40 Days, One Pair of Socks

A pair of feet wearing Mountaineering socks after 40 days with no washing

The country was in lockdown, why not wear a pair of socks for 40 days straight?

Oddly enough, the temptation is always there. Our owner, Ric Cabot, is known to test new sock styles for 30-straight days, so the bar exists. It’s not uncommon for any of us to wear a single pair for a few days – some of the traveling sales force claim they can pack less knowing they can alternate between a few pairs, depending. It’s a statement of the greatness of Merino Wool, and our superior knit – wool is naturally odor resistant, and our high-density knit will maintain a fit alarmingly well.

A Weird Time

It was late March 2020, and most of us had been sent home with an ever-extending deadline of when we might return. Fortunately, we knit socks for government agencies and were deemed an essential business – allowing for a skeleton crew to keep a few machines running.

But most of us were negotiating a new world of carving out space in our homes to do whatever we could while navigating online meetings and even more awkward video-conference happy hours in an effort to maintain human connection.

It was a weird time, for sure.

Day 5: The Experiment Begins

To come clean, this experiment was not entirely thought out. Day 1 wasn’t identified until Day 5. That’s just how long we’d gone without changing socks, and thinking back, possibly showering – more on that later.

It should be noted the socks did come off from time to time. First, we did shower; second, while winter was over, the woodpile was diminishing and Vermont Spring has a personality all its own (as of this writing, it is April 19, 2022, and we just received 5 inches of snow) – so the socks were slept in a few times, but not always.

Tweet that reads: Anyone curious about how long our thickest sock (mountaineering) can be worn without things getting a little gamy, it's currently at 5 days. Sometimes overnight. And the floors are spotless.

The Right Socks for the Job

The sock style luckily happened to be our Mountaineering Over-the-Calf Hiking sock, a heavyweight, full cushion beast of a sock. We say luckily because our heavyweight cushion socks contain the most Merino Wool content of all our styles.

A pair of feet wearing our warm and cozy mountaineering socks

Wool, Nylon, and Lycra® are the only three ingredients we use, and the 1955 (style number of this sock) is roughly 63% Merino Wool. With terry loop cushion knit throughout the entire sock it’s like an extra layer of breathable sweatpants from the knees down – ideal for putzing around the house with nowhere to go.

How It Went

As is often the case with a lark like this, confidence was high, and it was all fun and games. Even after the first week, it seemed like the experiment goal to get to 30 days was nothing to sweat (which our feet didn’t really do because the socks wick moisture quite well and are quite breathable).

Day 8

Twitter post reading: Day 8, same socks: once you put them back on and get moving around, it's all good

Day 10

With 10 days down, you get an idea of what you got yourself into. That said, the socks were not gross and outside of the occasional, almost involuntary, pull adjustment, they were not slipping down the leg. Of all the attributes, sock fit was the most secure.

Day 13

Twitter post reading: Day 13, Same Socks: could be catching casual Friday feels - not batting an eye at another 13 days though.

As your approach Day 20, you are well aware of how clean your floors are (or aren't). If you have a couple dogs and a few cats, you know it. Nothing a quick brush off or a pair of Crocs can't settle. Slippers with a pair of Mountaineering socks feels like overkill. Regardless, 30 days seemed well within reason.

Day 17

Tweet Reading: Day 17, Same Socks: Not unnoticeable. However, not unmanageable.

The first thing to notice is how the socks do want to form to your foot. We don’t knit left and right socks, but they will take shape after a few days. Alternating feet isn’t necessarily suggested, but we did, which felt a little strange at first when you slip them on first thing in the morning.

The teenage family hadn’t noticed, and being single probably helped disguise any early stages of funk. We were cocky, for sure.

Day 19 — Buddy System

Tweet reading: Day 19, Same Socks: can totally tell the socks were on opposite feet the day before. Nothing a little walking around can't settle.

By this time, we had inspired a friend in Los Angeles to do the same. Alex Farrara deserves a shout for going 30 days in the same socks around the same time. A member of the Vermont-bred skate crew The Worble, he was wearing a pair of Kelsos – a lightweight with cushion hiking sock. The buddy system in all things, we suppose.

Thinking back, we believe we gave him a few suggestions since we were several days ahead of him. As noted before, we didn’t consider how far we’d go until we were 5 days in.

While washing or rinsing the socks was not part of the equation, our first piece of advice is washing your feet, at least. While Merino Wool socks can repel much, they cannot battle what you start to realize is dead skin or dirty feet. As a result, the footbed of the sock was getting a little crusty.

Confidence had not turned to concern, but an absence of invitations to other homes was a relief.

Day 23

Tweet reading: Day 23, Same Socks: probably would have showered a bit more regularly at the beginning of all this had we known 30 days was the goal. Probably.

Ric does 30 days, huh? That was a waking thought every day at this point. He’s a stubborn guy and possibly a little nuts – unconditionally guaranteeing a sock for life was his idea in the first place.

Matching his criteria was the inspiration, but holding the line was a duty to anyone following. Why had we told the world through social media what we were doing? Our Twitter following was not so large that we were sure more than a few dozen had even noticed.

We soldiered on, finding positive affirmations anyway we could.

Day 28

Tweet reading: Day 28, Same Socks: Great morning clarity when sock selection is removed.

The Darn Tough Vermont family was well aware, however. As 30 days approached, we received word from our government sales director that she’d heard a member of the military had gone 39 days in a pair.

Ugh … a new bar. Fine.

At this point, we will not tell you the socks were not troublesome. The once-unsuspecting family was now acutely tuned in to what was going on with our feet. The lack of showering regret was accompanied by questioning long, rain soaked walks with the dogs.

Day 30 — Goal Achieved

Tweet reading: Day 30, Same Socks: skunks odors today are not these socks. They're more of a musk with notes of canine and dirt.

But … for what it’s worth, it was not terrible. Maybe the cabin-fever delirium of the lockdown was taking over, but to hell with it, 40 days at this point was a must, if not a musk.

Day 33

Tweet reading: Day 33, Same Socks: Now just flexing

At this point in the experiment, friends, family and coworkers would check in.

How are you doing? You sure about this? Did you use the cover sheet on the TPS report? You’re not going to wear those if we return the office, are you?

Then you slip into the zone – you are avoided like a pitcher taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning, alone on the bench aspiring for greatness. Or maybe that’s just because no one wants to be within a few feet of you.

Shower. We cannot stress that enough. At the very least, a warm, wet cloth wipe down every morning.

Day 37 — Vermont Stubborn

Tweet reading: Day 37, Same Socks: Are you not entertained?

For those of you that don’t live in Vermont, we are a prideful people.

Our roads are mostly dirt, our winters are dark and cold (still) and the cell service is terrible at best. Living here is a statement, although we won’t tell you that. If your born here, you can call yourself a Vermonter, but those a few generations deep will let you know they allow that.

We accept hardship as a way of life for the sake of driving highways without billboards and going about daily life where the northeast likes to vacation. Maine may be “Vacationland” but Vermont is unique. So are its people, and we wear it on our sleeves, and in this case, our feet.

Failure was not an option. The end was near, but if another cord of wood should be stacked, we are going to stack it. And not complain.

Day 38

Tweet reading: Day 38, Same Socks: The goal is 40. Microbials may have breathed the frontlines. Socks remain strong in their over-the-calf position. We will prevail.

Madness had not set in, but reality had. At this point, taking the socks off or just leaving them on was a nightly consideration.

But here’s the thing – the fit had still not given up. Maybe a little looser than Day 1, but doing what they were knit to do.

The last few nights, the socks were removed and hung out a window, turned inside out. Shaken a bit, but in the right light, that’s a little alarming. Jut FYI.

Day 39

Tweet reading: Day 39, Same Socks: Curious if social distancing was upped to 12 feet? One more day

Day 40

Tweet with picture of super stiff socks and caption: Day 40, Same Socks: Dang, the end is here. Still haven't taken them off for the day. You know what isn't easy? Faking a photo like this.

Memory is a little foggy, but at 7 p.m., April 30, the socks came off.

Results

40 Days, one pair. No washing or rinsing. To this day, they have not been washed. They hang in a closet waiting for some kind of shadow-box installation we may never get to. They are crusty – the footbeds are crisp. But they do not smell. Just buried a nose into them and Merino Wool prevails. Ah to hell with it, they’re coming back on for the end of this…

Whoa … yeah, they are stiff on the bottom. But you know what? They fit just like they’re supposed to. Who’s down to try 50? Just remember – wash your feet.

Tweet reading: Some of you don't know how nice a pair of fresh socks feel after 40 days wearing the same unwashed pair, and it shows.


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