One week. That is how long it took me to get around to writing this blog post. If you have never met me in the real world, you are probably asking yourself why that is significant; even if you have only met me in passing, it may have never occurred to you that I would have the need to ever write this post. But, if you really know me, you knew it was only a matter of time before I got around to digging into the one article of clothing that really deserves to be talked about. Socks.
Socks have existed for almost as long as humans have been walking around. Shoes in some form or another probably came first, but that can be argued depending on how you distinguish between socks and shoes. Merriam-Webster defines a sock as “a knitted or woven covering for the foot usually worn under shoes and extending above the ankle and sometimes to the knee,” so, by that definition, socks can’t be older than cloth, and we must assume that our ancestors were probably wearing some sort of foot protection, whether sandals or shoes, before that time. We can reasonably assume that socks have been around for between 36,000 and 40,000 years. Man, I wish I could get my hands on some of those socks!
My personal obsession with socks is much more recent, dating back only about 18 years to my first retail job. I was working as a bookseller for B. Dalton books, and my boss at the time gave me a pair of socks that looked like a fish with the mouth opening at the top, so, when you wore them, it looked like a trout had swallowed your foot. This was the most novel thing I had ever experienced, and I immediately questioned my own masculinity for my visceral need to wear these socks all the time. I had seen cool socks before, of course, but they were always marketed towards women (more specifically, little girls), so the thought that these awesomely distinct and fun foot coverings were actually designed to be worn by someone like me (distinctly not a little girl) blew my mind. I had to have more.
In high school, and even before, I always had a “look.” I worked hard to be different, to be distinct in the way I dressed. Not in a way that would make me stand out in a crowd. I was not looking to be the center of attention; I just didn’t want to be lumped in with the norm. I wore suspenders instead of a belt. I had a pair of baggy pants that were bright blue at a time when everyone else was wearing the grunge-style faded jeans. I wore hammer pants way longer than almost anyone else. When I went off to college, I started collecting Hawaiian shirts and wearing them all the time. I wore all sorts of jewelry. Rings, bracelets, necklaces; I even tied friendship bracelets to my shoes and wore hair barrettes in my laces. I think what initially drew me to novelty socks was the opportunity to rebel against the dress code of retail without blatantly being in violation of it.
Before that first pair of fish socks, I had worn the classic white tube sock that you can pick up in any big-box store in packs of a dozen or more that can all be worn interchangeably without worrying about making exact matches. During my transition period, I had trouble finding truly distinctive socks, so I would settle for the traditional dress socks, some argyle, and one pack of mixed red, black, and white patterned socks that I stumbled across (these socks actually inspired my boss at the time to include a verse in his Christmas song directly referencing my proclivity for colorful hosiery). The white tube socks were still in the rotation at this point and got quite a bit of wear. It wasn’t until I started to get heavily back into mountain biking that the white tubes started to become outnumbered by the novelty socks.
In Logan, Utah, there is a sock factory. The sock factory exclusively makes novelty socks designed to be worn while pursuing athletic endeavors. The socks they manufacture are the best quality that I have ever owned; they double over at the ankle, and the elasticity around the leg never wears out. I miss those socks so much. Only a couple pairs have survived the almost three years since we moved east, but those socks once made up almost 100% of my sock collection.
I probably couldn’t go back to wearing those socks exclusively now, as my tastes have changed. I wear much longer socks, some of my favorites climbing over halfway to my knees. The longer socks are able to show off their character much more boldly, not being limited to three inches of space above the shoe. My socks have become a huge part of my identity: a subtle underlying weirdness that only people who really spend time with me get to glimpse. As I get older, I need a bigger canvas for that. I wear a tie to work every day, not because the dress code of my current employer requires it; I do it because a tie is a part of who I am when I am selling something, and my current job requires me to sell.
I wear crazy socks to work every day because that is who I am: I am the guy with crazy socks. Even if most of the people I interact with daily don’t know it, there is a little weirdness that I have with me at all times, just waiting to peek out from under the cuff of my slacks.
by: Tim Kiester with extensive grammatical edits provided by Laura Nelson (check out her blog; she is hilarious).