Friday, May 19, 2017

The Happy Curmudgeon: White Socks

Foot Comfort: 1:12
“Happy is the man…”

“When I was young I found out that the big toe
always ends up making a hole in a sock.
So I stopped wearing socks.” 

Albert Einstein in a remark to Philippe Halsman,
quoted in A.P. French, Einstein: A Centenary Volume (1979)

The warm weather is finally upon us; this means spending a good amount of time outdoors, which also means dressing for the season. That being said, I like to wear white socks for comfort when I go out walking with my running shoes to the park, which is often during the months that make up spring and summer. A package of six white crew socks used to last me a year, which is to say a couple of seasons. No longer. The quality has suffered, which is a disappointment; well, a small one.

You see, I have been purchasing these socks from the same manufacturer (i.e., Hanes, an American apparel company) faithfully and dutifully for decades—in many ways I am “a creature of habit.” Something has changed, and for the longest time I did not know what it was, until recently, when I decided to do a more thorough examination. The socks are much thinner, so they wear out quicker. It’s as simple as that. This solves the puzzle of what happened, but it does not yet solve the problem of what I should now do.

The rational part of me says I should change companies and buy a more expensive brand of white socks, which is a loss, especially for the manufacturer, which likely does not know that many men like me wish they could buy the same quality socks they always wore. Was it necessary for the company to change the way that they made socks? Many people were already happy with them? I doubt that this is now the case.

My White Socks: A pair of  newly washed white socks from my preferred manufacturer. They are comfortable, but are not as durable as they once were.
Photo Credit & Source: ©2017. Perry J. Greenbaum

You can’t tell from looking at the package that the socks are no longer the same, since they are all enclosed in a plastic bag; you could tell only after wearing them and seeing how quickly they wear out. That being the case, I might have to buy more-expensive socks, which I trust will be of better quality—that is, be of greater durability, and last longer. Is it a matter of hoping for the best?

It is, but I can’t be sure that I can get the certainty that will satisfy me; I lack the certainty that this is indeed the case. They might look good, but as I have found out from past experiences, appearances can be and are often filled with deception, leading to disappointment. If I am forced to buy another more expensive brand, I still can’t be sure that they will be as comfortable as the ones I currently own. This being the case, I will likely keep on buying the same socks that I have enjoyed wearing for as long as I can remember.

Yes, the Hanes-made socks are comfortable, which is the chief reason I have been buying them for years. I only wish that the company would go back to the old production method, where the socks were thicker and lasted longer. You might find it surprising that men are so particular about their socks, but many men are about such things, including Albert Einstein. Even though I can agree with the great theoretical physicist on his analysis of socks, I can’t agree with his solution. I always wear socks, unless I am walking on the beach, in which case I don’t.

Moreover, I have another solid reason why I require a comfortable pair of socks, one that centers on my health. I suffer from a medical condition known as neuropathy (CIPN for those that like precision), a side effect of chemo treatments I had a few years ago. This makes finding the right footwear, including socks, essential for my comfort. And comfort is part of any person’s well-being.

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