SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE: Catholic-themed socks offer practical, spiritual support
By Aprille Hanson | Catholic News Service
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Some people wear their faith on their sleeve, others on their feet, which is hardly sacrilegious. It is in fact, Sock Religious.
Catholic socks are a rarity, but images like Mary, Pope Francis, St. Teresa of Kolkata and St. Joseph can be found at sockreligious.com. The Diocese of Little Rock also sells socks with the diocesan crest to benefit seminarian education, created by Sock Religious.
"We always knew this would be a way to outwardly to express our faith," said Scott Williams, who founded Sock Religious based in Indianapolis with his wife, Elisabeth, last year. "The most difficult thing that comes with evangelization is starting the conversation and these definitely will start a conversation."
Scott Williams, who has worked in youth ministry for about eight years, said creating Sock Religious was a "whim," brought on by his love for wearing fun socks at his suit-and-tie job.
"If I'm going to be matching socks to national holidays or to National Doughnut Day or Flag Day, how cool would it be to have socks to match up with feast days?" said the cradle Catholic. Soon, Williams along with graphic designer Madison Kinast, were selling Pope Francis' smiling face on a pair of socks at the National Catholic Youth Conference, selling about a pair a minute for eight hours.
Today, they still travel to various Catholic conferences and events to share their product line, which now includes Our Lady of Grace, St. Joseph, St. John Paul II, St. Michael, St. Teresa of Kolkata, St. Therese of Lisieux and more subtle designs, including rosary socks and Keys to the Kingdom socks. In November and December, they launched St. Nicholas and Our Lady of Guadalupe socks and often add more designs to their catalog.
"It's a way to express your personality without being way over the top or distracting," he told the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock.
Williams' favorite sock, St. Joseph, has "a lot of personality" woven in the design.
"On the bottom of the sock, it has St. Joseph's most famous quote, so empty quotations because he was never quoted in the Bible," he said. The carpenter's square designs and the image of him holding the baby Jesus, he added, are symbols "of hard work and dedication and dedication to family; so that's what I try to emulate in my life."
But the socks are more than just fun. Elisabeth Williams, a nurse at Franciscan Hospice House, said her favorite St. Teresa of Kolkata socks, with the saint's image and the quote "small things, great love" on the bottom, are "hard to miss."
"I love the simple design and the simple message, which I think our world needs right now … just to have that tangible reminder daily to offer the small things," she said, adding her co-workers enjoy wearing the socks. A pair also was donated to a patient who "really loved Mother Teresa."
Scott Williams said he's heard from customers about the unexpected impact the socks have had on their lives. One man, he said, wore his St. John Paul socks on an airplane, and after the flight had an airline attendant tell him she was struggling with her faith. She told the man she'd asked God "to show me the pope," and the man was wearing the pope socks.
Diocesan-crested socks of the Little Rock Diocese started out as a potential Christmas gift for the seminarians, thought up by vocations director Msgr. Scott Friend.
"Guys have pride in their diocese so it was a way for them to show off where they're from. It's part of their special love for the diocese," he said.
They reached out to Sock Religious to design two types: Black and gray checkers with yellow accents and blue and gray with St. Peter crosses. Both include the Diocese of Little Rock crest. While the Vocations Office purchased the socks from the company, all sale proceeds go toward seminarian education.
Maria Izquierdo, executive assistant in the Office of Vocations, said diocesan-crested socks made their debut this summer at a dinner called the "Taste of Faith." The event, usually held twice a year, raises money to help pay for seminarians' education.
"It was something new," Izquierdo said. "People were buying them not only for their spouses, but for their sons or relatives but they were thinking of Christmas gifts as well."
Msgr. Friend said the socks are "a nice way to start a conversation."
"If someone sees the socks, they can say, 'Well, I did this to help vocations,'" he said. "We're always kind of inviting people to help support vocations and all that and it's an easy way to do it, a fun way to do it. The important part of it is getting people to pray for vocations and to remember to spread the message and encourage vocations."
A little more than $3,000 has been raised from sock sales and has spread pride in the diocese, support for vocations and comfort.
"It's a good way to help the seminarians and keep (your) feet warm at the same time," Msgr. Friend said.
Hanson is associate editor of Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock.