Tuesday, February 06, 2007


That's right socks. Don't give me that look. Every infantryman with any experience at all knows that socks are equal in importance to his boots, perhaps more so in a way as they require constant maintenance. Socks need to be dry, to keep the foot warm, to move moisture away from the foot so that blisters don't form and to cushion the foot.

In the army we were issued or bought from the clothing sales store a wool blend sock. Some soldiers didn't like them because they said the wook itched. I wore them all the time. They were cheap, available, comfortable and didn't require any thought. I just reached into the drawer and pulled out a pair and put them on my feet. In good condition, those socks kept my feet warm enough and comfortable enough in any boot or shoe.

But later, after re-marrying, my new wife insisted that I maintain some sense of fashion, that is I shouldn't wear OD green socks with everything. I could see her point and like lots of men, most men, I let her buy my underwear and socks. Funny, but in that process cotton came to be the dominant fiber in my sock drawer. I got used to it, in part because I might change socks 3-4 times a day as I transitioned from physical training (PT) clothes to work uniform and back again, often twice a day and then to civilian clothes. But then I retired.

I retired from regular PT as well. When I put on socks in the morning that was it until I undressed for my shower in the evening. Cotton doesn't cut it. If I did any work, my socks would become soaking wet and stay that way, not good for feet or shoes! In the winter, even the best boot socks sans wool left me cold, literally. Now I'm revolting (again, literally) and I rebelled, and started looking for the ideal sock for everyday wear. Yes, I prefer wool. Guess what I found.

Well, when I was a kid wool socks weren't really more expensive than the cotton variety. At least that's how I remember it. But now? Oh, boy! The prices sure have taken a turn upward. A pair of Smartwool medium weight hiking crew socks goes $16.95 a pair. Oh, but they are comfortable! Made of merino wool, the sales lady/owner of the local dealer fawned over these especially as I was buying two pair. I might get two more pair as well...

Woolrich makes some comfortable socks also of merino wool. I prefer the Dayhiker shown in the first photo. Only $14 a pair. My youngest daughter got me two pairs of these for Christmas. I think I'm going to wear them out. I really do like them.

Of course LL Bean sells a wool sock. My oldest daughter got me a pair of those. I wore them yesterday and they are just as comfortable as the Smartwool product (and might even be made by Smartwool or their vendors). Their midweight goes $13.50 a pair.

Altogether that's pretty consistent pricing. I don't know why they are so priced. I know that the wool producers are griping that they aren't getting much for their product so it must not be on the materials end. I imagine that there are enough smart folks out there that demand is high. I suggest you join the rest of us who've (re-) discovered wool socks and just a bit of heaven on earth and get at least one pair for your Saturday excursions.

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