Thursday, July 10, 2014

Are You Going to Wear That?


I do not lay claim to being a paragon of male fashion. Like most men, I'm comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, hate to wear a tie unless I have to, and - because I'm pretty color-blind - my clothes don't always match. Agnes usually vets my wardrobe for me each evening when I set out my clothes for work, and I've grown accustomed to the arch of an eyebrow and the accompanying question, "Are you going to wear that?"

I generally take her advice, because she has a far better sense of style than I, and because she can tell colors apart that I can't, but there are some things I'm just not willing to compromise on. Like socks.

When I was on active duty in the Air Force and wore a uniform every day, I never had to worry about matching colors ... every day was blue shirt, blue pants, blue tie, black socks, and black shoes. Heaven on earth for a guy with defective color vision. But let me tell you about the socks ...

Agnes's mother enjoyed knitting, and made a lot of great things for us. For me, she made socks. Lots of socks. For the whole time I was in the Air Force, about twice a year she'd send me a big box full of beautiful, hand-knitted, black wool socks, suitable for wear with my uniform, and with anything else that wasn't ... say ... brown. I almost never had to buy socks.

When I retired from the Air Force and began working in the civilian economy, Mom suddenly realized that there were now new horizons of sartorial possibility. I could wear things other than blue, which meant that I could wear socks other than black. And so it was that the boxes began arriving with some very ... interesting ... socks.

I believe that she scoured the stores of her town in search of the wildest, most garish yarns she could find. I started getting socks that were blue with yellow flashes, red shot with blue and green, green with red and purple highlights, and just about anything else you can imagine. None of them came close to matching anything in my wardrobe. So I figured, what the heck?, and decided that I'd just wear whatever socks came out of the drawer first, regardless of whatever else I was wearing.

I quickly became known as "the guy with the socks." People I met at conferences might not remember my name, but they remembered I was "the guy with the socks," and I got used to people walking up to me and asking to see my socks. It was fame of a sort.

One time I had to make a formal presentation of a project I'd been working on to a murder board of retired senior generals. For the occasion, I wore my best double-vested sober gray suit with power tie, black shoes, and the loudest socks I had ... which was saying something. They were bright red, shot with bolts of yellow and orange, and were hard to look at without squinting.

I spent all morning presenting my project and answering questions from the assembled demigods, and eventually we broke for lunch. As we were walking through the halls of the Pentagon to the dining room, the chairman of the panel - a retired four-star general - fell back to walk next to me. He threw an arm around my shoulders, leaned in close, and whispered, "Bilbo, I've just got to ask you ... where did you get those damn socks?"

In the end, they endorsed my project, but I never knew whether it was because of the excellence of my analysis (which, of course, it was), or because they had to get away from my shrieking socks.

I'll take success where I can get it.

Have a good day. Wear what you want. More thoughts tomorrow.


Bilbo, aka "The Guy with the Socks"

7 comments:

The Mistress of the Dark said...

LOL at you!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I think the General was envious in his heart, don't you?

Black socks every day.

Dave Peterson said...

In today's world, if you can get yourself remembered - for *any* reason that's not a heinous crime - you're way ahead of the crowd! "The Guy With The Socks" for President!

Linda Kay Christensen said...

When my daughters were at home, I would often emerge from my bedroom to the looks and comments, "Is that what you are wearing today, Mom"? It always sent me back to take another look!

Banana Oil said...

Those sox probably woke the generals up.

Mike said...

We learn something new about you all the time don't we?

And Dave is right. It's as good a campaign strategy as anything else out there. But you would soon find out how many sock haters there are.

Duckbutt said...

I know the feeling. I was told years ago that I dressed like an Omaha lawyer. No flattery, apparently.