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Made to Make

Here at Marko John’s we (as you’re probably aware by now!) take socks seriously. We are proud of what we do and for me personally there is a particular joy in the fact that our socks are made by hand by actual, real-live people.

Today, most of the things we use in our daily lives are not made by hand, or even probably in the same country you’re reading this in. This is of course not all bad. But something in me still wants to celebrate the handmade things. Not only because the quality far exceeds what is possible in mass-production, but because of something inherent and essential in the process of making.

Lately I’ve been reading Tolkein on Fairly Tales (available from Amazon here). His apologetic is interesting and he has useful things to say about various art forms and their respective achievements.

What really struck a cord, however, were his thoughts on the making of art and things generally. Why we do it. Why all societies, all peoples, always have been fascinated by, indeed preoccupied with, making things, even those that do not have a daily ‘use value’, but are there just because.

There is something in us as humans that drives us to make, to create. Tolkein calls such activity ‘sub-creation’ and I like that phrase. His term reflects the fact we are made to be makers by our maker, in His image and likeness. Our desire to make is part of our deepest identity and purpose.

This all seems a bit grand to then speak of socks! But at the smallest, lowest level, even the craft of making socks is, according to J.R.R., a minor act of sub-creation. Made by makers made by a maker.

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Uganda MJs in Uganda

Uganda MJs in action

Last summer a World Challenge group from Lawrence Sheriff School spent a month in Uganda.  They all wore Uganda MJs, and took extra pairs with them to give away as thank-you presents. Going on something similar? Please let us know! They kindly sent us some stunning photos of their trip (all photos courtesy of, and copyright James Riley).

From James:  Enjoy! P.S WHAT a country!!

Uganda MJs nr Budadiri

 

Uganda MJs atop Mt Elgon

 

Uganda MJs Elgon

 

Uganda MJs

 

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Win MJs: predict the Eng v Italy 6 Nations score

Score predictions please!

Guess the correct score for this Saturday’s 6 Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham, and win a pair of MJs.

England-italy-6nations-rugby-competition

As it’s tough to get the score exactly right we’ll also give you a £2 MJs gift voucher if you get the margin right!  For example, if you predict England 50 – Italy 5, but the actual score is England 55 – Italy 10, we’ll send you a £2 voucher!

To enter, just tell us your prediction (before kick off):

 

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

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Fable-ously British

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Britain has an insuperable heritage when it comes to making clothes and footwear (and many, many other things of course). We are very good at it. World-famous for it. And have been, it seems, for a very long time indeed. It is of course terribly unBritish to blow our national trumpet in this manner but there, I said it.

Brands love to affiliate themselves with Britain, Britishness, the Union Jack etc, because of what it says about the item to the customer: quality. This got a little out of hand during the Olympics when everything was being wrapped in our old flag before being put on the shelf. Even certain Champagnes suddenly donned neoprene British jackets, which is extra odd given the extremely strict laws in place to protect the particular provenance of that famous fizz.

Anyhow, while it’s (fairly) easy to spot that Champagne isn’t British, it is distinctly less so when it comes to other things.

Take, for example, this tweed blazer from Jack Wills (above). Huge letters bellow to us that this is not only British, but “fabulously” so! Gosh, like turf from Twickers, or a slurp of the Thames, this is British! ..Or, is it?

The second tag on the jacket is not present for branding purposes, but purely to meet the legal requirement that the country of manufacture be disclosed (even if at a fraction of the size of the other country on the label).

If not made in Britain, how is it British? In ‘style’ (whatever that means)? Well, no, I don’t think that’s sufficient: Firstly because our heritage of craftsmanship and the great tradition of quality we enjoy was never solely about something so flimsy as style; And, secondly, on their own terms, what the branding and presentation (and style!) of this product is seeking to imply to the customer is that it is deeply, authentically, shockingly British, of British provenance, won the Second World War singlehandedly, definitely made in Britain and by none other than HRH the Queen. I mean, what else are the Fulham and Salcombe street addresses there to achieve?! The ‘made in China’ tag is as small as it is legally allowed to be. It is whispered, like an embarrassing under-the-breath admission. If it were allowed to be smaller, or inside the lining, or absent, it would be. I’ve been to Devon a great many times (and I am hugely fond of it) but I am yet to stumble across the doubtless handsome village of China. Perhaps somewhere on the coast between Dartmouth and Salcombe?

It is very interesting that they specifically chose the adverb “fabulously” to described the extent of their Britishness, because although the intention is obviously to slide the brand to the top of the Britishness continuum, the word of course also shares the same root as the verb “fable”; which means ‘to fabricate or invent’.

This is not to say that JW is the only faux chap out there; unfortunately, the high street is full of such charlatans!

So, take care out there and keep an eye on that tiny give away label; sadly you might be surprised that some things you thought were British are even less so than my opening paragraph.

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Picnic Chic

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February hardly seems the time to talk about picnics. These short, dark days and rain-filled streets make being outside less than jolly. It seems forever since the last summer and daydreams about the beach begin to feel wholly fantastical, as though such days were only ever myth.

And that’s exactly why I love seeing the spring/summer lines filling window displays and websites this time of year; the juxtaposition of gay pastels against the grey skies of London offer hope and a reminder that February too shall pass.

Brooks Brothers have launched their spring summer 2013 range and (quelle surprise) it’s looking good; neatly tailored blazers for him and her, smart lines without being too stuffy, and trousers cut to the correct (i.e. MJ-visible) length. A splash of floral prints freshens things up, like a cool summer breeze, and with plenty of lovely accessories, duffels and weekend bags, dreaming of summer picnics suddenly feels right again. I, for one, cannot wait.

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Oxford theatre: Dogs don’t do ballet

Dogs don’t do ballet

Marko John’s are the Oxford Socks.  We’re based in Oxford, and are proud to be the official sock supplier to several Oxford University Colleges.  On this, our new blog, we will highlight (and review) events and more from around Oxford.  If you have an event, venue, or restaurant that you’d like to see mentioned here please let us know. This is the first of these posts, and is inspired by the play that my 2 year old daughter is currently out watching…

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Today the Cornerstone theatre company are putting on a performance of Dogs don’t do ballet.  Aimed at 2-5 year olds, the play tells the story of Biff.  Biff is no ordinary dog…  My daughter loves the book – she may be a harsh critic – and we’ll get her review of the show on here later!

For something aimed at older children (“adults”) check out the Old Fire Station on Thursday (21st Feb 2013) for the launch of the Oxford Human Rights Film Festival, and the theatre’s ‘Scratch Night‘.  The Old Fire Station is an inspiring initiative- find out more about it here.

 

This is what they say about their Scratch Nights:

Arts at the Old Fire Station and UnderConstruction present a regular Theatre Scratch Night. An exciting new opportunity that provides a  monthly platform for artists in Oxfordshire to present, try out and experiment with ideas in the form of short script extracts, movement or improvised theatre. The night will usually consist of three pieces with feed back given immediately after each short performance.

 

 

 

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Happy Shrove Tuesday!

Love pancakes.  Normally I’m a massive Nutella & Banana fan, but we went old-school this year with lemon & sugar:

lemon & sugar

 

Hope you had a great day & enjoyed some tasty pancakes!  If, however, you’re struggling to find the perfect recipe then check out Jamie Oliver’s tweet-able offering:

1 egg, 1 cup self-raising, 1 cup milk, pinch of salt. Whisk. Pour into a hot frying pan. Flip!

 

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Win a pair of MJs! 6 Nations: #ENGIRE

Predict the England Ireland score to win a pair of MJs

Tomorrow (Sat 9th Feb 2013), England play Ireland in the 6 Nations.

England will hit this game off the back of an historic victory over the All Blacks, and a convincing Culcutta Cup triumph over Scotland.  But Ireland were strong against Wales, and O’Driscoll & D’Arcy are up for it:

“One of the things that stands out for both of us is that we enjoy tackling and the confrontation…We have the chip on our shoulder that you need to be a really good defender.”

What do you think the score will be?

Let us know your prediction to be in with a chance of winning.  Either comment below, tweet us @MarkoJohnsSocks, comment on our facebook page, or send us an email: mail@marko-johns.com

Good luck!

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Welcome to our new site!

Hello and welcome to the new Marko John’s website!

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, we hope you like it – as ever, we love hearing from you, so any thoughts or questions about the new layout, please do get in touch.

 

We have lots of new and exciting MJ’s coming up for you this year; we are honoured to be introducing some more Oxford College socks, there are more stripes, more colourways, and we’re exploring new blends of fabric too – so watch this space! To be kept up to date with all the MJ’s news, special promotions and latest products, please like our facebook page here, follow us on twitter and instagram, or drop us an email at mail@marko-johns.com and we’ll make sure you don’t miss out!

 

The MJ’s VIP Club is a great way to keep your sock drawer top drawer! And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, perhaps a cheeky hint to your loved one along the lines of not wanting to get cold feet might do the trick. Yes, I agree that’s tenuous; safer to point them straight to the right place, or if you want your MJs sooner, grab a set of seven in a beautiful magnetised display box.

 

 

However you buy your MJ’s and whichever your favourite style, we are grateful to you all for continuing to enable us to do what we do best.

 

 

Here’s to a cracking year ahead!

 

 

Best wishes,

Marko