Sock It To Me!
I remember the pride and exc i tement I felt when I learned that I had made the basketball team in junior high school. The following week, I reported to my first practice, and Coach Hobbs passed out our bright orange polyester uniforms.
“You will need to buy a pair of orange Converse tennis shoes,” Hobbs said. “And socks, too. Go over to Beverly’s Sporting Goods and buy a pair of long tube socks with orange stripes to go with your uniforms.”
I had never owned or worn a pair of tube socks before that year. On the morning of our first game, I gathered my hair into a ponytail, put on my uniform and pushed my foot through the tube sock with some confusion. There was no defined heel. A tube sock is exactly what it sounds like — a simple tube of elasticized fabric that has been sewn shut on one end. They were NOT among the most comfortable socks I had ever worn. Indeed, I had to keep pulling them up to my knees during the ball game. Needless to say, I wasn’t very impressed with the tube socks of the seventies.
Also in that era, something called toe socks were popular, and many of my girlfriends had a pair. Toe socks are made so that each toe is individually encased in a separate knit cavity. Wanting to be like my friends, I asked my mother if she would buy me a pair of whimsical toe socks, and Mom said, “No, you have plenty of socks.” But a few weeks later, there was a present under our Christmas tree from my parents. When I opened the box, I found a pair of rainbow-striped toe socks and matching, multicolor suspenders, like the kind Robin Williams’ character wore on Mork & Mindy. I couldn’t wait to strut back into school in January wearing those socks and suspenders.
When I was growing up, my sock drawer was full of knee socks of different colors and patterns to match the colors of clothing in my closet. In contrast, my dad had a sock drawer full of plain white socks (I think they were Fruit of the Loom) that he wore with everything — work clothes, lounging-around-the-house clothes, hunting clothes, etc.
In the eighties, when I reached the horrible high school years, all of my friends started to wear something called, “docksider” shoes, and just like that, socks were frowned upon by the fashion gods. No one wore docksiders with socks. I desired to be trendy and cool, so I wore my ugly leather shoes without socks, and of course, my feet got cold and developed painful blisters. That’s the year I realized how important socks were — and still are.
Whereas not wearing socks can ruin a day, wearing the wrong socks can also hurl a normal person into a state of rage and frustration. I think we’ve all worn lousy socks that slide down into our shoes with each and every step. My mom always blames the shoes, referring to them as “sockeating shoes,” but the truth is that the shoes are blameless in the crime. It’s the socks’ failure to stay put that should anger us. If they allow themselves to be sucked into the shoe, the socks are simply not doing the job we hired them to do, right?
And so today, I pay tribute to socks — those often-overlooked essentials in our wardrobes that play a crucial role in our daily comfort and style. They are fashion statements and expressions of personal flair — somewhat of a canvas for creativity — but they are so much more. In the realm of functionality, socks are simply the unsung heroes of the wardrobe, providing warmth in chilly weather and preventing uncomfortable friction between flesh and shoes.
For me, a girl whose feet have a tendency to be cold, merino wool socks have been a game changer, and I own several pairs of comfy, cozy merino wool socks now. My feet thank me endlessly.
Socks are more than just foot coverings, and they deserve more credit than our society gives them. They’re versatile accessories that balance functionality and style. As we pause in the month of November to count all the things we are thankful for, let’s not forget to give a shout out to our socks — the often underestimated, yet indispensable, occupants of our sock drawers.