A story in this weekend’s New York Times caught my eye. On May 4 Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. This summit meeting coincided with International Star Wars Day—a.k.a.#MayTheFourthBeWithYou, a.k.a. the day that thousands of Star Wars fans around the world indulge their inner fan-geek, dress up like Jedis and greet everyone in sight with the classic line from the film “May the Force be with you.” For that high level meeting Mr. Trudeau chose to wear two mismatched Star Wars socks — one in blue and gray with R2D2 and the other in gold and black depicting C3PO. Set against Trudeau’s dark suit, white shirt and red tie, the socks were impossible to miss in the photo accompanying the New York Times article. The article further explicated that Trudeau forthrightly acknowledged that he intentionally donned these socks to signal his membership as an unabashed pop culture fans. Furthermore, Trudeau posted a picture of his socks on his Twitter account with the words “These are the socks you are looking for,” yet another Star Wars allusion. The socks serve to reinforce Mr. Trudeau’s image as a new-generation world leader, one who identifies with and understands the concerns of much of his constituency. There’s nothing like bonding over a mass-movie phenomenon to convince a swath of voters that you share their value system.
For years male politicians have used their ties to indicate their allegiances, but this is the first time that I can remember socks coming into play as a signal item of haberdashery. A few years ago I moved away from wearing my usual black or brown socks and began to wear very colorful ones adorned with all kinds of designs – even rainbows and guitars. During my years as a congregational rabbi my socks were often exposed when I sat on the Sanctuary bimah and crossed my legs. After nearly every service I would receive multiple compliments – less often about my sermons than about my socks. I cannot count the times congregants of all ages would approach and say “I really like your socks.” Nowadays, in my work as a hospice music therapist I continue to receive compliments from patients, family members and hospice staff who tell me that my socks cheer them up. To be honest, I began to wear the colorful patterned socks because they made me happy. I never realized that this simple act of whimsy would put a smile on someone else’s face, raise their spirits, and serve as a point of connection to them. Now I know.
Coincidentally, I just learned of a very relevant holiday that is rapidly approaching. Apparently, there are 1500 nationally designated days of commemoration in the U.S. The average American is probably unaware of most of them. May 9th is National Lost Sock Memorial Day. It has been designated as the date to bid farewell to all of the single socks whose mates have been lost over the past year. It is a response to the eternal mystery: Where do all the missing socks go? Is there a washing machine heaven?
According to the official description, the appropriate commemoration of the day includes cleaning one’s drawers of all single socks and moving on. Other recommended ceremonial commemorations include making sock puppets from the single socks, recycling them as dust rags or golf club protectors, or using them to store game board pieces. The day’s official hashtag is #LostSockMemorialDay.
The appearance of the New York Times article about Prime Minister Trudeau’s unmatched socks practice has got me thinking, though. Maybe I should hang onto those single socks. I know that I will definitely continue to wear colorful patterned socks, but I’m not yet sure whether I will follow Prime Minister Trudeau’s sartorial trend and wear two unmatched socks. Maybe, I’ll take a chance and see what kind of reaction I get.
In any case, I will never underestimate the message of my socks!