We’ve all been there. We buy some tall, white socks because they look so sporty and clean, and because they match any cycling outfit, even those glow-in-a-black-hole yellow shoes that Perez was wearing on Sunday. If your legs are long and bony, tall white socks close some of the gap between sock cuff and the leg of the shorts, helping you look less like an Oxfam model and more like a normal person. If your legs are chunky and short, tall white socks give the lower part of your leg that muscled, powerful accent that looks so cool when you’re standing in your underwear bent over in a cycling pose with your ass to the mirror as you try to look over your shoulder to see how you look to other people and are of course suitably mortified by what you see.
The biggest benefit to crisp, clean, tall white socks, however, is that if you always wear them, people think you’ve got a zillion pairs because everyone knows that tall white socks quickly get too nasty to wear after one or two outings. If you have a zillion pairs, it implies that you’re fabulously wealthy, or that you’re sponsored, or that your wife doesn’t have to work outside the home, or that you can afford full-time domestic help. It shows that YOU don’t have to slave away, bent double over a bleach bottle trying to scrub out the grease and grime from yesterday’s slugfest in the mud.
If you insist on wearing tall white socks even in the nastiest weather, it reinforces all of the above. ‘Wow! Muffy has so many socks (and at $16.95 that adds up quick!) that she can just wear ’em and toss ’em.” That’s instant respect, especially if you’re wearing premium brands like Assos (means “asshole” in Swiss-Italian), or Rapha (means “uncertain sexual orientation”) in Rafanese.
What worked for the pros can work for you
Tall white socks are also proven to improve cycling performance. If you’re an adherent of the training methodologies espoused by Chris Carmichael, Andy Coggan, Michele Ferrari, or Voluptua the Tantric Sex Coach, you already understand what it takes to squeeze the most out of your body, so to speak. But the extra “winning” ingredient is always activated by tall white socks. Experts don’t know exactly why the tall white sock improves cycling performance, and posers like you and me frankly don’t care.
Don’t believe it? Eddy Merckx set his hour record wearing tall white socks, although admittedly they sagged a bit as elastic hadn’t been invented yet. In addition to huge quantities of EPO, corticosteroids, and blood doping, Lance Armstrong’s winning edge came from…you guessed it. Tall white socks. Alberto’s rapid rise from a low-level drug addict who bought blood doping products under his dog’s name from Eufemiano Fuentes to a world class doper and Tour winner who bought his doping products from Basque cattlemen was due to…tall white socks.
In our own little corner of the cycling world, Los Angeles County has a number of proud exponents of the tall white sock, none more widely known and admired than Knoll. Although rarely seen on rides longer than 45 yards, and although he has a permanent designated spot at the Peet’s in Santa Monica, the simple act of pulling on a pair of tall white socks turns him into a terrible terror of monstrous mountaineering. The photo at the left shows him battering his mates into submission even though this is his first ride since ’02, and immediately prior to jumping on his bike he had three bacon cheeseburgers and a plate of bleu cheese.
The dirty little secret
The reason so many cyclists begin with tall white socks but give up on them before realizing their full benefits has to do with filth. The socks get dirty rather quickly. Stuffed inside a nasty, moldy, stinky cycling shoe, or stretched up over a calf that’s been slathered in brownish/reddish embrocation, drizzled with sweat, and sprayed with an admixture of sand and sludge from the bike path will quickly scuzz out your socks. Just having to touch the nasty things after a ride is enough to make you want to throw them away. It’s like having a strip of toilet paper permanently attached to the heel of your shoe. A real buzzkill.
Tired after the Donut and desperate to eat enough food to counteract the health and weight-loss benefits of the ride, you toss the crud-covered socks into the hamper and viciously attack the peanut butter with a large wooden spoon. You leave the mouldering socks there until the next day, or perhaps the next week, giving the gunk on the socks time to fester and procreate in the steamy, fetid pile of damp undies, smelly t-shirts, yucked out yoga pants, and snot-encrusted cycling gloves. The sock scum multiplies, seeps into the merino/cotton/lycra fibers, and permanently stains the formerly proud, crisp, tall white sock.
When it’s time for laundry you toss them into the wash with a squirt of OxiClean, a dash of industrial strength detergent, a dab of Go-Jo, maybe a capful of turpentine, and a prayer. What comes out is a slightly off-color pair of socks that are no longer crisp and pretty and calling out to you, “Hey, stretch me over your well-turned ankles and supple calves,” but rather are whispering, “If you pedal quickly enough maybe no one will notice we’re not crisply white anymore.”
You wear them a few more times, including a morning or two when it’s wet or damp outside, and pretty soon they’ve turned a pale shade of gray. Before you realize it you’ve tossed them, or are using them to wipe your chain, and have replaced them with something black or navy that doesn’t show the filth. And guess what? You’ve achieved none of the fitness or envy benefits of your purchase.
As you sock, so shall you ride
After decades of having his wife scrub his tall white socks by hand, Wankmeister was recently handed a stack of papers by a process server titled, “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” Under Attachment A, which listed the causes for the petition, Wankmeister noted the following:
1. Respondent pees on the toilet rim and never wipes it off.
2. Respondent makes yogurt and fruit for dessert but never throws away the banana peel, and instead dumps it into the disposal, which clogs, and causes the apartment maintenance man to charge us $75 dollars per visit.
3. Respondent farts all the time.
4. Respondent sleeps through date night movies.
5. Respondent always forgets our anniversary, but invariably remembers his own birthday with an expensive cycling-related purchase.
6. Respondent is tired all the time, except when it’s time to cycle, talk about cycling, blog about cycling, read cycling magazines, or check out Fuckdude’s latest video post on the “Tug-Toner.” Which was disgusting, by the way.
7. Respondent’s income is a joke.
8. Respondent’s bike cost more than the resale value of both our cars.
9. Respondent always falls asleep early, if you know what I mean.
10. Respondent makes me scrub his nasty fucking tall white cycling socks.
When Wankmeister got this shocking paperwork, he realized that his marriage of 24 years was on the brink, and only by making drastic and permanent changes to every aspect of his relationship would it survive. So Wanky took the high road, bit the bullet, and rolled out Wankmeister 2.0. That’s right. He told her she no longer had to wash the socks. Sometimes you have to give in to make your marriage work. And Wanky was willing to do that.
The 12-Step Method of Tall Sock Whitification
So here are Wankmeister’s Secrets for Tall Sock Whitification. With a little study you too can wear crisp, tall white socks no matter how nasty the weather. Your packmates will envy your sock-horn of plenty and invite you to all the coolest parties and apres-Pier Ride coffee klatches.
1. Don’t ever toss the socks in the hamper after a ride. Instead, rinse them in hot tap water.
2. Take out your special Japanese Magic Green Soap Bar of Death (not sold in stores).
3. Rub the affected areas with the Soap Bar of Death. The Soap Bar of Death is gentle enough to use without a welding mask. However, welding gloves are advised.
4. Squirt copious amounts of OxiClean on the affected areas.
5. Gently pour small amounts of bleach directly onto the stains, which have now been assaulted by successive layers of hot water, Green Soap Bar of Death, and OxiClean.
6. Take a shower.
7. Check FB and hits on your blog, if you have one.
8. Go back to the sink and scrub your socks by hand until the stains are gone.
9. Rinse in hot water.
10. Scrub some more.
11. Rinse out the sink so that there are no grease stains or chunks of dissolved flesh from the bleach and Soap Bar of Death to infuriate your wife.
12. Toss the socks in the laundry hamper, preferably wrapped in aluminum foil so they don’t dissolve the other fabrics they might come into contact with.
Well, there you have it. See you and your whitey, tighty, crispy, tall white socks out on the road!