WOSTER: An ode to the elusive sweat sock of yoreWhat in the world ever happened to those wonderful old wool stockings we used to wear with our Keds or Converse low-cut sneakers, and sometimes with our penny loafers and white bucks, too?
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I sat up late the other evening pondering one of the weighty questions of our time.
What in the world ever happened to those wonderful old wool stockings we used to wear with our Keds or Converse low-cut sneakers, and sometimes with our penny loafers and white bucks, too? What ad wizard thought there could ever be a better foot-protection product than those things we called “sweat socks?”
I know the Space Race and NASA and moon shots spurred numerous great inventions. I’m thinking Tang, for example, and space-age polymers, whatever those are, and, I don’t know, maybe heated suits to wear while walking on the surface of the moon, and other stuff like that. I suppose the new fibers and fabrics that wick (whose idea was it to call that process wicking, anyway?) away moisture filled a need by the younger generation to feel dry as they worked out and biked mountains and ran ultra-marathons and did the latest fitness craze.
I get that I’m totally out of touch. I was ever so happy last summer when our son, Andy, took us to a dress shoe warehouse in Denver, where I found a great pair of penny loafers and a spiffy set of dirty bucks, all for about $70. My only regret is that I didn’t buy the white bucks and the navy-and-bone saddle shoes. Maybe next trip. I’d never heard of DSW, but the place should be on every tourist map in every store. They actually carry shoes that a sensible person could wear without blushing.
The one thing DSW didn’t have was sweat socks. I can’t explain that. With all the normal-looking and fine-wearing shoes they offered, you’d think the place would carry a few pairs of sweat socks.
I’ve been on a quest for the old, throwback style sweat socks. I don’t pass a men’s department or a shoe store without a quick look for my kind of sneaker socks. Nobody seems to carry them. And they’re the only thing that really wears well with the kind of flat-bottomed, no-arch-support Converse sneakers I prefer to wear, now that every other tennis shoe maker in the country has elected to offer things with soles a couple of inches thick and a neon range of colors that look like lightning struck the Easter bunny.
(In full disclosure, I owe the lightning-Easter bunny phrase to the late Leonard Andera of Chamberlain, who, while he was a state senator, once used that expression to describe a four-color brochure printed by some government agency. It’s Leonard’s phrase, far as I know, but it sure fits tennis shoe colors these days.)
I used to wear two pair of those sweat socks with my Converse basketball shoes. I wore high-cuts my junior and senior year. I’d torn ligaments in my ankle my sophomore season, and Doc Vance, the Chamberlain athletic director who knew just about everything there was to know about athletic training in the 1950s and 1960s, said the high-cuts would give more support.
The socks didn’t wick away moisture, for sure. Sometimes after a game, my feet would be soaked. That’s just the way it was. And if you left them in your locker after practice for several days in a row, they didn’t wick away the odor, either, also just the way it was.
The best part of those socks was when you got them broken in, the lower part still cushioned your feet, but the tops sagged down around your ankles. In practice, you could pretend you were Pistol Pete Maravich, who was as famous for his floppy socks and floppy hair as he was for his rainbow jump shots.
The other day, I wore my Converse sneaks for a long, long walk with Nancy. I came back with blisters on both feet. I miss those old sweat socks.
For the record, I also miss my “Chet Atkins in Hollywood” album, Elvis and Buddy Holly, Lucky Tiger butch wax (and a head of hair to put it on), Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty, sock hops, car hops and four-door Chevrolets with three-speed stick shifts on the steering columns.
I suppose I can go barefoot.