Me and the Mrs. were walking through Costco recently. I was dragging my feet with my eye on the big screen LCD TVs. My wife, just ahead of me said, “Do you want to get some socks?” I turned my attention to the containers of socks and glanced at them longingly, already picturing them on my feet. They looked soft and comfy, but I blurted out, “No, we would need to buy several packages.”
Now, the package of socks had four pairs and was about ten dollars. I did some quick math and figured we would probably need about three or four packages. I go through socks.
As a runner, if it’s a “run day”, I’ll go through two pairs a day. I’ve been known to go through three pairs a day. “Why would you need so many?” she probed. In frustration I responded, “Because it’s time to redo my sock drawer again.” Feeling the escalating tension, I concluded, “it’s probably best for us to just keep walking.” She doesn’t understand my recurring sock dilemma.
I have a thing for socks. When my birthday and the holidays come around, I always ask for socks. I’m not sure when it started, but I just like them. It’s also no secret in the Geiger house that, in the winter, I sleep with my socks on. I guess it’s not a secret anywhere now.
Years ago, when I was younger, I was required to wear a tie at work. At the time, I was also a little more stylish. Back then, I used to accumulate all kinds of different socks. I had athletic socks, work socks, dress socks, and slippy socks just to wear around the house.
Some were thick. Some were thin. These socks came in a plethora of different sizes, patterns, and colors. Some of them were low cut at the ankle, some to the calf, and some came up to the knee.
In the olden days, my socks would match my outfit. Although I can’t match my clothes, somehow, I was able to match my socks to my clothes. Some of my favorite dress socks were ones that had various colors, stripes, and patterns. Now that I think about it, I guess it was hard not to match those multicolored socks with my non-matching outfit.
According to some sources, socks go all the way back to the Stone Age. Although nothing like we have today, these primitive socks were made from animal skins and pelts tied around the ankle. These “socks” didn’t cover the feet, but the lower legs and were more for protection than fashion. Socks were also worn in the times of Greeks and Romans. The Romans had socks that were worn with sandals.
Eventually, socks became more of a fashion statement. During the Middle Ages, socks were brightly colored and, since they didn’t have an elastic band at the top, they were held in place with garters to keep them from falling down. They understood the incredible discomfort of having your socks slide down your legs and accumulate at your ankles.
In 16th century Europe, socks, like other pieces of clothing, were regulated by law. For example, the City of London enforced laws that kept anyone from wearing the wrong kind of socks in the capital. These “sock police” checked the legs of people entering and leaving the premises.
As time went on, fashions, styles, and materials changed, especially with the invention of Nylon in 1938 and mass production. In our generation, we have seen sock styles come and go. It’s been at the knee, the ankle, and the calf.
Socks can also make a statement about our identity. I can remember my girls growing up and choosing to wear two different socks. Desiring to make their own fashion statement, they just wore whatever came out of the dresser drawer.
The two boys were different. They just wore socks like me. Eventually, me and the two boys all had about the same size foot. Attempting to decide whose socks were whose was difficult. What made it increasingly difficult was that my wife would buy us all socks for Christmas. Oftentimes, they looked very similar.
As time went on, eventually, my sock drawer was just overrun with socks. Adding insult to injury was that fact that my wife would wash the socks and leave them for me to fold and put away.
My folding and her folding are two different things. My folding meant you grabbed the whole pile, dumped them in the drawer, and worried about matching them later.
My strategy led to all sorts of problems. For example, at times, one of my socks would just disappear. I don’t know if the washer or dryer got it or if it ended up in one of the boy’s drawers, but I would end up with one unmatched sock.
This collection of misfit socks would go in a special corner in my drawer. Although I appreciated the 99 socks that were safe in the fold, I was continually looking for that lost one, waiting for its return. Unfortunately, the corner of misfit socks just kept growing and growing exponentially.
This was a source of constant frustration. For one, it was difficult to get the drawer to actually close. In addition, it was super frustrating when I would dig through the socks and attempt to pull out a pair and pull out one that I liked, but found it was of the lone sock collection.
Then came that one fateful day as I dug through my sock drawer frustratingly attempting to find a desirable match. Like a prisoner set free from the bondage, I exclaimed, “I’m done with this!” I had the passion and I had a plan.
Without telling my wife, I went to the store, on my own, and bought several packages of the same socks. In the cover of night, I got rid of all the old ones. My new socks, like beautiful matching clones, were all the same: black and low cut. I had come upon a sock solution! No matter what two I grabbed, it always worked. I could even dress in the dark if I had to.
Happy days were here again—at least for a while. Over time, three problems arose. The first problem was that the socks I bought were low quality. Left on my own at the store, without maternal supervision, I went for the cheapo ones. These wore out quickly. They developed worn spots and became uncomfortable.
The second problem was that when I wore dress pants and sat down, my pant legs rose and you could see my ankles. I would not have known this without the aid of my fashion designer and wife. The third problem was that, during the winter, my legs would get cold.
To solve these problems, I decided to upgrade some of the “old” lowcut socks for a better quality. In addition, I also bought some long socks for the winter months. This worked well for a while.
But, several problems arose. First, when some of the socks needed to be replaced, I would go to the store thinking I was buying the same type, but I was not. They were close, but not matching styles.
In addition, I made the mistake of buying long, black athletic socks in a package, but realized later, they all had different patterns. Also, Christmas came around and, again, I got some new, different socks to add to the mix. So, here I am again. A drawer full of mismatched socks of various sizes and styles. This has been a continuous cycle of frustration.
But I have not lost hope. In the midst of this writing, I turned over to check my email to see one from a sock company. They email me from time to time to say hi and to get me to buy their socks. I haven’t yet, but they look amazing. They promise no smell, no blisters, and no hot spots. These socks pull moisture away from the skin and are fast drying. They’re cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They are designed for runners and look amazing.
Especially intriguing is that these socks are unconditionally guaranteed for life. If they ever go “bad,” they will replace them. That’s the good news. The bad news is that these socks start at $17 a pair and go up to about $35. So, I know it’s only August, but I already know what I’m going to ask for Christmas. I’m not sure how that will go over. Plan B is to ask for another sock drawer. I’ll keep you updated.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.