Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Sock

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Now here is a good sock. Photo: Courtesy of Tictail

Dirtbag Fashion is a column dedicated to the art of doing very little and assuming you look good anyway.

Five years ago, I found a pair of socks that I want to be buried in. They are men’s CATerpillar brand “work socks” that come in navy, heather gray, and dark gray. As far as I can tell, they are only available for purchase on eBay and sold in packs of three for $9.99, though I originally came to own them via discreet but numerous pilferings from my stepdad over Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Let me tell you: These are good socks. Why? Because they do the simple, humble work that a sock should do.

What work should a sock do? A good sock (in the fall and winter) should keep your feet warm, absorb liquid without becoming saturated in cold sweat, and not be so thick that the average shoe must expand to accommodate it. A good sock, despite all the hard work it does for you, should also be relatively cheap. If you are out here spending $100 on a pair of socks, you better be about to climb Everest. Buying a good sock should not force you to sell your home. You need that home! To wear your socks in! And the humble sock performs a thankless task: It keeps your foot warm while also suffocating itself in your pungent toe smells. It is the mother of the fashion world, putting up with your abuse for years only to be forgotten.

Enter the “statement sock.” This term refers to socks adorned with all kinds of images and weed leaves and “yas, gaga” and memes and baubles, whatever, and it doesn’t matter. In California, I went to a store that was entirely socks, and almost all of those socks were jazzed up with fancy images — tacos, a cartoon of Oprah, photo-realistic Dobermans sitting in large meadows. This whole time I had been purchasing CATerpillar brand “work socks” as if I were preparing for the socialist uprising, but it turned out there is another world of socks out there for me to see, to wear, to enjoy. I was dazzled by the possibilities. Socks weren’t just workhorses — they could be show ponies, too.

After considering socks emblazoned with a thumbs-up Jesus — would they elevate me from “drab to fab”? — I began to doubt the wisdom of trading in my old faithfuls. It seemed a little disloyal. But luckily, the sock landscape is diverse, dynamic, and full of options in the reasonable middle ground between “drab” and “fab.” That’s why you should never underestimate the power of a good sock.

Why not add a “pop of color” to your ankles with a pair of tartan or lime-green socks? Embrace a pair of stripy ankle socks with your new ankle-length jeans? Give your men’s CATerpillar work socks one day off a week and throw on a pair of sheer-gold bobby socks. No, you don’t need statement socks embroidered with Kermit the Frog smoking a bong. A friend recommended Uniqlo socks, and I’ve never felt more subtly stylish for the low price of $7.90 for three pairs. A pop of color, a set of stripes … all with a certain purpose.

Perhaps you are not the kind to necessarily go wild with adornments — that’s what makes you a devoted Fashion Dirtbag reader. But still: Your outfits could use a little zhuzhing. Before today, you simply threw on socks in the morning without even thinking. Now, as you dress, might I implore you to consider the sock?

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Sock