Oh Darn

Seth Godin does your counterintuition know no bounds?!

I posed this question to my Facebook friends one evening. Hoping to draw out a response and start a little friendly conversation, I instead ended up hearing nothing but crickets. My hope, as I did have one, was to point out that he had said in a blog post (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/08/just-in-time-fo.html) that he wore mismatched socks as part of his daily attire (!). I thought this was brilliant, a work of true sartorial/social subversion, as it were. And so, my estimation of him and his approach to the things of life as they related to marketing (he is a marketer, after all) only increased. I had long been a wearer of the crazy sock, or two. The benefit of having something so utilitarian-yet-essential as our feet swathed in something not only hidden but also bright and colorful and above all personal diffusing into my person over a particularly vexing season of rich personal growth. So I got the crazy sock thing; candy-striped or patterned with cartoon characters of yore, flying pigs, etc. You get the idea. What I couldn’t get over, however, was the act of wearing two different socks as part of this non-statement (remember, you can’t see them if you’re wearing pants) of individuality.

I began, as a child, with solid colors, on the bold, or darker, end of the spectrum. My fashion-sense teeth were cut in preschool during which time I attended a private Montessori school in Southern California. Students adhered to a dress code which included khaki slacks and polo shirts. If it got too cold (which was rare, this was LA), you could wear a long sleeve undershirt but you always needed that collar-and-two-opaque-buttons showing. I usually left one unbuttoned—still do (though I rarely wear the polo shirt). This strict dress code, however, didn’t apply to my hosiery and as such, not much thought was given to their eminence, their importance for my daily attire. I suppose my mom purchased a bag of mixed-color socks at some department store and called it good. Let’s see, I remember burgundy and a dark turquoise/light teal, maybe black too. There were most likely a pair or two of black socks. I kept this pattern up through about third grade. We had moved to a new state and I began attending a new school, this time public: the socks stood out. It was the early nineties and while that statement may not say much about the state of the quality of the sock union, white was the sock-pattern patois. The coin of the hosiery realm, if you will. If you wore white socks, well, you wore what most of your peers wore. Of course there were the branded socks, Nike edging out Reebok and Adidas by several orders of magnitude. After a few days or weeks, the stolid, solid color sock order was just not going to cut it. As I was subconsciously looking to integrate into the fold in whatever way I could, white socks was just one of the many things I was willing to adopt in order to fit in to this new atmosphere of public school. I began to disdain the socks to which I had theretofore given no conscious thought and I became an adherent to the plain, boring white crew sock. No stripes if I had my say and socks-with-heels always took precedence over tube socks.

I carried on the white-sock tradition until my late teens when I started working at a place with a dress code. About the same as Montessori in that I could wear polo shirts but I had to wear slacks along with my dress shoes. The neutral colors to which I gravitated lasted a number of years until I began to feel that pull for more (and more) individuality. I would say that everyone goes through this at some point in their life, my vision quest holding a number of foci, one of which became my sock game. Gone were the boring grays (though I love gray as a concept) and beiges and blacks devoid of personality. I discovered the candy stripe in the sock weave and I was gone. I joined a new order. Socks were now on my radar as desirable articles of clothing, consumables to be spied out and purchased and be proud of. They only added, you understand. I was turning into a new person.

Today, my undergarment drawer (sorry, they don’t have their own drawer—at least not yet) holds only the finest in distinct sockwear. I’ll do a load of laundry and dump out the clean clothes. On days when I haven’t had time to pair up the socks (and fold up the shirts and briefs), I play this game (and remember, I have committed to only wearing matched socks regardless of whether or not I dress with the lights on). The game in question has no official name but it plays as follows: I proceed to pull a sock from the pile and continue pulling until I find the first match. I might go through half-a-dozen different socks before I find the day’s pair and while I don’t always do it, it provides a satisfying complement to the beginning of my day. Understand that there are more obscure, complicated equations that I employ on days when I really get serious about what socks to wear. All this aside, know that deliberate thought goes into each day’s sock choice and I peel them off at the end of the day with the same respect.

In closing, I leave Godin’s sock proclivities to him alone (and the toe-socks—like gloves for your feet—to those inclined to wear them) and appreciate what fellow hosiery connoisseur I have in him.

There are a number of things I’d recommend that would radically change, alter one’s life should they feel stagnant and in need of a course correction. But if you want a simple fix, one that won’t break the bank but will yield a positive (and interesting) return, start wearing some crazy socks. And whether or not any one responds to your choice, you’ll know.

6 thoughts on “Oh Darn

  1. This is such a brilliant and creative post. I love the relation you made at the end. So refreshing to read!
    I loved it so much that I nominated you for an award on my site 🙂 Hope you can check it out and have time to accept it!!

    1. Thank you so much Bianca! Very kind. It’s wonderful to meet another writer who appreciates decent socks.

      Occasionally a theme or memory will break ground and sprout into a fully-formed post. I love those.

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