Made by Craftsman in Japan
Always Striving for Better: Monozukuri and the Spirit of Japanese Craftsmanship
We interviewed a sock craftsman in Nara, Japan to learn more about the creation process, what makes a quality pair of socks, and the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship — also known as monozukuri: the act of making things.
What makes a “good” pair of high-quality socks?
It can be hard to tell, especially when most of the socks available today are mass-produced in factories by fast fashion brands.
So we went to Nara to get answers from a sock craftsman.
“The first thing you wear in the morning is socks. So the materials you choose when making them are important,” he said. “Materials range from texture to dyeability. There’s also how quickly the materials absorb sweat, or how well they retain heat.”
With all the choices in the world, it can be hard to determine which material to use for which sock.
That’s why Japanese craftsmen let the sock’s purpose guide their decision-making. “Good socks are made for the activity you want, whether it’s walking in town, going to a party, playing sports, or climbing mountains.”
Knitting is also important when picking a high-quality pair of socks. There are countless things to consider when knitting: the thickness of threads, the compatibility of mixed materials, and the number of stitches.
“The number of stitches is very important,” the craftsman said. “There are some materials that can’t be stitched with the latest high-speed machines, so I use older machines and work slowly to get the ideal texture. I use different types of machines depending on the sock’s purpose.”
And of course, comfort is key in a good pair of socks.
“Comfort is diverse,” he said. “Socks made for medical use are very tight, while socks made for extremely cold weather use thicker threads. You need experience to meet the different demands for fit and comfort. When you have experience, then you can create good socks.”
“When a pair of socks comes out the way I expected, I feel proud,” the craftsman said. “Because it’s a result from my accumulation of experience.”
“It’s the experience of being able to utilize the speed of the machine at just the right level, or the knowledge that comes with knowing how to work with many different materials. You can only know this if you’ve had a lot of experience.”
That’s when we realized that it’s the “accumulation of experience” by Japanese craftsmen that makes their socks so high quality.
This “accumulation of experience” is called monozukuri (ものづくり): a concept that describes Japanese craftsmen and their mindset. Monozukuri literally means “making things,” but it’s more than that: it’s the philosophy, mindset, and spirit of making things.
Artisans in Japan focus more on the quality of their work, take pride in it, and strive for perfection. It’s a traditional mindset that’s practiced in manufacturing and crafting work, and it's the same for sock-making. Japanese artisans keep improving their craft, and strive to get better and better.
When we asked the craftsman what his passion was for making socks, he was brief.
“I want my customer to be happy and satisfied with my work,” he said. “Nothing more than that.”