I own some nice shirts, a few sporty blazers, but your wardrobe in sum is probably nicer than mine.
All but the socks. My sock drawer is treasure chest of stylish footwear. There are dazzling patterns, garish colors, and a eye-popping pair of neon blues.
I realized years ago you can get away with dressing like a derelict as long as you wear really snazzy socks. I without fail pack great socks during any trip where it’s likely I’ll need to make a nice impression without risking opening my mouth.
It’s a fact the clothing item we put on our feet can most help a man, well, stand out.
So go ahead, fellas, and over-spend on suits, ties, and other fashion accessories. My socks will kick your butt.
That’s why it’s ironic those posh socks nearly resulted in getting my own butt kicked.
It was during the aforementioned recent trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas. There’s always one night on these press gaggles when the convivial folk will get together for a fine meal and a tour of the local saloons.
I asked the host prior to meeting: Is this dress-up night?
Yes, it was, she assured.
Nothing fancy for me. I’d packed lightly. That meant Navy blue blazer, khaki pants and “Save-the-Rain-Forest” tie with profiles of endangered little frogs.
And those devastating neon blue socks.
They were the talk of the evening, mostly because not a single other person bothered to dress up even a bit.
That was fine with me.
I’ve spent most of my life being the worst-dressed adult at every gathering I’ve ever attended.
So now I like to be the best dressed male in the room. The fashion competition, as you’re about to learn, is slim -- even when the people wearing the so-called fashions are anything but.
The evening would be followed by a traditional pub crawl down Center Street in Hot Springs.
I’ve been on pub crawls ever since shortly after I ceased actual crawling. I know the rules. And the first rule is that the last bar is always a big mistake.
That’s where someone starts a fight. And, by fight, I mean a careless word is spoken and someone’s feelings get hurt. I certainly don’t mean fisticuffs or bloodshed.
The night went just as I could have predicted. People who write for a living yapped about how raucous they could be, how much booze they could consume, blah, blah, blah.
The first bar had a great blues band playing. It was fun. The locals were friendly and, yeah, I was the best dressed guy in the whole damn joint.
It was cool there. In really cool bars they don’t judge you by how you dress. They judge you on if you’re a jerk or not. And I could tell it was the best bar we’d be in because of the eagerness of the posers in our party to exit it.
And that’s what they did. They had one drink and split asking if there was a bar where we could all sing, gadzooks, some karaoke.
But I’m a group guy and when I’m with the group, I don’t abandon ship.
I caught up with them, bought a round and sat back in my seat at the table, crossed my legs and let those dynamic socks work their magic.
I’m just beginning to grasp the power of a quiet man in nice socks in a bar with a bunch of ceaseless jabberers.
Later, after I’d nearly been annihilated in the biker bar, one of the girls told me how classy I looked standing up to that drunken hillbilly who seemed intent on killing me because he’d never seen someone so flowerlike in his divey bar.
One-by-one our gang of about 12 faded to five, me, three girls and a burly guy who wrote stories for motorcycle enthusiasts and suggested we go down the street to a biker bar called “The Lazy Hog.”
Now, there’s a fine distinction savvy readers will immediately grasp. “Bikers” and “motorcycle enthusiasts” may sound similar. They are not.
“Motorcyclist enthusiasts” are white collar professionals who wasted 5-10 years of their youth studying things like accounting, law and medicine while “bikers” were engaged in felonious activities that led to 5-10 years of penal incarceration.
I tried to explain this, that this last bar would be a big mistake. The pseudo-biker writer said, no, they’d treat us like kings. After all, he said, he wrote for a big motorcycle enthusiast magazine and was wearing a T-shirt that mentioned the publication’s name on it.
“When they see this we’ll get free drinks, guaranteed,” he boasted.
Rather than free drinks, we almost got to see the female bartender’s new ass tattoo, but I don’t think that made us special.
Again, I insisted, this is a bad idea, especially with me dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Nonsense, he said. So in we went, me shaking my head.
It was probably the roughest bar I’ve ever been in -- and I’ve been in tons of bars since I got my first fake ID back in the fifth grade.
One guy about my height came straight up to me. His dark eyes were tombstones. They were the same kind of Richie Aprile eyes Tony Soprano described as “Manson lamps.” He was wearing torn flannel once favored by 90s grunge bands.
He wasn’t at all stylish.
The first thing he said to me -- the last thing I clearly heard was -- “Nice socks, dude. Did you go to Harvard or Yale?”
He may have said other witty things. I could not discern. The band started kicking Ted Nugent covers and the rest of all he said for the next 20 minutes was unintelligible.
I was fearful he’d be mumbling something like, “So do you think I’m some kind of pussy?”
And I’d mishear him and -- ever the gent -- agreeably respond, “I sure do! Never seen a bigger one!”
After about five minutes of us being nose to nose -- me trying to be chummy, him trying to goad me into a misstep -- the Sasquatch-sized bouncer approached.
I thought he was going to bully the guy into leaving us alone. He did not.
Instead, he frisked him head-to-toe for concealed weapons. Then he walked away.
This was not reassuring behavior from the bar’s hired security.
I think I could have probably taken the guy, but his scarred face hinted he was an experienced fighter and I wasn’t wearing my fighting duds.
I feared if he ripped my throat open my gushing blood would endanger my favorite tie, the one with the little endangered frogs all over it.
Then things began to get worse.
The man’s buddy came up to him and whispered something apparently humorous because they both looked at me and began laughing maniacally.
The buddy was maybe the worst dressed guy in a venue full of men who would have made great fodder for the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” gang.
He had vomit all down the front of his T-shirt.
Our host, the motorcycle enthusiast, was trying to be friendly with the bartender who was taking friendly a step too far. She wanted to show off her new ass tattoo.
The offer provoked an angry outburst from her boss who yelled, “Quit showing everybody your damned ass and get to pourin’ beers!”
It was only the second best girl fight we’d see during our 20-minute trip to The Lazy Hog.
Minutes after he’d frisked my harasser, the bouncer ran to the jukebox where a fight between three biker chicks erupted as the band banged out, I swear, “Catch Scratch Fever.”
That’s when we all knew what I’d known 30 minutes previously: It was time to get the hell out of Dodge.
So was wearing those dashing socks a mistake? Certainly not.
I’ll wear them again next time I’m invited to some bar crawl and a motorcycle enthusiast says, “Say, I have a great idea!”
They’re the perfect muzzling accessory to shove down any idiot’s throat.