I need to buy two or three dozen pair of socks. In particular, Smartwool™ PhD® Ski Graduated Compression Ultra Light socks. Which retail for $38 a pair and for which I have thus far found anyplace that even sells them at a markdown or offers a quantity break. So I figured I'd check whether any of my friends has an "in" to the back rooms of the retail name-brand clothing business....
I started to veer off on this tangent above, but decided to stick to the point. So be aware that the substance, such as it is, of this post is above the horizontal rule.
Even by the standards of American white guys, my interest in sending a message with my socks has always been pretty low. At some point I figured out that I might just as well buy all the same socks, and about 20 years ago, bought a couple-dozen pair of socks at the late lamented "Army Surplus" store in Harvard Square, and never had mismatched socks again. Those socks were cotton, which I'd always been told was best for socks because it absorbs sweat. They wore out fairly quickly, and of course the problem with socks from the surplus store is that you can't get more of the same thing a year later. So when I was down to the point where I couldn't go a week without having to choose between wearing dirty socks and wearing holy socks, I bought another couple dozen pair of identical socks, this time at Sears. They cost more, but didn't last a whole lot longer. But I did the same thing at least once more.
Then I read at least one article about how cotton socks suck. They absorb moisture when your feet sweat. And once damp, they stay damp. Which feels clammy, and provides a nice host environment for the bacteria that make your feet smell, and promotes blistering. All of which certainly agreed with my experience, if not my preconceptions.
And the article (or some item, of several I'm conflating) went on to talk aout how wool is the best material for socks, because it wicks.
Really? Wool? Isn't it, you know, scratchy? I don't recall at this point what it was that I read. But I have to suspect that at least one of the things I read came out of the Smartwool™ marketing department. I was, at any rate, dubious. But I was also tired of holes in my socks, and even more tired of my feet stinking. So I bought a couple pair and gave them a try.
I remember performing a very deliberate experiment, involving washing a pair by hand each night and wearing the other pair the next day while the first pair dried. My feet weren't clammy, for basically the first time I could remember. And after two weeks, they didn't stink up the room when I took my shoes off, either. So I went out and bought two dozen pair of them. That was 2001. I still have six pair with no holes in them. Thin. But no holes.
It turns out that when you've gotten in the habit of being able to go two or three weeks between trips to the laundry, it's a little irritating to be down to only 18 or 20 pair of socks. So in 2006 or so, I went looking for another dozen pair of those socks. And looking. And looking. And finally got a friendly shoe-store owner to show me the Smartwool catalog. Which no longer had my socks, or even anything that was likely to pass for them when only seen in glimpses between trouser-hem and shoe-top.
So I decided I could live with potentially having to pull three socks out of my sock drawer in order to get a pair, and bought two dozen of a different Smartwool™ sock. And my feet remained comfortable and dry.
In the mean time, my doctors have been after me for years to wear support stockings, because of chronic edema in one of my calves from an infection I had almost 20 years ago. And for years I've been blowing my doctors off, because every time I wore support stockings, the experience was, in every way, crappy. They're stupid expensive. They're a pain to put on. They run really easily, which makes them even more of a pain to put on, because I'm always trying to make sure my nails don't snag them.
Then I saw that Smartwool was now selling compression stockings. So I gave them a try. And not only did they not suck in any of the ways the usual drug-store compression stockings did: they actually felt good. It was nice to come home at the end of the day and not find one leg swollen up like a sausage. But even nicer was going through the day without the low-level soreness and tenderness that I'd stopped noticing until it went away.
So, I want to stock up on them. And the smaller the fraction of $1k I have to spend to do so, the better. So, as I said at the beginning, if anyone knows how to work a deal in the name-brand clothing business....
1 Yes, it seems weird to me now that I ever believed it. Further, that I never even questioned this thing that "everybody knows" — this thing that is, upon even a moment's reflection, so obviously wrong. But until well into adulthood, I really did believe it. And (not that it's much of a defense) I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone: the stuff I read that persuaded me otherwise was, as I remember noticing at the time, predicated on the assumption that the reader needed to be disabused of this notion.
2 At least, I thought at the time it was the problem with buying socks at the surplus store. I now know that pointless product churn is in the nature of fashion industries. And that nearly all clothing — everything that's not an enormously successful branded classic, e.g. Levis 501s — is subject to that sort of churn.
3 And this, for me, was the beginning of wisdom about fashion industries. Though it wasn't til earlier this very year, when I discovered that the shoes I'd found shoes that were actually comfortable — and were, I found after buying and wearing three pair, consistently comfortable — were now, in 2015, no longer available. It wasn't until earlier this very year that the scales were fully lifted from my eyes. Which of course does nothing for the pain in my feet.
4 But it's a medical expense — can't you pay for them with FSA money, or deduct them from your taxes?No. And no. And for once, I'll spare you the details.
5 I think I may have been browsing a magazine at REI; something like that.