Japanese loose socks (ルーズソックス)

Last month I wrote about how I tied my shoelaces in different ways at school as a minor act of rebellion against strict school rules. I am of course not the first, nor will I be the last, to do something like that.

A huge fashion trend in the 1990s originated from Japanese schoolgirls challenging strict school uniform policies. This was the loose socks trend that was massive in Japan in the mid to late 1990s. The trend even caught on outside of Japan, first in other Asian countries and then to countries further afield. Akira Tokita, president of the sockmaker company Browndoll is credited with starting the loose socks phenomenon. At the height of the fad, Akira’s company sold 600 000 pairs of loose socks in 1996 alone. That’s a lot of socks when you consider that this was a trend mainly worn by teenage girls.

Loose socks, as the name suggests, are baggy, slouchy socks. The socks are bigger and wider than normal socks in the ankle and calf area to achieve the slouchy look. When worn by a girl with big calves, these socks give the illusion of thinner legs.

The trend started with Japanese high school girls rebelling against school uniform rules. These schoolgirls started shortening the hem of their school skirts and wearing loose socks with their shortened skirts. Wearing loose socks with short skirts made the girls look taller with longer, thinner legs. Some schools reacted by banning loose socks altogether. Schoolgirls would get around this ban by wearing normal school socks and having their skirt at an appropriate length while at school. But once school was over and they were out of school grounds, these girls would put on loose socks over their normal socks and roll up the waistband of their school skirt to shorten it.

While this trend was started by Japanese highschool girls, it was soon copied by middle school girls seeking to emulate their older schoolmates. It even spread to older young women who had left school. This look (loose socks with a short, pleated skirt) is one that is strongly associated with Japanese schoolgirls. Comic book characters in Japanese manga are commonly depicted wearing this look.

Shih Yen recreates a Japanese schoolgirl look from the 1990s, with loose socks, Mary Jane shoes, short, pleated skirt and a Hello Kitty handbag

The most common colour for loose socks are white, and because of their origins as school socks, they also come in black or navy blue. Loose socks are worn below the knee paired with school shoes like a Mary Jane style.

The loose socks style even spawned something called super loose socks. These were socks that were so big, loose and heavy that they needed a special glue just to keep them up around the calf area.

Just like with all fads and crazes, the loose socks trend has had its day and had disappeared by the early 2000s.


How to wear jeggings when you don’t look like a supermodel

I have come very late to the jeggings trend. Jeggings were a huge trend in 2010 and 2011, but it’s waning now. Jeggings come from the words jeans + leggings.

I was given a pair at the height of the jeggings trend, but when I tried them on, I found them very unflattering, accentuating every bulge. I’ve never worn them again, apart from that one time just to try them on. So I had the mistaken belief that only people who are stick-thin, like fashion models, can wear this trend.

I have since learnt that there are 2 types of jeggings. The first type is made of stretchy leggings material while the second type is made of denim or actual jeans material. It was the former type that I first tried on and found unflattering, but I can work with the latter type.

Jeggings can be unforgiving of all kinds of issues like ‘camel toe’ problems in front and rear end problems at the back, but you can hide them. Wear jeggings with long tops that are long enough to cover areas you feel self-conscious. For a dressier look, pair jeggings with a short, sheer dress.

Shih Yen wears jeggings with a short, sheer dress and L.A. gear shoes.

The good thing about jeggings is that they can make legs look longer and thinner. Wear jeggings with high heels if you want to give the illusion of even longer legs. Knee-high boots are very flattering when worn over jeggings. Jeggings also look good with ballet flats. If skin tight is not your thing (because let’s face it – skin tight anything is a difficult style to pull off), you could buy jeggings that are one size bigger than your usual style. When worn, these slightly big jeggings will look more like skinny jeans instead of skin tight jeans.

I wasn’t a fan of jeggings at the start and I don’t like the elastic waistband on jeggings. I think elastic waistbands on non-exercise wear should only be worn by senior citizens or people aged over 65! But I have given jeggings a chance and I am now the (slightly surprised) owner of 3 pairs of jeggings in different colours and sizes.

House slippers and the culture of taking shoes off indoors

Last month I wrote about taking part in a biomechanics research study where the researcher complimented my footprints, saying that they were beautiful because all my toes could be clearly seen and were not squashed together. I have my own theory on why my toes have formed in this manner, and my theory is that it’s because I grew up in a country where everyone takes their shoes off when they are inside the house. Growing up, I was always barefooted at home, and I think this allowed my feet to grow freely and naturally. My feet were not crammed into tight shoes. Even at school, especially at lower primary school level, we took our shoes off before entering the classroom. This was probably because there’s a lot of sitting on the floor at primary school.

Taking shoes off indoors is not uncommon. It is the culture in Japan, Korea and all across South East Asia. You know a culture is serious about removing shoes indoors when there’s a special area in a house or building just for taking shoes off. In Japan, it is called ‘genkan’ (玄関) while in South Korea this area is called ‘hyeon gwan’ (현관) It’s a small area just inside the front door where people take their shoes off before entering the house or building. There may also be a shoe box or rack in this area to put shoes in. In Japan, this box is called ‘geta bako’ (下駄箱) which literally translates as geta-box, because in the past it was the traditional Japanese geta that would have been placed inside the box.

Even now, I feel a kind of psychological barrier at the front door of any house, and if I wear my shoes inside a house, I have to mentally make myself cross that barrier. When my friends from other cultures put their feet up on their bed or other furniture while wearing outdoor shoes, I cringe internally. And picture them stepping on dog poo or something and then smearing it on the bedspread or sofa!

After removing shoes at the door, there are a few options when indoors- going barefoot, wearing socks or wearing house slippers. Traditional Japanese houses have tatami mats on the floor, and these days some Japanese houses may still have a tatami room. Even house slippers are not allowed on tatami mats because they can spoil the mat. So bare feet or socks only when entering a tatami room.

It was the start of ‘chu seok’ (추석) yesterday. This is a Korean harvest festival, kind of like a Korean thanksgiving. It is celebrated at mid-autumn on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Since it is ‘chu seok’, I thought I would write about Korean house slippers, which are also called ‘sil nae hwa’ (실내화) or literally ‘room indoor shoes’.

Shih Yen wears Korean house slippers

These house slippers were a gift from a South Korean friend and they are made in Korea. They look a bit like short socks, and at first they look way too small for me. But to my surprise, they stretched to fit me. These slippers are comfortable to wear around the house, and house slippers help keep the floor clean.