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.

shutterstock_154076849

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.

Happy First Sweater Day!

When the dogs and I stepped outside this morning, my breath was faintly visible and a distinct chill was in the air.  When we got home I checked the weather app on my iPhone and saw that the temperature is supposed to reach the 50s and perhaps touch the low 60s today.  I therefore declare this First Sweater Day.

IMG_5095It is not officially recognized, of course, but it is important nevertheless.  It marks the first day that I can wear a sweater to work.  It has to be on a Friday, when the casual dress rule prevails, and it can’t be declared too early, when wearing a sweater would leave me uncomfortably warm.  It arrives in Columbus at a different date than it would in, say, Minneapolis or Portland, Maine, where First Sweater Day probably came weeks ago.  But when the air outside has begun to acquire that gelid feel, and leaves are scattered on the sidewalks and roadways, and pumpkins appear on the porches of your neighbors, you know that First Sweater Day is here.

First Sweater Day is one of those real-life demarcations of the seasons, just like the start of school or the beginning of the fall TV season used to be.  Donning a sweater today will help me to stave off wearing any kind of overcoat for a while, and from now on, as we move more deeply into the layering season, sweaters will be a staple of the wardrobe.

Happy First Sweater Day!

Socks Acting Out

Socks are the the most roundly ignored article of western clothing.

Unless you wear socks with shorts — which itself makes a significant statement about the kind of person you are — socks are hidden by your trousers.  Very few people buy socks based on their colors, or designs, or fabrics.  Even fewer people try to match their sock selection with the rest of their workday wardrobe.  I usually pick out socks at random in a pitch-dark room in the morning because it is irrelevant whether my socks are blue, black or gray, plain or with a line down the side or an argyle pattern.  No one will see them, so what difference does it make?

IMG_4937I think socks realize that no one pays attention to them or, frankly, cares about them.  Most socks accept this fate and move forward with their humble existence and, when selection day comes, seek to find pride and fulfillment in performing their intended function of keeping human feet warm and dry and unchafed in a shoe.  Other socks come to despair and can’t stand to continue with their sock-drawer lives and seize the first opportunity for freedom that presents itself, abandoning their mates and finding fulfillment in a life of solitary contemplation behind a clothes dryer or under a bed.

Still other socks rebel in a different way.  They reject the very essence of sockdom.  It galls them that no one gives them a second thought.  They crave attention and can’t abide being ignored.  They know that there are only two ways that an average sock can break out of the pack — by developing a hole in the toe or by losing all upper sock elasticity.  Socks that eventually, after years of service, develop a hole in the heel have done their duty, but socks that quickly develop a hole in the toe are just acting out.  Droopy socks, on the other hand, know that, over the course of the day, they will fall below ankle level and bunch around your heel again and again, requiring constant adjustment and attention.  Each upward tug just further feeds their neediness and addiction to getting more and more attention.

In some ways, socks are like people.

Anticipatory Attire Syndrome

This morning Penny, Kasey, and I saw a good example of Anticipatory Attire Syndrome.

IMG_3474It was about 30 degrees, and the sun was still below the horizon.  I was bundled up and wearing winter hat and gloves as we made our way along the Yantis Loop, when suddenly we saw a female jogger trundling past wearing only running shorts and a t-shirt.  Her bare legs looked about the color of a boiled lobster and her face did, too.  She was obviously freezing, and I don’t think the shivers and good bumps were helping her running style.

Her predicament is not uncommon this time of year.  Winters in Columbus tend to be so gray and glum that, with the first hint of spring, some people go all in for the expected change in season.  When the skies are clear but the temperature is still on the south side of 50 you’ll see people out in shorts, acting like it’s high summer.  They are so eager for a little warmth they just can’t help themselves.  Then they catch a cold.

Let’s be smart, people!  Spring is a transitional period, made for sweaters and light jackets.  Hold off on the shorts and t-shirts and flip-flops for a little while longer, will you?

#SuitFail

Yesterday I was deciding what to wear to work.  After careful consideration, I selected an old favorite — a camel-colored, nail head-patterned suit.

IMG_3365As I was removed the suit from its hanger I noticed some wear and tear along the seams . . . and then I saw, to my horror, that the fabric of the pants had worn through, at about the point the keys in my pocket would occupy when I sit.  Apparently, during my last wearing of the suit — at least, I hope it was the last wearing, and I haven’t been walking around oblivious to a hole in my trousers for months — the fabric had endured all the keychain and wallet-induced tension it could stand.

I’m sorry to lose this suit.  I’ve had it for at least 15 years, and it’s been a faithful member of the Webner suit rotation, hauled out and donned every week or so, winter, spring, summer, and fall.  I knew which shirts and ties and belts and shoes “went” with it.  That helped make getting dressed in the morning into more of a comfortable routine, where I could let my lower brain make the familiar shirt and tie selections as my higher brain focused on the day ahead.

A good suit becomes like an old friend, capable of gently giving you important guidance.  This suit fit well, and if it started to feel a bit snug I knew it was time to push myself away from the table and work to lose a few pounds.  Now I’ll need to find another suit to fill the not-gray, not-blue spot in my closet — and to let me know when I should start that diet.

Nattering Nabob Of Nubbiness

I love the autumn.  Every year I look forward to taking a sweater out of my closet and wearing it on a cool fall day.  And every year, when I do so, I ask the same question:  What in the heck makes my sweaters get nubby?

You know what I mean, I think.  You have a nice woolen sweater that’s warm and soft and perfect for the autumn weather.  You wear it, and wear it, and then one day you notice these tiny woolen stubs that have sprouted up from the sweater, likes eyes on an aging  potato or zits on a greasy teenager’s face.  They’re unsightly, and they’re irritating, as you try to carefully pick them off, one by one.  But we all know that once a sweater crosses the nubbiness threshold, it’s got one foot in the lamb’s wool grave.  The next time you turn around, there will be a few new ones to give you that unpleasantly knobby, senior citizen look.

Can anyone tell me what causes sweater nubs?  And, equally important, is there anything I can do shield my favorite sweaters from an unwanted, knobbly fate?

Asking For Outfit Guidance From The Fashion-Challenged

Every morning my lovely wife takes great care in assembling her outfit, thoughtfully matching her skirt or pants, blouse, sweater, shoes and a fashion accessory like a scarf or pearls.  And then she foolishly throws caution to the winds by asking me what I think of the final combination.

I always say that her choices look good — because, in fact, they always do.  The unfortunate reality, however, is that my opinion is without value because I have absolutely no fashion sense.  I can’t distinguish between subtle shades of black.  I don’t know when — if ever — it’s appropriate to wear plaid.  I have no clue which colors “go together” and which colors “clash.”  (“Clash” seems like pretty violent imagery for a clothing-related issue, incidentally.)  Indeed, I can’t even figure out how to hang up most of Kish’s clothes, what with all of the mysterious straps and outsized or undersized holes, much less express a meaningful view of whether they logically should be worn together.

I probably inherited my fashion obliviousness from my father.  During the ’70s he plunged into the outlandish clothing trends of the decade with reckless abandon, going all in for brightly colored Sansabelt slacks, loud checked jackets, white loafers with the gold buckles, leisure suits, and shirts with zippers.  It’s probably fortunate for me that, as a lawyer, I’m expected to wear basic gray or blue suits, white shirts, and some kind of drab tie.  I can manage that without embarrassing myself.

So this morning, Kish will ask how she looks, and I’ll say she looks great as she always does.  Lately, though, I’ve been noticing that after I express my heartfelt opinions she’s likely to go change her outfit, anyway.  Maybe she’s not relying on my sense of chic after all.

The Sure-Fire Seasonal Clothing Weight-Gain Test (With Apologies To Dylan Thomas)

If you’re like me, you don’t use a scale regularly.  What’s the point?  But now we are coming upon a change in seasons.  Soon we will have to put away the ratty shorts that have been our summer clothing staple and find out whether we can still squeeze into our jeans.  And there is no more anguished sign that you’ve packed on more weight than you thought than realizing, with disappointment and disgust, that those jeans that fit so well in April are now breathtakingly tight.

Of course, the true test is not whether you’ve added a pound or two eating one too many M&M Blizzards at DQ.  No, the test is whether you accept that you’ve become more sedentary, that your metabolism has slowed to a crawl, and that your weight gain is inevitable.  The true sign of surrender is when you head off to the nearest Kohl’s to buy new jeans in the next size or two up — all the while holding onto your old jeans in the forlorn hope that someday, somehow, you will wear once more your “skinny” clothes.

Brothers and sisters, resist that temptation!  If those jeans feel snug, now is the time to take that extra walk, eat the low-fat lunch, and forgo the late-night snack.  To shamelessly borrow from Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Next Size

Do not go gentle into that next size,
Yield not to shock of flab and gut;
Rage, rage against expansion of the thighs.

Though trying on jeans may cause surprise,
As summer splurges show on your butt
Do not go gentle into that next size.

Breathe deep, make your flaccid body rise
The choice for you must be clear-cut
Rage, rage against expansion of the thighs.

Trust in your clothes, and not your eyes,
When tempted, you must say “but”
Do not go gentle into that next size.

Resist, I pray, the clothing stores’ cries
Older you may be, yet still you may strut
Rage, rage against expansion of the thighs.

No milkshakes for you, and neither french fries,
These from your menu you must cut
Do not go gentle into that next size.
Rage, rage against expansion of the thighs.

Old Blue, Adieu

This weekend Richard assumes ownership of Old Blue, a jacket with a curious back story.

Kish bought this Eddie Bauer jacket for me about 15 years ago.  I call it Old Blue.  It’s a perfect jacket for many months of Columbus weather — waterproof, and not too heavy.  For some reason, however, Kish has grown to loathe it.  If I put it on she grimaces and begs me not to wear it.  She regularly threatens to throw it out, and at times I fear for Old Blue’s safety.  Who would have thought clothing could inspire such passion?

Fortunately, there is a solution to the problem of Old Blue.  Richard, being a man of good taste, also likes wearing Old Blue, and has asked if he can have it in Chicago.  Of course, the answer is yes.  So this weekend I bid farewell to Old Blue, a garment that served me long and well.  May you thrive in Chicago, Old Blue, far away from the palpable disdain of my lovely wife!