Is there a more important unimportant article of clothing than the sock? The poor, stupid sock, just a base layer for your feet, a sweat and odor absorbing sack of cloth, a thing that keeps you from blistering, but gets scant attention paid to it compared to the overbearing shoe.
The shoe. What an oaf.
But socks say something about a person. There is a great scene in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest in which the narrator describes John “No Relation” Wayne, the number one player on the novel’s fictional tennis academy’s A team. He says Wayne, who is sort of “robotic,” is “of the sock and a shoe, sock and a shoe school,” which is a strange way of saying someone is strange. But there it is. The socks, and how they relate to the shoes. It means something.
Cyclists take the business of socks to all sorts of bizarre places. First there is height. Some are strictly no-show with the socks. This is some weird sect of urban messenger who must show as much leg, and subsequently as much tattoo, as possible. Then there are the ankle-heights. Anklers are a retro lot. In the ’90s, we were all anklers, though many of us refuse to admit it now, hiding a whole trove of whimsical ankle-height socks in the backs of our eponymous drawers.
The 5″cuff is de rigueur at the moment, a veritable tower of sock, extending up the calf, accentuating the base of the gastrocnemius. Many cyclists will now happily pretend that this is the only sock style they have ever embraced. This is revisionism my friends. This is Trotsky eliminated from pictures by Stalin. This is Bernard Hinault saying he never promised LeMond the maillot jaune in ’86.
I know people who will only wear black socks and people who will only wear white. They are just smelly foot bags, but we all have feelings about them.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what socks do you wear? Are you a no-shower? An ankler? Do you prefer low-key or high-vis? Do you ever commit the sin of cotton? Who makes the best socks? Wool? They say it’s cooler in summer, but that is not my experience.