RFID gnomes, who are also everywhere, the gnomes pick out socks that look appealing and will sell for much money.
  3. Select some tools. Popular choices are grappling hooks, crowbars, and squeaky shoes.
  4. Hop in the Gnomemobile and drive to your house.
  5. Sneak in through a window, making sure to knock out dogs and/or small children with tranquilizer darts. These are removed once the gnomes are inside — they wouldn’t want people to find the darts and analyze the tranquilizers, as gnomes are also years ahead with their chemistry.
  6. Using the backdoors built into your washer and dryer by backdoor gnomes at the factory, enter the machine.
  7. Make away with socks, making sure not to take too many of the same kind — wouldn’t want to make prices fall by flooding the market with Abe Lincoln socks. Gnomes are also economics geniuses.
  8. Sell the socks, either on eBay or through the sock black market.
  9. Buy crack cocaine and Huey Lewis and the News albums. Have a fun evening.

Defensive tactics:

Set out gnome traps around your home. Clever as gnomes are, they cannot resist getting a new hat or perhaps a little blow. Bait the traps accordingly, but make sure to conceal them well. Another option is find the backdoor in your dryer and reëngineer it such that it isn’t openable from the inside. Make sure to leave a snack in the dryer; gnomes bite viciously if they haven’t had a snack in a while should you free them without the aid of very strong gloves.

Theory #3: Wormholes

It’s a well-known fact that wormholes connect many locations in space and time. What’s not well known is that dryers in particular are very good at starting wormholes. Eventually, minute enthalpic fluctuations will cause one of these to open up and fling your socks, say, six hundred years into the past. It’s thought that one of the reasons that Chaucer never finished The Canterbury Tales is that he was suddenly crushed to death by several thousand socks dropping out of his ceiling, and that his family subsequently covered up the incident, attributing his death to natural causes.

Defensive tactics:

Really, there’s nothing that you can do. Wormholes are just a fact of life. You could try following the solution to theory #1, but you’re still left with the fact that your jackass roommate will include your socks with his when he goes to put his clothes in the dryer, thinking himself to be some sort of altruist. You can also check hardware stores for an anti-wormholing kit, but these aren’t stocked at many stores because setup requires about six years of graduate-level physics as well as first aid certification. If your local hardware store does stock them, it’ll probably be next to the aluminum foil hats and phaser batteries.

Theory #4: Dark magic

As recorded in the Cthulhu documentaries, many years ago, the crazed Arab necromancer Abdul al-Hazred, in addition to compiling the Necronomicon, set into motion a number of foul magical spells, many of which still rage and swirl around today. These include the spell that makes expensive mechanical pencils jam during examinations and other inopportune times, the spell that makes people cut you off in heavy traffic, and the spell of sock redistribution.

Invoked by intoning (in ancient Hebrew) the words ani lo gar b’yam, ani gar al-gag, the spell causes evil whirlpools to form at the bottoms of clothes hampers and swap socks with a whirlpool in a different location. The spell relies on there being a number of these open, so al-Hazred made sure to have a number of crazed Arab apprentices toiling day and night repeating the spell for about a week, at which time al-Hazred discovered in a crazed Arab fit that he was himself missing socks. He ordered his apprentices to stop chanting, but it was too late. They’d already opened enough whirlpools and left enough potential ones floating around in the aether to make sure that socks would be redistributed for thousands of years to come. In a fury, al-Hazred rent his crazed Arab beard, as well as the skulls of several of his apprentices.

Defensive tactics:

Get yourself a copy of the Necronomicon and read chapters 5-9, skipping chapter 8 (Baking Delicious Cakes using the Blood of Shub-Niggurath). You should be able to cobble together enough foul, ancient spells to build a defensive grid at the bottom of your hamper. Think of it as a Faraday cage for your soul, and you’ll be on the completely wrong track, but at the very least you’ll be thinking in weird ways, which is always a good place to get started when working with fell magic.

Theory #5: Communism

I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. Kids these days are corrupted by their hip-hops and their Segways and their late-night television. Communism is a silent menace, creeping into their heads like a muskrat in the night. One day, they’ll be partaking in nice American activities, like the ice cream sociable, the sock hop, and beating their girlfriend, and the next they’ll be part of an underground vodka smuggling ring.

Communism has three central tenets, laid out by the self-appointed Comrade Marx more than two hundred years ago. These are:

Because they’ve been thoroughly brainwashed by those evil Red bastards, Commie kids will most likely begin breaking into people’s houses and stealing socks. They believe that stealing enough socks will cause Capitalism to crumble, to be replaced by a perfect society where everybody wears sandals without socks, plays the guitar, and smokes a lot of marijuana. This is quite possibly the most insidious threat to American socks that we’ve seen in the past century. If you’re not scared now, just wait until your kid comes home and announces that it’s wrong for the top 1% to control 99% of the world’s money. That’s evil crazy talk, and must be stopped.

Defensive tactics:

Making sure that your kid grows up in a communism-free environment is getting harder and harder. It’s important to make a start by either home-schooling your kid or sending him to an exclusive private school. Just make sure that at the first sign of Commie thought being taught to him, you storm into the school and demand the resignation of everybody involved. Threaten to stop paying that endowment that you started when your child matriculated. Hopefully they’ll fire Comrade Badvalues and your child can get back to getting a good education. Also, you should tightly control what forms of entertainment your child is exposed to. No music written by foreigners is a good start. Also, make sure that video games and movies should only be about wars that benefit the United States. World War II games are on the list of banned titles, as they often portray Red Commies as being on the same side as America. This is a historical inaccuracy that (unfortunately) no amount of complaining to the game companies will fix.

Theory #6: Schröedinger

Many people know the story of Schröedinger and his cat. What they don’t realize is that Schröedinger was not just trying to make a point about the irrelevancy of applying quantum-mechanical theora to a macroscopic context, he was also setting an important precedent for the disappearance of other objects. Consider the following:

  • Cars — when you go shopping, as soon as you leave the parking lot, the waveform for your car collapses. This is to say, your car simultaneously has been stolen, has been moved over three spots by car-moving gnomes, and has been pimped out by MTV.
  • Children — watch out when you put your child in a daycare center! While you go to work, your daughter is neither alive nor dead (which is to say, she’s both). So don’t be surprised if you come back to the daycare center and find that you’re now the proud father of a zombie!
  • SocksSchröedinger’s Special Theory of Socks stipulates that not only do socks in a washing machine exist in all possible states for socks, but they also exist in all possible states for other objects. Theoretically, you have a jumbo jet, the remaining members of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, and Friends, the Lindbergh baby, and God knows what else floating around in your washing machine. It’s not really that difficult how to understand that if you suddenly leap into the washing room and yell “Boo!”, the ur-laundry will suddenly have to resolve itself into socks. Which means that some of your socks will get it wrong, as the universe can be kind of slow on the uptake sometimes. So don’t be surprised when in addition to suddenly missing socks, you also have three of some socks (of which you had two only a few hours previous) and some unidentifiable objects. This is why so many theoretical physicists are also raging alcoholics.

Defensive tactics:

You know what they say — if you don’t like the weather, move. Current theory stipulates that there are probably 26 dimensions — why not consider relocating to one in the upper teens if you care enough about socks? Another option is constructing a time machine, going back to the early- to mid-twentieth century and killing Schröedinger so that he never gets the chance to invent his crazy theories and throw everything out of whack.


There are many possibilities for where socks go, but most of them are crazy. This is due to the fact that just as an old sweater takes on the shape of the person who wears it, the world that we live in takes on the shape of our craziness. We live in a world of gnomes, dark magic, crazed Arab physicists, and, of course, socks. Even if we could figure out a way to prevent socks from disappearing, would we really want to? Silliness is the spice of life.

If you really are having trouble with socks disappearing, and want some sort of easy solution, you should really check out, home of the sockscription.