Thursday, May 14, 2009

Socks and the city

A letter to the lady in line behind me at Target:

You deserve an explanation for what happened last Saturday. It was yet another in a long list of damaging blows from socks to me.

First, the history. I have a hate-hate relationship with socks. This war was first waged during a kickboxing class in college. Front and center, I was kicking boxes like a trillion dollar baby. Bam. Uppercut, jab, jab, jump kick -- and whoosh! Out of the leg of my sweatpants, with one particularly swift kick, I launched a sock rocket.

The sock wad -- which had apparently smuggled itself inside my pants leg in the washing machine -- landed with an audible "Wee!" in the middle of the studio. The other participants saw it and did not know how to respond. They subconsciously backed away, while not missing a kickbox beat, forming a sort of circle around the sock. It looked like a foot fetish tribal dance, or maybe like my sock was about to perform a breakdancing routine.

That was the end of my kickboxing passion.

So needless to say, what happened Saturday awoke in me Post Traumatic Socks Syndrome.

Now, the context:

1. It was my friend Vanessa's birthday. She wanted to play trampoline dodgeball. But I was wearing a short leather skirt.

2. I ran to Target and bought a pair of sweats to change into. But by the time I returned, everyone had already jumped so much they were hyperventilating and now eating cupcakes. We're getting old.

3. I never actually used the pants, although I did wear them for three minutes to eat a cupcake. I did not think that qualified as use, which brought me to the customer service line to return the pants.

Now, to address your unspoken (but obvious) concerns:

1. No, I do not live in a van down by the river. I had Old McDonald's Swine Flu Farm living in my sinuses. Yes, I should have at least combed my hair.

2. My dog, which also happens to have the hairiest white rumpus of any creature on Earth, was in the backseat of my car. Even though the pants were caked in dog hair, once again, I swear they were within the bounds of an appropriate return.

3. When I shook the pants to remove their fur coat, I did not know a dirty sock had been hiding in the pants leg.

4. And no, I am definitely not Aimee Heckel, who writes a fashion column for the Camera. That was actually my sister Leah returning the pants for me.

Thanks for your understanding.

Dear Leah,

I'm sorry. Don't go to Target for a very long time.



Ah, yes. Socks suck. One of the reasons I love spring is it means I don't have to touch those things for a good three months.

Of all of my clothing items, socks cause me the most stress. They're either where I don't want them to be -- i.e. the return line at Target -- or nowhere to be found, kidnapped by sock gnomes and my poodles. I feel like I am constantly digging through my bucket of widowed socks for "the other" sock. In vain.

I recently reached such a critical mass of single socks that I began unapologetically wearing mismatched socks to the gym.

My friend Laura says my problem is that my socks are bored, so they're running away. They're all white or black.

Laura wears striped socks, toe socks, thigh-high socks, argyle and tie-dyed and homemade and theme socks for every occasion. Her "spring gym socks" are covered in bugs and turtles.

Laura's socks live in a 30-gallon trashcan that she could hide a body in. More than 350 pairs of socks -- 22 of which have monkeys on them. Laura doesn't own a single plain pair, except for bright green thigh-highs. And she says she has never misplaced a sock.

"If you have fun socks, you can find their mate in the laundry really fast," she says. "The lost sock is a white sock phenomenon."

I don't doubt her. She's had a feeting frenzy ever since I met her at age 10. Some women spice up their outfits with wild shoes. But Laura is a self-proclaimed "lounger." Lounging around the house drinking rum doesn't lend itself to shoes.

"I can't not buy socks," she says. "I go to Target for shampoo and I end up with shampoo and socks. I go to

PetSmart for food for the lizard and end up with socks."

(Of course PetSmart has animal-themed socks, she says.)

Laura's socks have sentimental value. She doesn't like to get rid of old socks, so she learned how to fix holes. If she has trouble sleeping, all she has to do is slip into a pair of socks and she immediately nods off.

"I sometimes sleep totally nude but in socks," she says matter-of-factly.

Which brings us to the question: Can socks be sexy? Laura insists they can. Striped socks are fashionable in a punk way. Argyle socks are hot on both men and women. Plus, if you need to shave or have gnarly feet, Laura adds, they "hide the gnarl."

Here are some tips from Laura on how to rock socks.

You can find the best socks at Kohl's and Target (oh, not Target), especially around Halloween time.

Check the Internet. The best site is www.sock

In the summer, wear lightweight socks, thin tights or toe socks -- preferably with ballet flats or Mary Janes and not flip-flops.

If you have sweaty feet, wear half socks with your heels. They cover your toes but leave your heels and arches bare.

Current legwear trends include white tights; tights with shorts; bright, primary colors, such as yellow, blue and red; sparkly tights (metallic, sequins or glitter); and sheer black pantyhose, according to the sock

As for me, I have found my alternative -- a different way to make a footie fashion statement while keeping your tootsies free. Boulder-based Verve, a climbing clothing company, makes boot-cut leg warmers.

Local female climbers came up with the design by cutting off the sleeves of their old sweaters, making a cone-shape cover of the calf and most of the foot.

Best of all, more than 90 percent of Verve's clothing is made by four grandmas who left war-torn countries to move to the United States. Find Verve at or at local shops, such as Boulder Bodywear on Canyon Boulevard.

The bell leg warmers are lightweight and made from polyester fleece with organic cotton lycra ($18), and they allow you to add one extra layer of style to your legs.

The only problem: They are dog hair magnets.

Fortunately, I won't be returning mine any time soon. And they go great with a leather skirt. Even on a trampoline.

Photo by Flickr user scalkins.

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