Pictured: high tech
On my wanderings through the internet, I discovered a story about the Russian army switching over to using socks. (Original link to an AP story has died, replaced in Jan 2015 with a Guardian link) What were they putting on their feet before 2013, you may ask? Foot wrappings made of sort of an enormous handkerchief–footkerchief?–that Czar Peter the Great decided was a good idea in the 17th century. Don’t laugh, many of you still wear neckties. I own a few myself. Silly ancient things even less useful than foot wrappings in a world brimming with cheap durable socks.
The story just made me think a bit about our propensity to follow custom without giving it a thought, because that’s how you do whatever it is you’re doing.
Sometimes traditions are established because they’re a good idea, or at least a goodish one. When the Russian Army started using long strips of cloth on their feet, there wasn’t a whole lot of sock mass production going on. In fact, there was none. High-volume sock production had to wait until the 20th century rolled around. But plain bolts of cloth that could be cut into rectangles were another matter. For equipping your army in the 17th century, foot wrappings made sense.
What we need to keep our eyes open for are the traditions and customs that don’t make sense anymore. Why on Earth would you keep wrapping your feet with cloth strips when good cheap socks are available? It only took a hundred years for the Russian Army to notice that the old way didn’t make sense anymore.
Before you spend too much time laughing at the Russian Army, why not take a moment to reflect upon what traditions you follow that no longer make sense?