Sock Suck

Socks are, for the most part, the article of clothing that is most likely to be taken for granted. Although a few Beau Brummells have tried to turn the sock into a colorful fashion accessory, for most men, and women too, the humble sock is a purely functional item. Socks are donned, then immediately covered by shoes, and after that happens we forget about them, They warm the foot, serve as an essential layer between foot and shoe so you don’t get a blister, soak up the smells feet are prone to produce, and are promptly tossed into the laundry basket at the end of the day without a second thought.

But when a sock fails of its essential purpose and acts in a way that demands attention, you’ve got a problem. And that’s what has happened with these “anklet” socks Kish got me to wear on my morning walks.

They go on just fine. But as soon as I start walking, the top of the sock inevitably departs the ankle region and starts inching down to the heel. I detect its progress, and suddenly I’m focused on my sock movement and not on my walk. A few more steps and the sock successfully rounds the heel and heads down to its preferred destination around the ball of the foot. By the the of my walk the Achilles tendon and heel are left wholly unprotected and the sock is bunched up and wadded around the tip of the foot, slides off when I remove my shoe, and then has to be fished out from deep within the shoe.

I don’t know if there is something weird about my walking gait or foot movement that causes this problem, but I do know that socks aren’t supposed to behave in this fashion. At least, my other socks don’t. And when a sock acts out, it’s really annoying. So these socks are going to be donated to Goodwill, where hopefully someone will have better luck with them.

Because life is too short to have socks that suck.

Gender And Jogging

As a dedicated walker, I get an opportunity to observe joggers every day as they come slogging past me.  And based upon years of study I can confirm that there is one obvious difference between female joggers and male joggers.

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It’s not speed, or running style — it’s attire.

Women runners clearly have paid attention to what they are wearing.  Their outfits are colorful and stylish, and they’ve clearly put time and thought into the clothing effort.  Often their running shoes match their headwear, or gloves.  Earlier this week I saw a young woman runner sporting a terrific color-coordinated ensemble with bright white shoes, striped red and white leggings, a red fleece jacket, and bright white earmuffs and gloves.  She looked like she was jogging to the mall to get her picture taken with Santa Claus.

The guy joggers?  Not so much.  They’ve apparently just rolled out of bed and rummaged through the dirty laundry pile to try to find their “lucky” sweatpants and a ratty sweatshirt.  They pretty much look like crap as they go huffing and puffing around Schiller Park, and they obviously don’t care about it one bit.

Since I have never been a jogger, I can’t speak to motivation when it comes to running, but I can certainly see how selecting the right outfit might actually contribute to the exercise effort.  Careful attention to clothing is bound to help with the mental preparation for the run, and if you feel like you look ready for a good run it’s more likely that you are ready for a good run — just like kids who wore Red Ball Jets sneakers back in the ’60s felt like they could “run faster and jump higher” in those shoes than in others.

The guy joggers need to up their game.

Into The Clothing Danger Zone

Yesterday I got one of the endless number of emails trying to sell me something that bombard my inbox.  This one was trying to sell me “Barbie PJs.”  The picture showed what looked to me like standard PJs that were pink with a silhouette of a Barbie head on the top.  “Hmmm,” I thought idly, “I wonder if Kish would like those, or hate them.”  And then I hit the delete button.

newthumb_3__3I wish I could effectively communicate to that company, and others that try to sell me women’s clothing, how absolutely unlikely I am to buy anything they’re offering.  I haven’t bought Kish any kind of garment — or footwear, hats, you name it — for more than three decades, because I long ago learned that I have no sense of fashion and really don’t know what she likes and what she doesn’t like on the apparel front.  In short, if an item can be donned or doffed, I’m far out of my depth.

This profound condition of clothing cluelessness became clear when I tried to buy Kish some clothes one long-ago Christmas, and each purchase — boots, a blouse, a winter cap — was a miserable failure that she looked at quizzically.  “How did you happen to buy purple boots?” she asked after opening one of the presents.  “I thought purple was your favorite color,” I stammered in response.  “No, it’s green,” she said.

Fortunately, I had retained all of the receipts for the ill-advised gifts, so she was able to return them and get some things she really liked and wanted — and we moved forward with the implicit understanding that I would never again try to buy clothes for her.  In fact, I’ve always suspected that the “returns” department at stores was created by a department store proprietor who, after totally flubbing some gift for his wife or girlfriend, realized that there was a desperate need for a special area where puzzled women could discreetly return the reckless clothing purchases of misguided males.

So don’t try to sell me “Barbie PJs,” or poofy fashion scarves, or knee-high boots.  Those kinds of purchases fall entirely into the “Kish self-purchase category.”  I’ll happily buy her objects, or even perfume if I receive sufficiently explicit instruction that can be communicated to the helpful saleswoman at the perfume department at Nordstrom’s.  Attire, however, is in the danger zone.

Fast Failure

Richard had a story recently about the unexpectedly rapid demise of a Jacksonville-based company called Body Central, which sold clothing to teenage girls and 20-somethings in the “fast fashion” industry segment.  After years of strong growth and expansion of its outlets into new malls, Body Central suddenly hit the wall and closed its doors.  Richard’s story is an interesting treatment of the arc of a company’s existence in modern America.

What happened?  Basically, capitalism.  Body Central, and other stores catering to the same market segment, kept expanding to new locations and storefronts and expected the demand for clothing from teenage girls and young women prowling the malls to continue to grow indefinitely.  But the tastes and buying habits of Body Central’s target audience changed.  They decided that going to malls wasn’t necessarily the bees’ knees and started looking for more clothing on-line.  In the meantime, Body Central had growth-related problems, like managing distribution centers.  Revenues shrank, efforts to redesign stores to reattract customers failed, and ultimately the enterprise crashed.

Capitalism has a long and proven track record for incentivizing production, creating wealth, and enhancing efficiencies — but it’s a messy process.  Businesses begin, occasionally thrive, and often fail.  Sometimes the failures are of mom-and-pop shops, but sometimes they are of companies that experienced some success but just couldn’t move to the next level, and sometimes the failures are of mega-corporations like Blockbuster that are killed by new technologies, changing consumer tastes and buying habits, and competitors who develop a better product or service.  It happens, but it doesn’t make the situation any more enjoyable for employees who are out of a job when the company hits the wall.

Goodbye, Body Central!  You’re just the latest in a long line — and you won’t be the last.

Well-Knotted

The act of tying a tie is a simple one — and also a pain for those of us who toil in jobs where we still are expected to wear a piece of fabric cinched around our necks — but that doesn’t make its successful accomplishment any less satisfying.

IMG_3445For most of us unfortunates, the act of tying your tie to get ready for work is as rote as tying your shoe or starting the car in the morning.  The process is so automatic and ingrained you don’t even think about the individual steps.

II don’t know the name of my tie-knotting technique and whether it produces a Windsor knot, a Four-in-hand, or something else.  I just know that the chosen cravat is placed over my shoulders with the wide end on one side and the narrow on the other, and the relative length of each is adjusted by instinct.  The wide end then is looped around the narrow, popped through a hole directly under my chin, and flopped on top of the narrow end and drawn down to make a reasonably acceptable knot.   The last step is to tug down the narrow end until the gap between the tie and the shirt collar is closed and the button is no longer visible.  Voila!

If I can accomplish this and avoid the dreaded “Oliver Hardy” look — where the narrow end is longer than the wide end, which ends up flapping forlornly on the belly — while also having the wide end reach belt level, the operation was a success.  Extra points if I meet those goals and also produce the perfectly centered dimple.

It’s the little things, especially on a Thursday morning.

Closet Clean-Out

This morning I am tackling a project that I’ve been putting off for months.  (I’m using the word “tackling,” incidentally, because Ohio State has another off-week this week, so I’ve got to get my football fix in somehow.)

IMG_3437It’s my closet. It’s filled to overflowing with stuff, and it’s time to go through the shelves and hanging items, clean it out, and either toss things in the trash or contribute them to the Volunteers of America — a great organization that makes good use of second-hand items.

It’s amazing what you accumulate as the years roll by.  A t-shirt that you bought from a street vendor on an overseas trip that shrank down to elfin size after only one washing.  A generic “Tucson” sweatshirt that from a long-ago trip to Arizona where you discovered to your surprise that the Grand Canyon State actually can experience cold weather.  A polo shirt thoughtfully purchased by a relative that is made entirely of itchy artificial fibers that cause you to sweat inordinately whenever you put it on.  A crass bright orange t-shirt that you bought on a beach vacation in the ’80s that now really shouldn’t be worn anywhere.  And how in the world did I end up with six pairs of sandals and flip-flops?

Among it all are many perfectly good articles of clothing that are just too small or too big or that I can’t imagine ever wearing again — as well as worn out shoes, belts that are falling apart, overly bulky sweaters, and other assorted bric-a-brac.  Out with them all!

I’ve ended up with a closet that is now more manageable and organized — for now, at least — and I hope that some people end up wearing the too-big and too-small items that I don’t need anymore.  Finishing this long-deferred job feels good, and liberating, too.

Dog Hair

My work winter coat is a navy blue cloth greatcoat that extends down to about knee level. It’s sturdy and warm and reasonably professional looking — and also seems to magically attract every strand of white dog hair in our household.

IMG_5821When you live in a house with two dogs, dealing with dog hair is just part of life. When we’re gone our dogs jump up on chairs, flop down on rugs, and leave their fur behind. You can brush their coats regularly, sweep and vacuum repeatedly, and flap out rugs until you can flap no more, but dog hairs are always going to be there, ready to leap onto any item of dark clothing and make you look like a vagabond who’s been sleeping with a pack of strays in a downtown alley.

In our household, we deal with the dog-fur-on-clothing issue by owning approximately two dozen adhesive rollers designed specifically to remove hair from garments. (Of course, the plastic handles of the rollers have all been chewed to smithereens by our dogs, which is just another fun thing about life with dogs.) Although the rollers are designed to remove hairs and pick up most random items, they don’t do an especially good job on dog hairs. The only real way to remove dog hairs from your coat is to exercise your fine motor skills and individually remove them, hair by stinking hair.

That is because dog hairs are clingier than your two-year-old at his first terrifyingly large family reunion. Dog hairs have a special bonding property that makes them stick — well, doggedly — to any dark item of clothing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the NSA is attempting to build listening devices into strands of dog fur to assist in its surveillance programs. Because the NSA apparently monitors just about everything, and dog hairs can be found just about anywhere, it seems like a match made in heaven.