The Clothes Horse

After thirty years of indecision I have finally solved the sock problem


“Surely you’re not leaving the house dressed like that. That tie doesn’t go with your shirt.”

These are among the most dreaded words a husband can hear, normally spoken by his wife as a formula: “that <piece of clothing A> doesn’t go with that <piece of clothing B>.” I must confess, I hear these words frequently.

“What are you talking about?” I rejoined, trying to avoid the inevitable. “Of course the tie goes with the shirt. I’m wearing both of ‘em, so wherever I go, the shirt and tie come too. The tie goes with the shirt just fine,” I insisted. It was fruitless—I knew I was fighting a losing battle. As sure as the day is long, I was about to be sentenced to return to the bedroom to examine the contents of my closet and try again.

“That’s not what I meant,” she clarified. “I mean they don’t match.”

All I can figure is that there is this comprehensive color and pattern matching program running somewhere in every woman’s brain. There’s no other way to explain how she can immediately dismantle (in a glance, no less) what took ten minutes of me staring blankly into my closet to assemble.

Apparently there is this mystical rule book wholly unknown to the male species, a book containing an exhaustive list of what fabric patterns “go together,” and which do not. How else could someone come up with such an arbitrary rule that says plaids don’t go with polka dots? Why not?

Part two of the book contains the same sort of mysterious information about colors—which ones go together well, and which ones trigger an epileptic seizure if used together. To make matters worse it uses weird names for colors that men have never heard of, like mauve and puce. I thought puce was something you did when you were sick. Whatever.

But there is hope, men. After thirty years of indecision I have finally solved the sock problem. Simply buy black socks, maybe ten identical pairs. First, that limits your choices, shaving perhaps twenty minutes off your daily pondering of what will pass inspection. Second, as an added bonus, since washing machines always seem to eat just one sock (never both socks), just throw the single into your sock drawer, knowing it has eighteen more identical friends in there. Brilliant!

I also have helpful information about suits. The really great thing about a suit is that you don’t have to decide which jacket will go with your trousers. They’re on the same hanger. Hurray!

But the really bad thing about suits is that, it is, after all, a suit. You never get near as much work done wearing a suit as you do in a pair of jeans. And besides, suits are magnets for catsup, pizza, and spaghetti. Your wife might make you wear a bib with your suit when you’re eating.

But of this you can be assured: the bib will match the suit. Perfectly.