Black socks are boring but easy to live with

October 10, 1990|By Parrick K. Lackey | Parrick K. Lackey,N.Y. Times News Service

The other day I achieved ecstasy, and it occurred to me that you might want to learn how.

Ecstasy arrived in a box my wife had neatly wrapped for my 47th birthday. Upon opening it, my eyes bulged, my heart raced.

Nestled warmly inside the box were 42 identical black socks.

While they lasted, there would be no need to match black socks. Any two would do. And if the dryer ate one of them, 41 identical ones would remain.

My remaining life's goal is to own 42 identical white sweat socks. Black socks for work, white socks for play. The good life.

As you've probably gathered, I match the socks in my family. Matching socks is not one of the chores a man can get out of by pleading and demonstrating incompetence.

I do demonstrate incompetence. Rather than push one sock neatly into its mate, I tie the two together in half a square knot. My wife lowers her standards and accepts my knots in order to get out of matching socks herself.

Matching black socks presents three awful problems:

1. There are 1,426,936 known shades of black with more shades suspected. The next space probe to Mars probably will discover three or four shades more. Two socks that seem to match in the light of your bedroom turn out to look wildly different in the light at work. I have left home wearing two black socks and arrived at my desk with one sock black and the other deep purple. How someone switched socks on me without removing my shoes is a mystery.

2. Black socks come in 1,426,936 styles, so even if the colors match, the ribbing or material might not.

3. Both socks in a pair are rendered useless when the dryer eats either one. With 42 matching socks, the disappearance of a sock here, a sock there, will only gradually reduce the sock stock.

It is true I will have to retire all the black socks I wore before my birthday. I can't have them contaminating my stock of identical socks. But the loss is small. Those socks had never paired up right anyway.

Owning 42 matching black socks makes me the happiest I've been about clothes since the Army issued me an entire wardrobe in olive drab. Back then, every sock was the same. Every shirt was the same. All the pants were the same. Every T-shirt was olive drab. Mismatching any article of clothing was out of the question. Doing the laundry was a cinch, since all the clothes were the same color, including the handkerchiefs. If one item bled, so what?

Clothes colors would be worth the bother if they brought us happiness, but fashions are one of three major causes of misery along with food and sex. A woman who believes she has dressed wrong for an occasion makes herself and her companion miserable. And women never feel they are dressed right. Not even brides are sure they are dressed right. The whole point of fashion is to catch others dressed wrong. Who needs it?

Men practically dress alike already. In offices they wear suits that vary little in color and shape. For physical labor, they wear unstylish, durable clothes like jeans with no name stitched on the rump. Young men go crazy buying just the right brand of sneakers, but mature men seek comfort and durability.

My 42 matching black socks could be the start of a revolution to free us from matching our clothes. Someday we could dress in the dark without fear. No wife would ever have to ask her husband, "Honey, am I dressed right?" No wife would ever have to tell her husband, "Oh no, you're not wearing that."

It would be a kinder, drabber world.

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