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On Socks

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

I have sock issues. Living as I do in Vermont, I wear socks during most of the year, and they’re fine under boots. On not-so-frigid days I wear socks with shoes, but here the danger of wardrobe malfunction arises: when I sit down, one or both of my pant legs may ride up and expose the top of the sock and an expanse of pale winter skin beyond. My anxiety about this dates from earliest childhood, when men wore sock garters which you could glimpse along with a patch of hairy skin when they crossed their legs. I was also distressed by my mother’s habit, in an attempt to save her expensive silk stockings, of rolling them down and walking around the house with little beige doughnuts around her ankles.

One sock-related trauma dates from March of 1954. We were spending three days in an elegant hotel in Bogotá, waiting for our connecting flight to Quito, when my mother realized that I had no clean socks left. “That’s o.k. I’ll just go without,” I said. My mother had bought me a new pair of white mary janes for the trip, and I thought they would look fine without socks.  “Absolutely not,” she replied. “You would catch a cold.” I reminded her that we were in the tropics, but she countered that, at 8,000 feet of altitude, tropical heat was not a factor.

She dug inside the suitcase and handed me a pair of black socks belonging to my father. “You can wear these,” she said. The idea of wearing those lovely shoes with black socks—my father’s socks at that—was more than I could bear. I could just see the fashionable Colombian ladies in their bell skirts and stilettos, and the dark-skinned waiters in their white uniforms, smirking and wondering, “Why is that strange girl wearing men’s socks, and what is she doing in this nice hotel?”

I was ten years old, wore round tortoiseshell glasses and braids, and carried a doll at all times. You would think that a pair of black socks wouldn’t make much difference in the overall impression I produced, but to me they were an aesthetic abomination. To this day whenever Colombia comes up, whether in the context of drug wars, immigration, or climate change, the first thing I think of is my father’s black socks.

When, four years later, I arrived in the U.S., it was the era of bobby sox and saddle shoes. Much as I envied my classmates their pencil skirts, dark red lipstick, and little neck scarves, I found their footwear repellent. As soon as my mother allowed me to wear stockings—fortunately they were required at the youth orchestra concerts I played in—I  never wore socks again until I moved to Vermont.

Given this history, imagine my dismay when I recently saw socks featured in several articles in the Times.  It seems that, along with coats the size of houses and pants afflicted with elephantiasis, socks are the accessory of the day. Wherever you look, there they are, worn with skirts and cropped pants and exposing that fatal expanse of calf. Thick socks, and socks with little girl ruffles. Socks sticking out the top of combat boots, and socks inside pointy-toed stilettos. And, appallingly, sheer black socks with black elastic tops, or even filmy knee-highs such as we all wore under pants in the last century.

But I know that my outrage won’t last, and soon I will have gotten used to the look of socks with everything. I remember, when mini skirts first came into fashion, thinking that in combination with the bubble hairdos popular at the time they made grown women look mentally retarded. Next thing I knew, I was teasing my hair into a bubble and wearing skirts so short that they made sitting down in public nearly impossible. So I will try to befriend the socks in my life. I will start slowly, maybe by letting some leg show between sock and pant hem. Come to think of it, there is probably a pair of those sheer knee-highs in the back of my drawer. If the elastic hasn’t rotted completely, I may try wearing them with my hiking boots.



9 Responses

  1. Well, I am at the stage and age for compression knee socks from the time I get out of bed until I get back in bed. Being fashionable isn’t possible. I enjoyed reading this article as always.

  2. I will carry your image of your mother with pink doughnuts around her ankles to my grave, I’m laughing so hard. Of course she did!

    I’m from the era where if you had a run in the leg of pantyhose, you cut that leg off, paired the good one with another one-good-leg pair (?) of pantyhose, which might need to be turned inside out if they were both the same leg, and wore them, with the double top, because the darned things were expensive. And obviously designed to run. By men. Greedy men who wanted women to buy more.

    He dicho.

  3. What a delight and tour down memory lane. The images evoked! Those donut rolls at ankles and feet in high heels! Thank you!

  4. Socks. Ok yes. This child of the south always wore socks and loafers or lace shoes as I truly dislike sandals.
    Your images make me smile and laugh. I always thought the doughnut rolls were really amusing. And. Silly looking. Your blog is a highlight in my week

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