If someone asked me to demonstrate putting on a pair of pants right now, I’m not confident that I wouldn’t look like a toddler who has just learned the basics of dressing oneself. And yet another finer detail of the process haunts me, too: Would I already be wearing socks? Or would I put on the socks afterward?
As it turns out, this is a divisive step, with staunch advocates on either side of the equation. “What animal puts them on before?” one of my Instagram followers responded to a poll I posted there on the topic (FWIW: 62 percent said they put their socks on after putting on pants.) “It’s like using body wash before shampoo,” wrote another, giving me another question to think deeply about before I fall asleep tonight.
I’m pretty sure I put on my socks after I put on pants — unless it’s wintertime. Not only am I more likely to be wearing longer, bulkier socks that would be difficult to pull up my legs if I already had pants on, but you’ve gotta keep your little tootsies warm on that cold floor!
There’s actually some science to support my reasoning. Our feet, like our hands, have a ton of blood vessels and little muscle mass. While much of our body retains heat through muscle, the ends of our extremities retain and release heat through the constriction of blood vessels. But because these blood vessels are connected to nerves in the brain pertaining to our perception of body temperature, we might feel more acutely aware of the temperature of our hands and feet than other parts of the body. And so, if we put on socks when we’re cold, warming up our feet will help us feel like we’re warming up the rest of our body.
When it’s hot out, we might want the opposite effect, which is why we might wait to put on our socks. Further, our reasons for wearing socks at all might change per the season. Winter socks are meant to keep us warm, but summer socks are meant to absorb moisture and keep us from being a sweaty, disgusting mess. For that reason, we associate summer socks more with the act of putting on shoes, or the last step in the dressing process.
That’s why I think if I had conducted my survey in the middle of winter 2020, the results would have been different — with 62 percent probably saying that they put on their socks before their pants. Or maybe, like much of our lives, we’re really just out here doing shit with absolutely no explanation — like washing our hair before washing the rest of our body.