Sunday, August 06, 2006

Blue Clock Socks and Other Matters

For some years now, I’ve wanted to buy a pair of black socks with blue clocks on them. Last week, I came close. Not that close, but at least I got black socks with something noticeably blue on them: skulls-and-crossbones. About a dozen skulls-and-crossbones, actually (is that the plural for that? It came up so rarely in my professional editing days, never in fact, and probably the AP Style Guide is silent on the question).

Blue clock socks? I didn’t make that one up. It’s in the first paragraph of The Big Sleep. My italics.

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.”

Normally I don’t go in for imitating the styles of celebrities or other fictional characters. Indeed, those who know me on sight know that I have little interest in clothing style at all. But man, blue clock socks. If Philip Marlowe wore them, they’re good enough for me. But I’ve never found any. I imagine them to be disembodied clock faces of a blue hue, though I suppose they could be something else such as whole mantle clocks, like those on After Eight Mints, only blue.

My former coworker Steve probably would have appreciated the skull-and-crossbones socks, so I wore them to his memorial service on Saturday, together with my all-purpose gray suit and a tie that wasn’t nearly so interesting. It’s an indication of how deeply business casual has penetrated our world that I was one of only about four or five other men who were wearing a coat and tie. Three times that number had no ties at all. But I don’t take that as a mark of disrespect.

I wasn’t exactly a coworker of Steve’s. We worked at the same company in the late ’80s, but in different departments. He was a newspaperman, and by all accounts a good one, while I was in the trade magazine trade. I hadn’t spoken to him for about 10 years before his death last month, aged only 57, but I remember his wry wit and some of the newspaper stories he told. Unfortunately, he was a good person with a terrible problem, and I understand he drank himself to death. Requiescat in pace, Steve.


At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A "clock" as in "blue clock socks" is used of any ornament or ornamental pattern woven or embroidered up and down the ankle. Presumably sock clocks might actually be clock-shaped, but they don't need to be. Any ornamental pattern or device would count. Your skulls-and-crossbones might well be the blue clocks you've been looking for. I first came across the term in the "nightmare song" in Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe. A relevant excerpt:

"Well, you're driving like mad with this singular lad (by the by, the ship's now a four-wheeler),
And you're playing round games, and he calls you bad names when you tell him that "ties pay the dealer";
But this you can't stand, so you throw up your hand, and you find you're as cold as an icicle,
In your shirt and your socks (the black silk with gold clocks), crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle:"


Post a Comment

<< Home