BEIRUT: A nouvelle wave of obsession with funky socks has invaded the Lebanese community over the past few years. This phenomenon is rendered widespread among different factions of society, coloring the lives of individuals belonging to a spectrum of backgrounds and ages.
“I own more than 150 pairs of funky socks, each with a different design! I have to separate my summer socks from my winter ones and switch them each season because I don't have enough space in my drawers anymore! They bring me utmost joy at all times and they’re great conversation starters,” Christelle Al-Kayssar told Annahar.
Lebanon lingers within a socio-geographically traditional region, and the notion of funky socks is often perceived as a westernized “cool” and trendy one worthy of brow-raising. However, an authentic twist has been made to locally produced socks to glorify the cultural aspects that constitute little details the Lebanese have been raised to cherish, such as the ‘Ain, Tarbush, and Fairouz’s songs.
Thus, initiatives such as Kalsé and Sikasok, followed by many others, have taken the lead to immortalize this Arabized nostalgia through transforming their abstract designs to concrete ones and launching their diverse socks collections.
“Sikasok was born from our own desire to wear high-quality statement socks that we relate to and that we couldn’t find in the local and regional market,” Maya Rafih and Ralph Haiby, the founders of Sikasok, noted for Annahar.
Similarly, Rita Feghaly and Zahy Aoun, the founders of Kalsé, stated that their startup emanated from their eagerness to raise the voice of their local creativity and potential from the heart of Beirut as well as to spread their slogan to the whole world. The latter is to "make people’s feet smile" through producing anti-odor and anti-allergen socks with a funky twist that alters their unique crux.
Maya and Ralph also added that “humor and reference to culture is key. We want to pick up on small details of our daily life and heritage, turn them into wild patterns, mix them with vibrant colors or humoristic texts, and therefore celebrate them through our brand.”
“Cool” socks have become a platform that depicts all that adorns a Lebanese’s day. These depictions include the harsh living conditions through playing on sarcastic puns that convey a statement embedded within light humor, such as Sikasok’s “راحت الكهربا – electricity’s off” and “إجت الكهربا – electricity’s on”.
“Besides the fact that our socks are embellished with Lebanese traditional themes and patterns, we added a spoken touch from our daily lives through featuring colloquial sarcastic sayings 'لإجري – I could never care less,' our familiar expressions 'قد البحر بحبك – I love you as much as the sea,' or even our nicknames 'إمّ الصّبي/البنت – the boy’s/girl’s mother',” Rita and Zahy said.
“We created socks for every occasion and this allowed us to preserve the Lebanese cultural identity in our socks,” they added.
This fundamental piece of clothing has become a harbor that people resort to when celebrating a certain occasion. For instance, Kalsé’s “screw this year” socks was a token of standing out among the masses, especially the youths, on New Year’s Eve.
“I wear my airplane socks when I'm travelling, my army socks on the first of August, and my rainbow socks on IDAHOTB. The 'راحت الكهربا – electricity’s off' pair is good for every day,” Tarek El Masri said.
A notable feature that distinguishes these local art pieces is the heavy use of Arabic content. The latter consists of illustrations of renowned figures such as Sikasok’s Um Kulthum and Kalsé’s Fairouz song lyrics. Therefore, these pairs play a distinctive role in preserving the Lebanese-Arab identity in an entangled cultural and linguistic manner.
Funky socks also act as a raw means of self-expression that grants the person wearing them a sense of uniqueness.
“I go for floral and geometrical patterns and crazy colors. They just make every outfit stand out, and because a lot of who I am is revealed in the way I dress, they show more of my personality,” Melissa Ajamian told Annahar.
They can also be a piece of home for people abroad.
“I gift these funky Lebanese socks to my friends who live abroad, mainly in Europe and North America. I also used to wear them over there. These socks help reconnect our feet stepping on foreign soil to our roots entrenched deep in our Lebanese soil,” Masri further added.
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