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barcoded socks

weave human-discernable barcode pattern into sock sole
  [vote for,

This is a method to reduce split pairs of socks. It's geared towards black business socks, but I see no reason why it can't be applied to other apparently homogenous collections of socks.

The system works by assuming any individual has a limited number of sock-pairs they'd have "live" at any one time (after a few years of wear, all socks eventually die). For generosity, let's say 32 pairs is more than enough for an individual. If the manufacturer has a plain black sock and weaves 5 x 1-2cm wide coloured stripes into the sole of the sock using 2 different colours (different to the main black sock too), then it's possible to produce 32 distinct patterns. It's entirely possible for an average person to discern these 32 diffrerent patterns and thus always match pairs.

When worn with shoes (or even sandal-like footwear if the striping is not too close to the edge of the sole), all that is apparent is a standard black business sock.

Not only will the consumer of this product be able to quickly and easily pair washed socks, but if one dies it's also easy to either a) Order another single sock of the right pattern, or b) dispose of both socks at the same time. (I prefer b, as the I don't think wearing a pair of socks manufactured at different times and one probably heavily worn is a very good idea).

This system relies on the visual abilities of the consumer, however the product can be refined for visually impaired end-users too. For colour-blind consumers, the intensity of the two barcode colours can be chosen to be discernable without colour vision. For consumers with partial or total blindness, the material used for the barcode stripes can be chosen to have human-discernable tactile differences (However care needs to be taken to not reduce the comfort of wear).

rjfarquhar, Jul 07 2003

It's pandemic! http://www.sandalandsoxer.co.uk/home.htm
[thumbwax, Oct 04 2004]


       I'd like a hand-held home version of the barcoding system, so I can custom-code them. The reason is I'm boring, and all my socks are the same. But I still prefer to keep them matched, since I don't buy them all at once.
Amos Kito, Jul 07 2003

       What about serial numbers for socks?
Cedar Park, Jul 08 2003

       We've discussed socks before here, and I think I mentioned at the time that, per [Amos], I tend to buy lots of identical socks. Of course, over time they fade to different colours, so a barcode would enable me to match up what were once a perfect pair but are now a slightly ill-matched pair. The trouble is that, if they're sufficiently unmatched that I need a barcode, I wouldn't consider them as "a pair" anyway; conversely, if they're sufficiently alike in colour to be worn as a pair, the barcode's redundant. When you see a stranger in the street, you might think "That person's wearing odd socks", but you wouldn't think "I'd better remove that person's shoes and check the barcode on the soles of his socks in case they don't match". At least, I hope you wouldn't.
Incidentally, socks with sandals?
angel, Jul 08 2003

       Isn't the point of buying all your black socks the same that you don't have to match them?
dbsousa, Jul 08 2003

       //Incidentally, socks with sandals?//
The truth is finally coming out...You really do live up to your British stereotype don't you?

I like the idea, infact I would go as far as too say; Brilliant! (+)
silverstormer, Jul 08 2003

       Like it for it's elegance and blissmiss notes it is your first idea. Not shabby.   

       There is a much simpler low tech way though. Assign each family member a letter. A, B, C. Each pair of socks is a number 1, 2, 3. Each sock is a or b. Match B2a with B2b and voila. Simpler, cheaper, and elegant in it's own way.   

       Me thinks blissmiss is 'trolling' for newcomer affection/converts.   

       [blissmiss]Thanks for pointing out rjfarquhar is new though. I don't always/often check that and wouldn't have known to say ...   

       Welcome rjf... and have fun (responsibly).
thecat, Jul 08 2003

       [Amos Kito]: "I'd like a hand-held home version of the barcoding system"   

       That's an interesting possible future spin-off, but the currently proposed system involves weaving the barcode into the sock fabric, which would not be practical in the home.
rjfarquhar, Jul 08 2003

       [Ceder Park]: "What about serial numbers for socks?"   

       Some of the design parameters of the system that were unfortunately omitted in the initial proposal are:   

       * Using more colours, patterns and thinner/more numerous stripes allows for a greater range of unique sock identifiers, but reduces the ease of use and threatens the "human discernable" criteria, especially with viaually-impaired consumers.   

       * There's no real need for a large range of numbers, the goal is to keep the sock pairs unique within one person's collection, 32 pairs "online" at any given time should be more than enough (Though I have yet to conduct market research to establish what the general population's average number of substantially identical sock-pairs is).   

       Given these statements, it was decided against providing completely unique identification to socks (i.e. serial numbers).
rjfarquhar, Jul 08 2003

       [angel, Jul 08 2003]: "We've discussed socks before here..." also [dbsousa, Jul 08 2003]: "Isn't the point of buying all your black socks the same that you don't have to match them?"   

       I'll try to summarise the points raised:   

       * Socks within one pair fading to different colours:   

       One of the desired results of this system is that sock pairs will never be split and should wear equally. Eventually one or the other sock will "die" at which time the other can be disposed of (as it's probably nor far-off retirement anyway)   

       * Strangers noticing the different colour of one's socks:   

       a) The system was motivated by the problem of pairing "similar enough" black socks that upon wearing turned-out to be of differing manufacture, material, size and/or age, causing discomfort to the wearer and slowing-down the sock-sorting process. Basically I grew tired of the somewhat arduous process of trying to pair my socks after washing and sought a simpler/quicker way.   

       b) One of the assumptions of the system is that persons other then the wearer are seldom going to notice or care that the wearers black business socks are a slightly different shade. However the aim of making the markings sufficiantly central to the foot sole is to avoid observers noticing that the socks are anything other than a plain black sock.   

       * "Incidentally, socks with sandals?" (Also from[silverstormer, Jul 08 2003]: "...You really do live up to your British stereotype don't you?"   

       Personally, I prefer not to wear socks with sandals, however there's a significant number of consumers who do prefer this style and there's no real benefit to trying to change their behaviour. This would more likely backfire by exlcuding such people from the potential market. Given that designing the stripe pattern with care to avoid alienating these customers would for all intents and purposes not cost anything, there's no reason not to do it.   

       I have personally known both British (Actually Manx) and American people who prefer socks with sandals. The sock-type tended to differ on both sides of the Atlantic (Thick white sport socks in the U.S. vs. hiking socks in the U.K.), but the individuals were always certifiably "geeky".   

       FWIW, I'm Australian.
rjfarquhar, Jul 08 2003

       [thecat, Jul 08 2003]: "...Match B2a with B2b and voila..."   

       Multi-dimentional coded identifiers is indeed an interesting idea. However there's a few aspects of your proposal that I think are contra the design goals of the initial system:   

       * Using text-based identifiers - This system was intended for the widest possible market and thus was designed language-free (no symbols or charactrers that might have preconceived recognisability in anyone's mind) and clearly discernable (particularly to visually impaired).   

       * Identifying individual socks in a pair - This was rejected in the initial design because:   

       1) All the socks should be manufactured identically.   

       2) Always wearing the same sock on the same foot could possibly work-agains the goal of equal wear on each sock.   

       However, the idea of classifying a set of sock pairs to an individual family member (or at least each person sharing a washing machine or laundry basket) does have significant merit. Possible ways this could be implemented by modifying the initial proposal might be:   

       1) Use varying shades of the same colour/pattern for the stripes on an individual's collection of socks (e.g. "Brad's socks have green stripes and Steven's are blue"). This would need further modification for visually impaired consumers though.   

       2) Use transverse stripes through the barcode to classify the owner. This would result in something of a "tartan" or "plaid" effect, but should be easier to ensure usability by visually impaired consumers.   

       Regardless of what approach is taken, thought needs to be put into how many individuals can reasonably be expected to have intermingling socks and thus to determine the range of "class" identifiers needed.
rjfarquhar, Jul 08 2003

       I don't understand this. If you can match socks based on a pattern stuck to their bottom, you can match socks based on the pattern (or lack thereof) already incorporated into the garment itself. Seems redundant and unnecessary.   

       Plus you'd have to unflatten each sock to see the full pattern on the bottom (my socks usually come out of the dryer flat, along the original folds).
waugsqueke, Jul 08 2003

       [waugsqueke, Jul 08 2003]: "...you can match socks based on the pattern (or lack thereof) already incorporated into the garment itself..."   

       This system proposes a pattern incorporated into the garment itself, not an "add-on" to existing garments.   

       The inspiration was from a collection of blacks socks that are similar enough to be difficult and arduous to discern pairs, but different enough to be uncomfortable or annoying to wear "split pairs".   

       "...Plus you'd have to unflatten each sock..."   

       The initial system has the barcode stripes about 2 cm long and 4cm wide (depnds on sock size). The "data axis" (the axis along which the stripes are spread, paralles to a stripe's shortest dimention) runs between the toe and heel. Even when folded the basic systems code is visible. Some of the modifications for "classes" (i.e. owner-coding) of socks might need the sock to be at least flipped-over, but unfolding should be unnecessary.
rjfarquhar, Jul 09 2003

       // This system proposes a pattern incorporated into the garment itself, not an "add-on" to existing garments. //   

       A misunderstanding. I get that this is not an add-on.   

       I was pointing out that, unless the sock is a solid color, it already has a pattern that can be used to match. If you can match using the barcode, you can match using the sock's actual design pattern. Hence this is unnecessary.
waugsqueke, Jul 09 2003


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