Korean Toe Socks

My dad was one of those men who seemed to have everything, and buying a gift for him was hard.  At times, I guess you could say that I looked for unusual gifts or gag gifts for him just for the fun of giving him a gift and watching him laugh because he seemed to have everything he needed or wanted.  One, I got him a “foot saver,” a machine that was attached to a small plastic wash tub that you filled with water.  You put your feet in it, and it vibrated, heated the water and massaged your feet.  Another time, I got him rainbow colored toe socks.  I just had to use my imagination all the time. He was hard to buy for, but he loved the crazy gifts. I had no idea that there is actually a use for toe socks other than something to laugh at.

photo of pair of black converse
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If it was crazy, I bought it for my dad, and he had a good laugh.

When I first came to Korea, I used to hang out with a music producer from one of the TV stations who used to wear toe socks, and I found it very funny.  My daughter, Korean son in law, and I have walked through E-Mart and laughed about the toe socks.  However, I had no idea that there is actually a use for these things other than a good laugh until today.  No one told me, but my Korean son in law finally told me today.  He even said, “Only old guys wear them. Young men don’t wear them.”

This lady is wearing zori with white toe socks.

That statement would make you think they come from some Korean tradition which is what I thought when a Korean girl who stayed at our house in the States used to wear white toe socks.  I had seen the white toe socks in Japan too when the women wore their geta or zori (types of traditional Japanese sandals).  I thought they wore them because those kinds of sandals have a strap that goes between your toes, but there is another use I just learned about today.

beach vacation sand desert
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When I was growing up and we were traveling, my dad used to wear thongs or flip flops when he went into a shower in a hotel or locker room.  He said he did it so he wouldn’t pick up athlete’s foot.  I learned today that is the reason the Korean men wear toe socks. They are supposed to prevent athlete’s foot.  If you aren’t sure what athlete’s foot is, it is the fungus that grows on your feet, and you can pick it up by going bare foot in public showers and baths.  There are lots of public showers and baths in Korea. Some of them hardly take a bath at home, but always use the public baths.

Toe socks are what Koreans wear to prevent athlete’s foot.

These socks are easy to find in Korea.  As far as I know, they only sell crazy colored toe socks in the States.  These are not made as a joke.  They aren’t made to be funny. They are made for a specific problem.  My Korean son in law thinks they are funny, but only because old men wear them, not for the reason we think they are funny in America.

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