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My red socks

14 February 2011

Jacques Tiberghien and Vincent Metzger discovered the small house of Gammarelli in Rome several years ago. Although only a small workshop, it makes all the outfits, from robes to mitres, for the pope, cardinals and bishops of Rome.

Jacques and Vincent were particularly taken with the red socks – worn, of course, by the cardinals. They bought 100 pairs, thinking several friends would like them too, sold the lot and went back to Gammarelli asking for more.

Although the tailoring house was understandably suspicious, it eventually agreed to let the young Frenchmen sell Gammarelli socks online exclusively. It was so successful that they became the worldwide agents and added bishop purple and priest black to the selection. The Pope, of course, wears white socks with his robe. There isn’t much demand for white, but if you want white then the boys can get them.

A more recent addition to the stock is Mazarin socks, initially green but now in a range of colours. The link to catholic hierarchy is that green Mazarin socks are worn by members of the Academie Francaise, the body that oversees the French language. Academicians wear a black tailcoat (made by old Parisian tailor Stark & Sons) with green olives embroidered on it. The socks match the olives.

Mes Chaussettes Rouges come in some nice packaging – a handwritten note to the customer, a picture of the catholic fathers and academicians sharing a joke, and a little woven sock bag, all in a thick envelope with the customer addressed as ‘L’eminent’. (There is an ascending scale of titles, depending on the number of socks ordered. You are eminent if you order up to 10.)

Oh, and all the socks are over the calf, made with mercerised Egyptian or Sea Island cotton, on the small traditional looms in Rome, with a hand-linked toe.