Why doesn’t the Internet want to fix my socks?

Many of my socks are broken, and the Internet is to blame. Today I was walking around the office in odd socks, that too is the Internet’s fault.

Whatever happened to the man subscription?

About ten years ago I remember seeing an advert for a mail order man survival kit, a subscription to being a chap. It contained essential toiletries, some choice new musk, a new pair of pants and a new pair of socks, and it landed on your doormat once a month for a modest monthly fee.

Such a service makes good sense: these are all consumables that become a chore to buy and that people forget to deal with. It also makes some good business sense when you think about how you might parcel up the commercial deals that would go into such a service. For some reason though ten years later, that service doesn’t exist anymore. I want that service to exist: it would be helpful to me personally, and it would also be timely.

Perhaps the original man subscription came too soon, too far from its adjacent possible. But now it’s common to get snacks through the post on a subscription, and fresh contact lenses too. Why not masculine essentials? The adjacent possible has been bridged by graze and Specsavers, and now mail order of mundane luxuries is all the rage. 

It’s not just that consumers might be more ready to buy, they may also be more ready to sell

One thing that the man subscription model could benefit from this time around is the popularity of social networking websites. Firstly, and most obviously, Facebook and Twitter provide the mechanism that underpins a "refer a friend" scheme -a fact used to great effect by companies like Graze (my referral code is R77CCZR if you’d like a free graze box) and Dropbox (this is my referral link if you want extra space).

What’s perhaps more interesting is the tie ups a clever commercial director could make with brands: build a user base through the refer a friend model on Twitter and you provide yourself with leverage to negotiate better products for the box at a cheaper price. Done right your business could be less about selling socks to punters, and more about selling audiences and influence to brands who are actively looking for ways to get their cologne into market trial in a post FHM world.

Pretty clever right?

So it’s a shame that the only two companies who are even close to this idea are still a way off – I’ve spotted a pre-launch sock subscription and a factually incorrect press release about soap. Are there any I’ve missed? Do let me know. And if you want to take this idea and run with it, please do, just remember me, and send me some socks.

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org