There’s an age-old saying in Norway: Norwegians are born with skis on their feet.
And for Norwegian parents, it’s a point of pride to make that seem plausible. (Why else would a country with a population smaller than Colorado or Minnesota punch so far above its weight class in winter sports?)
As soon as their kids can walk – often sooner – they bring their kids to the slopes.
Raising kids to enjoy skiing…
Unfortunately, however, the saying doesn’t mention appropriate footwear at all.
For centuries, everyone simply knew that you wore wool socks to keep your feet warm in the winter. Besides, it's not like there were all that many viable options.
Back then, the only wool that was commonly available was coarse and itchy, and the fit was seemingly an afterthought. Wool socks were often bulky and made completely without elastic, so your socks would slide down into your boots.
A MISGUIDED EXPERIMENT
So, when tube socks were invented in 1967, Norwegian parents started a well-intended, but highly misguided experiment: Since kids always complained about itchy, bulky wool socks, they had us wear tube socks for skiing.
Talk about a disaster!
A generation of kids – my own generation – grew up thinking that the burning sensation when your toes turn to ice cubes was a normal and inevitable part of skiing. (Turns out it’s not!)
Not only does cotton soak up moisture in all the wrong ways – it gets wet like a sloppy mop – but tube socks are also typically thicker than regular cotton socks, displacing insulating air inside your ski boot.
In a clueless (but loving) effort to prevent cold feet, my father would have me put on two pairs of cotton socks – effectively ensuring there could be no room for air in my ski boots at all.
Norwegian kids in the pre-tube sock era. Born with skis on?
The way we actually kept our toes warm when we went skiing back in the 80s, was by regularly taking our boots off, and vigorously rubbing our toes until the blood came rushing back.
I still remember the sense of relief I felt when the nerve endings came back online with a sharp sting.
AND THEN CAME MERINO
As the 80s drew to a close, however, tube socks went out of fashion (good riddance!) and global trade made a new, game-changing kind of wool commonly available in Norway: Merino.
Merino wool socks changed my life!
Not only is merino wool soft and not at all itchy, but instead of turning into a sloppy mess when it gets wet, it keeps its shape. Merino wool can hold at least 30–35% of its weight in water before it feels wet, and helps you stay warm even if it is soaking wet.
Suddenly, I was able to go skiing and play in the snow all day long, for days on end, without thinking about my feet any more than I would on any other day of the year!
What a difference a pair of warm, snugly fitted socks make on a cold day out!
After that epiphany, I swore that I would never, ever, let my kids wear anything but merino wool socks in the cold! So, you can probably imagine how excited I am, now that I can finally ship my own line of merino wool socks for kids! I'm super psyched!
GETTING IT RIGHT
It’s taken me a long time to design just the right sock to kick this off with: Getting a nice and comfortable fit, finding the right wool blend, a versatile thickness… you get it.
Soft, snug, warm… everything you want in a cold-weather sock. (Photo: Colleen Zarate)
Ella’s Wool’s new merino socks are thicker underneath, for extra insulation against the cold ground, while remaining thinner on top and around the ankle so that it’s not too bulky.
To make the socks fit snugly and safely against the skin and stay up without sliding, we’ve blended merino wool with some nylon and spandex – but not so much that it compromises the effect of the wool.
The result is a super snug and warm sock that’s perfect for wearing inside winter boots.
TO GRIP OR NOT TO GRIP
I went back and forth a lot on whether to add anti-slip grips to the socks. I didn’t want kids to feel like they had a dozen small pebbles in their boots, and since the socks are primarily meant to be worn outside, I decided against it at first.
However, the socks are so comfy that many kids may even want to wear them inside, but – warning! – merino wool socks can be pretty slippery on hardwood floors!
Therefore, I decided to mix it up a bit. Each 3-pack of socks includes two pairs of regular socks, and one pair with anti-slip silicone grips on the bottom.
In the future, I may start selling them separately, but we could only stock one new product this season, so I decided to do it this way.
Silicon no-slip grips for in-door use. (Photo: Colleen Zarate)
As I’m writing this, the socks are finished in production and are on their way to the warehouse. As soon as they arrive, they will be available on the website… I’ll let you know.
I can’t wait to hear what you think!--
Featured photo by Colleen Zarate. Additional photos by National Archives of Norway via Flickr Commons.