Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Socks, Part 2

I'm not thrilled with my telling of the socks-with-consequences stories yesterday. I could have been more engaging, but I'm writing in spite of my feeling uninspired. Maybe I'll tell those stories again in a year or two. Then, I can contrast and compare.

I promised another installment of writing about socks. Tonight will not be the one about knitting, and I'm not quite up to "my life in socks", though yesterday was a start.

I don't remember anything about the socks of my childhood (except for the gym class incidents). When I was very young, girls had to wear dresses to school, and I presume I wore tights.

I don't remember anything about socks in high school. I wasn't a creative socks wearer. I would venture to guess that I wore black socks, since I tended to wear black.

On the other hand, it's possible that I wore other colors of socks, for I do remember that I've always had a rule that my socks should match my shirt. This rule is the reason an old friend of mine once told me that I looked well dressed, even when I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. How strange that this little detail was not only noticed, but added a bit of formality to my most casual way of dressing.

I also remember that on days when I wore boots, I would intentionally wear mismatched socks, because noone could see them and I would get a kick out of it. I have always liked patterned socks, but my taste in clothing is generally quite plain and argyle and striped socks don't quite match what I usually wear. Though, I must admit that there are times that I wear all the mismatched stripes in one outfit (see the post about hats).

This "kooky" way of dressing, which manifests itself mostly in my choice of socks, is a fairly recent development. My taste is not only plain, it runs towards the somber. I have given up my all-black wardrobe for one that is heavy on gray. When I go shopping, I have to remind myself that I have more than enough gray sweaters. Unfortunately, my favorite gray sweater is covered in holes. It's time to throw it out, for it's not salvageable. I suppose I am branching out, for I now wear quite a bit of red, brown and, on occasion, purple. I would love a pair of red jeans, but now that I'm not thin, I can't imagine that would be a good idea. I went to the Goodwill a few years back with a friend and she snagged a pair of railroad stripe red jeans. Oh, how I wish I saw them first!

Wait a minute. This post is supposed to be about socks! So, I've developed a penchant for bright colored and striped socks. I am reminded that I once adored argyle socks and haven't had a pair in many years. And this reminds me that the last time I wore a pair of argyle socks, I was punished for it. Well, another "socks with consequences" story:

Sometime in the late 80's, I worked at Macy's during the holiday season. I worked in two departments. One was the Macy's brand "Charter Club" department and the other was the women's suit department. Both of these departments were the only clothes departments where one could earn comissions. The incentive was great for me, for I didn't care about the job much. I didn't want to work full time, nor did I want to become a department manager. But, I was a good salesperson, and the manager of the suit department seemed to have an attitude towards me. I suspected it was because she couldn't imagine that I wasn't competing with her. I had owned my own clothing store, so I could understand that she might have found it odd that I didn't want to be a manager. At first I thought I was being paranoid, but every week there was a little competition with a financial bonus, for "salesman of the week." I never won the contest, even though I generally sold more suits than anyone else. It was up to the manager to decide who won, so the fact that I never did made me feel both ticked off and a bit better, because it proved to me that my feeling she didn't like me or saw me as a threat was probably true.

Macy's had many rules for how employees were supposed to dress. We were not allowed to wear jeans and we had to wear pantyhose with our dresses. Now, from my experience working in retail, I had learned that wearing the clothes that were being sold was a good way to sell them. I happened to like the Charter Club clothing and had bought a long jeans skirt and a couple pairs of their argyle socks, which I noticed were not selling much. So, one day I wore the skirt with the socks to work. I totally forgot aobut the Macy's rule against wearing socks with skirts or dresses. I seem to recall that the rule flitted through my mind, but I blew it off, thinking it was far better to wear this combination of skirt and socks, for it might inspire a few buyers to buy those argyle socks. It was not outrageous looking in the least.

I'm not making it up when I tell you that the manager pulled me aside when I was in the middle of selling someone the same outfit I was wearing. That strategy does work well! Forgetting she had an issue with me, I though she might say "Well done!" But no, she was angry and asked me if I had ever read the employee dress code. She wanted to yell at me, but she didn't get very far, for I immediately admitted that I knew I had broken the rule. What was my punishment? I had to work behind a counter where noone could see my offending socks. I spent the rest of the day selling leather gloves, for which there were no commissions.

The next day I was back to my regular job, but it was not to last. I forget what petty offenses I had perpetrated, but that nasty women wanted me out of there. And so I was, and wound up working in the Christmas ornaments department, where I made whatever the lowest amount one can make at Macy's was, and of course, no commission. I wonder if the pairs of argyle socks I owned and wore until they were beat up and useless were the ones from Macy's. I suspect they were, and I never bought argyle socks again. Oh my, maybe I was traumatized!

Nah. Just a coincidence. And the other reason I stopped wearing argyle is that when one doesn't have a slim calf, they stretch the design out of whack way too much.

These days crazy socks are a dime a dozen. They've become so common that they don't have much of an impact. One can buy intentionally mismatched socks. Dick gave me some for Christmas a few years ago. I love them. They're a great deal of fun. But, even though I like my clothing fairly plain (and I have a penchant for the truly elegant, but no place to wear it), the major reason for wearing outrageous socks is to be a bit shocking. If everyone is being a bit shocking, it doesn't work.

Right now I'm wearing matching striped socks in various shades of blue with a touch of purple and pale green. Sounds awful in print, but they are not, nor are they outrageous looking. One can find striped socks that are elegant. I've found that TJ Maxx is an excellent source for elegant and unusual socks.

I can't think how to end this post. Here's the end: To be continued.

Image note: Found this old pic on a site that sells traditional argyle socks.


BitterGrace said...

These posts have got me lusting after new socks. It's a good thing we're iced in here, or I'd be out shopping. Oddly, I feel no desire to shop for socks online. Touching is essential to sock buying.

I never knew I had such a weakness for sock porn...

Anonymous said...

Hehe, I have a drawer full of crazy socks. I don't think they're shocking or anything, I just get a lot of enjoyment out of them. And yes, most of them come from TJ Maxx

You're right, Maria, socks are something that you have to buy in person.

Websafe said...

An enjoyable and interesting post. I too encountered the same idiocy when working low on the retail totem pole, and was sent home to change my colorful, fun outfit for something more blandly somber. And I was doing Christmas wrapping in the back room of a department store!