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The Bizarre Saga of the EF Cycling Team’s Socks

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Uni Watch’s coverage has always been very sock-centric. Hell, our logo is a stirrup! Until now, though, I don’t think I’ve ever written about cycling socks. But the situation that’s been developing with the American cycling team EF Education-EasyPost is weird enough to merit a full post.

Here’s the deal: EF’s current kit includes a darker-colored sock for the right foot and a lighter-colored sock for the left foot (as shown above). This led to the creation of an amusing Twitter account devoted to tracking which team members were wearing the socks in their proper configuration and which members were getting it wrong. The Twitter feed, which made liberal use of the hashtag #leftlightrightbright, was itself the subject of some media coverage.

All in good fun, right? But then things got more confusing, as longtime Uni Watch reader Bernie Langer summarized in Sunday’s Ticker (which I realize you may have missed, because we have fewer readers on the weekends):

In all the press photos from when the kit was released, the lighter-colored sock was on the left, matching the shoulder panels on the jersey. However, it turns out that the team has two different types of socks — regular socks, and aero socks. The aero socks actually have “L” and “R” designations labeling the correct foot – and they’re the opposite of what was shown in the press photos. American Neilsen Powless finished second in a stage of an early season race [on Saturday]. The Twitter account noted his socks were on backwards:

Powless replied that no, he went by the L/R markings on the socks [with an excellent use of “actually”! — PL]

So that was the situation as of Sunday. Now Bernie Langer is back with an update:

Our mid-calf national nightmare is finally over. The team issued a blog post settling the subject, saying that according to the kit’s designer, there is no right or wrong way to wear the socks. The designer states: “For us, the design journey doesn’t stop once the kit has been produced. We want riders and fans to interpret the kit in their own way and bring a little personal style to the bike. We want to give people the chance to express themselves in how they dress, all through a pair of socks.”

For a uni-watcher, this is very disappointing, as it gives us one less detail to track. It also adds to the troublesome trend throughout the uni-verse of socks not requiring the same level of standardization as the rest of the kit.

However, the blog post has two interesting details. First, it turns out that the team’s socks were also mismatched last year, which escaped everybody’s notice. The mismatch last year wasn’t based on color — rather, the team’s name, “EF,” was split between the socks, so one had an “E” and the other had “F.” Since branding was involved, left-right compliance was strictly enforced. (This year’s socks both have “EF.”)

Second, team member Łukasz Wiśniowski has his own system, according to the blog post: “He leaves it to the weather. If it’s raining, he goes light-left and bright-right, and if it’s sunny he’ll wear bright-left and light-right.”

Even if you don’t follow or care about cycling, this story strikes me as very emblematic of where the uni-verse is at these days. First, as Bernie points out, it speaks to the diminishing status of socks as full-fledged uniform elements — not just in cycling but in most sports. (Thank god for hockey!) Moreover, the kit designer’s comments about wanting riders to “express themselves” and “bring a little personal style” to the proceedings is very much in keeping with the increasing focus on the individual as opposed to the team, something we see throughout the sports world these days.

Meanwhile, the heroic Twitter-er who tracked the pink socks has now been pink-slipped:

Perhaps we should hire him to track NFL socks.


Super Bowl Preview Reminder

In case you missed it on Wednesday, I’m happy to announce that the annual Uni Watch Super Bowl Preview is now available for your enjoyment over on Substack. Clocking in at nearly 3,000 words, it features a mother lode of uni-related storylines and subplots regarding this year’s Super Bowl teams, plus the annual micro-granular data from Super Bowl savant Jay Braiman, making it the perfect resource to help you amaze and annoy your friends while watching the game this Sunday. (Did you know, for example, that this is the Eagles’ fourth Super Bowl appearance, and each of their starting quarterbacks has worn a single-digit odd uni number? Or that KC uses a compressed nameplate font for three of the team’s longer-surnamed players?)

You can read the first part of the Super Bowl Preview here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack, which I hope you’ll consider doing. Thanks!


Design Observation

Here’s something I’ve been aware of on an implicit level for many years but never really thought about until yesterday: Various types of oil used to be routinely sold in these elliptical cans. It’s a very pleasing shape, but I don’t know what, if anything, this can shape was typically called. The elliptical can? The oval can? Something else? (To be clear: I don’t own any of the cans shown in these photos. The pics are all from eBay.)

I posted this same observation yesterday on Facebook, and some of my friends pointed out that tooth powder — a precursor of toothpaste — had a similar default package shape:

And also talcum powder:

I’m not sure why, but I really like this shape — especially for the oil cans! Is it still used for any current products? I can’t think of any. Hmmmmm.

Comments (24)

    Clubman aftershave comes in a sort-of similarly shaped package. It’s the ellipse (oval?), but without the hard edges.

    Socks and shoes now in many sports are chaos. Along with ad patches, the NBA has IMHO ruined their uniforms by letting the players wear whatever color shoes. LeBron’s bright lime green shoes looked ridiculous on his big night breaking Kareem’s scoring record.

    This post is peak uni watch, especially because I really don’t care about or pay attention to cycling, but was 100% sucked in by this story.
    The L/R designations on the socks are interesting in that, beyond designating which color should go on which foot, I have pair of high athletic socks I used for flag football that also had the L/R designations on them, and the socks were in fact actually cut differently (ever so slightly) to fit each foot. I wonder if the same goes for these socks. Sounds like no, but I’m curious. You can surely ignore those designations and wear them opposite, but there were minor tailoring differences.

    I had the same thought. A great piece about socks, and then a few words about tooth powder cans of all things. That’s as Uni-Watch as it gets. Terrific!

    My wife wears fancy socks (Bombas) for running that have the L/R distinction. I’ve also worn them from time to time and I found them pretty interchangeable.

    Yeah, I don’t think it really matters if you switch them. Sort of like the nonsense about the latest uniforms being 5% lighter. I don’t doubt the L/R socks are specifically designed to be more comfortable and improve performance, but that is so negligible that you can put them on the wrong foot and not know the difference. Especially since we are used to wearing interchangeable socks most of the time anyway.

    Totally agree. When I’ve gone out with two L socks on, I’ve managed to avoid walking around in circles, so I think it’s a bit silly.

    Mercifully I’ve not done that yet, but I assume that if I did, I’d likely be walking in circles around the property until I crashed into either the house or the fence. Especially unfortunate is that I’m not sure my neighbors would notice a difference.

    EF’s women’s team (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) wears the socks as well. The Twitter account was tracking them too, you just need to scroll down a bit.

    Just to be clear, it was a fan account, not run by the team. So it was a joke from Vaughters.

    I’m not sure how much of a difference swapping would make, but aero socks are designed and tested in wind tunnels to improve aerodynamic performance. So presumably the sock maker would have designed each sock to be specific to L/R. I have aero socks and they have ridges (link), although there is no designation on these for the foot. I can’t really think there’s much of any performance difference between the left and right socks, but who knows, a lot of times kit manufacturers make a lot of claims on aero benefit lol

    I think saying the rider can wear them how they like in order to express themselves is a total cop-out. I suspect this is absolutely not what they had in mind at all, but that it’s been going on long enough that they are reverse engineering this idea.

    The lighter color on the left foot and darker color on the right foot makes the most sense as it would matches the colors of the jersey sleeves. Left Side Light / Right Side Dark.

    I have a bunch of old Nike sox with L’s on them and no R’s. I think my dryer was trying to tell me something.

    “Moreover, the kit designer’s comments about wanting riders to ‘express themselves’ and ‘bring a little personal style’ to the proceedings is very much in keeping with the increasing focus on the individual as opposed to the team, something we see throughout the sports world these days.”

    This trend disappoints me. To me, the point of a uniform is to be … uniform. To say, “We’re going to work together, so we’re going to look the same.” Also, “We’re going to get the details right, so we’re going to work at getting the details of looking the same right.”

    That doesn’t mean everyone needs to do the same things, have the same personality, and so on, but I do think there’s something about choosing to look the same as your teammates that is a way of saying, “Yes, we’re doing this together and we’re putting the common goal first, ahead of ourselves.”

    I know that goes against a lot of the individualism of our time, led by the want for social media attention that is easier to get by standing out, but I do feel like, if we took the time to recognize how working together makes us better than working separately, and literally wore that spirit on our sleeves (and socks, and the rest of our uniforms), we’d build a better culture with all of our “teams,” sports or no.

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