Saturday, 13 November 2021


Socks, I suppose are not the subject of too many deep thoughts among us. I need and use them and probably have gone through hundreds and hundreds of pairs in my almost-66-years (yes, even baby socks). Here is a photo of my socks (not the only pair I presume!) when I was three years old (c. 1957-58). I never knew these socks but they look pretty good with the shoes as I am seated for a portrait photo. I often wonder if the phototogher liked the shoes and socks and decided that they should be featured in the portrait. Of course, my parents get the credit for this fashionable display. As I said, hundreds of pairs have fit my feet through the years, but this is the only pair that are featured photographically in nearly 66 years of wearing them. Clearly I wasn’t thinking so fondly of those of socks some 63 years ago. But, now I am.

There are lots of different types of socks and socks made for various activities. Here’s a brief list I culled from google search. Socks are part of the huge fashion industry: Loafer, tennis, workout, no show (I think these are, in some circles, called ‘invisible’, casual, everyday, athletic, dress, crew, golf, running and low-cut, just to name a few. As I say, I have not given much thought to these varieties, but I am aware of these appelations. Some of them refer to the actual fit of the sock while others refer to the activity during which one would wear them. I’m not sure of the difference between casual and everyday socks, but these I guess would be my type of sock. Dress socks fit the bill as well, but are less and less what I need or want.

In recent history, socks for a man always matched the color of his tie. This was the fashion for the well-bred in the 60s and 70s. It’s probably still the rule, but rules don’t seem to mean much to anyone these days. The rule is akin to the old rule that one drinks white white with fish and poultry and white wine with meats. This has also gone out the window.

Socks these days are more a personal statement than a functional need. Every once and awhile I wear ‘statement’ socks. When frivolous I wear socks with designs reflecting popcorn, lemons and the Mario Brothers. When I think I need to be noticed, I wear bright striped socks. If I’m feeling reserved, serious or not otherwise wishing to call attention to my ankles, I wear dressy patterned socks in grey and black. As I write this, I guess I really do think about socks and almost on a daily basis.

There was a time when I wore nothing but black socks. In religious life as a Benedictine, black was the color de rigueur. They blended in with black shoes and black pants and a black habit (what members of religious orders wear). Even going out to work in parishes, I stuck with black shoes (this is still pretty much the case) and matching black socks and never gave it a second thought.

In the monastery, black socks were a dime a dozen and they were washed in large washing machines along with everybody else’s black socks. The tradition then was to have sewn into your socks (and most other clothes) a name tag. Despite the tags and true to the nature of socks, every once and awhile a missing sock would show up on your room’s doorknob or in your mailbox. One black sock seeking to escape could easily blend in with all the other escaping socks, but the name tags distinguished and brought them home. The fraternal thing to do was to return the wayward sock to the rightful owner.

Religious and secular holidays are a time for festive socks to make an appearance. It’s interesting to note that there, to my limited knowledge and experience, have never come across an ‘ugly socks’ contest. Sweaters yes, but not socks. Perhaps, socks have an understated role in our fashion, offering just a hint of color or design. These holiday socks are whimsical while others I have seen are more serious with the intent of really showing one’s devotion or religious faith. To this end I have seen nativity scene socks, Jesus and saint socks. Here, I remind the reader that all socks are a part of a huge fashion industry!

One of my brothers is an excellent knitter who uses the very best of yarns. He knits his own socks and wears them proudly. To me, they look warm, but I guess the quality of the yarn contributes to both comfort and good wicking. At any rate, they look great on him and distinguish his ankles in any crowd. I once noticed that one of his socks had two different colors and I took it to mean it was an intentional design for that je ne sais quoi look. “No,” he said, “I just ran out of yarn.”

Another brother fits well into my thoughts about socks. It is his Christmas custom to gift his siblings with homemade almond roca and a practical gift. One year, he sent me some black Dickies socks. Black was good, but they were pretty thick to wear with dress shoes. Of course, I kept them and brought them down to Panama. They rested in my drawer for a long time until I thought to give them a try. The reason for the trial was that all my other socks had absolutely no wicking properties and would have to be rolled off at the end of the day. The humidity in Panama is quite high and walking around only adds to the wicking problem. I got tired of the peeling off of socks and decided that the Dickies might serve me well. They did and they stretch on comfortably and stretch off without sticking to me! This is what I call a gift that was waiting for the right moment!

So ends my epistle about socks. But, before I sign off I leave you with a photo of a pair of socks that do double-duty. They warm your feet and keep your money and passport safe. It would be interesting to see the wearer of these socks roll up his pant leg to pay a restaurant bill. By the way, the enclosure pocket has a zipper.

Published by Thomas

Retired from active priestly ministry in the Catholic Church; former Benedictine monk; francophile; Holocaust researcher; Delta One Million Miler; Ex-Patriated American to the Republic of Panama

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