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Testing no-wash socks, one sweaty day at a time

This brand claims you can wear the same socks for six days straight. Should you?

Two people in shorts and crew socks sitting on a couch, shot from the waist up.
MP’s Magic Socks are made with a fabric infused with “silver, copper, and zinc.”
MP Socks

MP’s Magic Socks certainly feel durable. They have a well-balanced softness and compression, they sit just past your ankles, and they arrive wrapped in a tasteful package that conveys a certain elegance that socks are rarely associated with. When I first put them on, I felt like I jumped several economic thresholds at once. Finally, the chance to be a rizty one-percenter who can spend way too much money on socks without looking frivolous or insane!

But even within that euphoria, I was anxious. MP promised I could wear their Magic Socks for six full days without noticing the mildewy stank that accumulates in the six-pairs-for-10-bucks Hanes standard that I usually wear, and that felt like a well-meaning lie. And I was going to test that proposition, wearing them for as many days I could — through Comic-Con, through family dinners, and through trips to the gym. I know how careless I am with socks, so I was already dreading day four, when I’d be forced to slip the shriveled corpses of the Magic Socks onto my feet once again. Surely, MP has never faced off against the foulness of the average millennial male.

The author in his MP socks.
Luke Winkie

So how do these socks even exist? How does anyone have the audacity to claim their socks can be worn concern-free for days on end? Isn’t that a health code violation? Owen Zhang, the PR liaison for MP, offered to clear things up. He explained that the company’s Magic Socks are made with a fabric infused with “silver, copper, and zinc,” which, he claims, kill a wide variety of bacteria and “prevents them from generating foot odor.”

As a company, MP broke ground in 2017 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and today they reportedly sell their products all over the world. The socks I received were shipped directly from Hangzhou, China, and retail for $59 for a three-pack on their website, which, by my estimation, could purchase about 36 plain white pairs from Hanes. MP intends to make up the difference in both the convenience factor — a weekly wash cycle means far fewer trips to the laundromat — but also through a certain ambiguous social currency. Have you ever feared taking off your shoes in the middle of a long-haul plane trip because the overwhelming funk might bother the poor woman in the middle seat? MP intends to put all of those apprehensions to bed.

”[The socks] are born to be able to eliminate the concerns of people who are in need. No odor, no embarrassment, and no anxiety,” adds Zhang.

That’s the thing with odorless socks. They’re a bit like a Rorschach test. How do you react to the idea of wearing the same things around your feet for a week straight? Horror? Delight? Some sort of secret relief that you’re too embarrassed to fully voice? The answer depends on how much of a burden you find a daily sock rotation to be, and more importantly, if narrowing down your sock drawer to a single stench-free artifact says some questionable things about your own taste.

To be clear, there are some objective benefits to a no-wash wardrobe. In a Goods investigation earlier this month, reporter Alden Wicker analyzed a number of startups that claim to take the germs and body odor out of fashion so you can squeeze a ton of repeated wears out of your clothes, from button-downs to athleisure. Doing the laundry puts a ton of disruptive microfibers in our water system; when we wash and dry with hot water, we emit 11 pounds of greenhouse gas for every pound of clothing that goes through the cycle. Dry cleaning is arguably even worse; that process is rife with carcinogenic substances, which Wicker reports is a problem for 70 percent of dry cleaners worldwide.

Still, no-wash socks feel like the third rail. The majority of my closet is less radioactive to multiple wears than socks, so I think I was well within reasonable doubt to expect a disaster. I had my Magic Socks mailed to my parents’ address in Southern California so they’d be with me during an extended vacation back home. This was a flat-out demand from my girlfriend; she was overwhelmed with relief when I informed her that I was scheduling my sock test for a week that she wouldn’t be around.

In total, I put my Magic Socks through a tenacious five-day smell test, including two trips to the gym and two full days walking around the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con. I started to become a believer after I returned home from the gym on the first wear and they retained the same delicate, carbon-neutral fragrance they had exited the box with. I was officially not being scammed by an international sock company, which honestly came as a slight surprise.

This continued for the rest of the week. No matter how much I toiled in them, the Magic Socks had an unshakable stainlessness. It was slightly perturbing. Even my mother, an expert in detecting interloping odors, couldn’t catch anything. Occasionally I could find a faint whiff of sweat or skin immediately after pulling them off, but invariably, it would dissipate after a few hours of nonuse. There was a moment, after around day three, where I thought MP may have stumbled onto some sort of alien superfabric, the sort of technology that we should be putting in our power plants. Odorless socks are the exact sort of tiny miracle that convince you that if we got our act together, the human race isn’t far from cold fusion.

It was honestly kind of thrilling, dare I say liberating, to watch the Magic Socks keep working. I’m extremely bad at hygiene. I’ve personally committed dozens of terrible clothing crimes in my time on this earth. I routinely turn my briefs inside out to steal extra bandwidth when my top drawer is empty. So, it should not surprise you that this was not the first time I’ve used the same socks for about a week straight. This time, though, I wasn’t breaking the social contract. MP designed its product in a way to legitimize and empathize with some of the laziness I’ve lived with for years. Finally, I was on the right side of history.

It was only after Saturday, my first day at Comic-Con and my fourth day of wear, did that facade begin to crack. When I took them off in the evening and raised them to my nose, I was met with a sharp, fleshy tang that anyone who’s ever fished out an errant sock from underneath a bed knows all too well. After four days under siege, my feet were turning the tide against MP.

I got one more wear out of them, the following day of Comic-Con. No matter how bad my socks were smelling, I felt like they could blend nicely into the standard convention-hall stank. After that, they were dunzo. When I did my sample sniff the next morning, the once-and-future Magic Socks were rendered indistinguishable from all my other used socks; nothing but grit and shame. I put them in my luggage, defeated, waiting for a fresh wash. (And for the record, they came out of the laundry cycle good as new.) In total, I got about five days of use out of them, which is one less than MP’s initial pitch. I reckon that your mileage will vary; Comic-Con is particularly brutal, and the socks’ lifespan could be reasonably expanded with a lighter schedule.

Undeniably, though, MP’s Magic Socks mostly work as advertised. If we want to live in a world where all of us are wearing the same pair of socks for a full workweek, that future is readily attainable. But it still feels like there are some firm taboos in the way from making that a reality. If you spend the $60 on Magic Socks, you will probably find yourself in the same position I was; watching your family and friends recoil in horror when you inform them on a Friday that you haven’t changed your socks since Tuesday. You can elaborate on all the social, environmental, and economic good that your choice is making for the world, but you’ll still be under suspicion.

That feels like a pretty tough divide to cross. We’ve all been so abused by smelly socks that MP is saddled with the tough job of unwinding a whole cycle of stereotypes and baggage. It is, after all, pretty easy to wear new socks every morning and avoid the conversation altogether. Personally, though, I feel seen. Finally, a company that meets me on my terms, that knows I can’t do basic things, that lets me wear the same socks five days straight under the assumption that I was probably going to do that anyway.

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