Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Sock Guy

The Sock Guy was a familiar sight in the pubs and bars of Merseyside back in the late ‘90s.
He was a charity collector for Macmillan Nurses. But rather than just rattle his collecting tin in your face, he had a gimmick - he asked people to hand over their socks and then have their photo taken.

It was quite funny to see him in action. In any group there was always one person willing to act the goat, especially if a few drinks had been had. With the encouragement of their friends, someone, always a guy, would whip his socks off, lark around for the photograph, and then they’d all happily hand over the shrapnel from their wallets and purses.

We all assumed that he was just aiming for a flurry of publicity when he reached his target (of a thousand pairs or something) - a nice big picture spread in the Echo and lots of cash raised for Macmillan. Innocuous stuff.

The Ex and I both worked Friday afternoons in a bar. After our shift finished we’d usually have a few drinks with our workmates before heading out on the town.

The Sock Guy would show up fairly regularly at bang-on four, just as the Ex was having his first post-shift cigarette at the end of the bar. He was tall, tall as the Ex, slim and fair, mild mannered and softly spoken. Just the sort of nice chap you’d expect to spend his free time doing voluntary work. He would always ask the Ex’s permission before making his round of the bar, he was polite like that. He’d also ask the Ex to contribute his socks too.

"God, no, I couldn’t. I’ve just worked an eight-hour shift", was the Ex’s usual response. But as the months wore on he started to feel a bit guilty about refusing this simple charitable request.

"If you come in next week," he suggested on one occasion, "I’ll bring you in a clean pair."

"No, that’s no good," Sock Guy countered, "You have to be already wearing them or it doesn’t count."

Eventually, the Ex capitulated. Perhaps half-a-dozen of us watched and giggled as he peeled off his socks and held them up shamefacedly, looking off to the right, while the Sock Guy photographed him. Sock Guy then produced a small plastic bag, the type you get in the supermarket for your fruit’n’veg, and the socks were tightly wrapped up before being put into his backpack. All very hygienic.

Emboldened by the Ex’s move I offered my socks as well.

"No, that’s OK", Sock Guy said, and hurried off out of the building.

We were all a bit puzzled by his lack of interest in my socks, but more amused by the Ex’s reaction. An Englishman without sock is not a happy one, and he was awfully discomfited. So much so that we had to go home as soon as we’d finished that drink so he could rectify the socklessness.

A few months later, we heard that the Sock Guy had been arrested.

After reports of abuse from some young men, the flat he shared with another bloke had been raided by the police. It was stuffed full of socks – they were everywhere, in every room, in the oven, even the microwave was completely crammed. There was a news report about it in the Guardian.

We heard a story about one of the boys involved who was a little bit not-quite-the-full-shilling. He had been invited back to the flat where he performed a sex-act (sort-of) of the Sock Guy. This just involved taking off his trainers and rubbing his be-socked feet in Sock Guy’s face. That was it, Sock Guy didn’t actually do anything to the lad.

We were all gobsmacked, he seemed like such a nice bloke. The Ex was quite freaked out.

"The Sock Guy really liked you", I mused. "I mean, he came in here week after week, and all he wanted was your socks. And he had your picture too, I bet you’re his favourite. Maybe they let him take just one photo to jail with him, and he’s still got it."

The Ex didn’t find this line of thinking nearly as amusing as I did.

(There was no suggestion, by the way, of any impropriety with the money he raised.)


  • Sounds like deviant socksuality to me.

    By Blogger dh, at 5:25 PM  

  • Whenever you think you've heard the weirdest thing ever you hear something even weirder.

    By Blogger realdoc, at 5:57 PM  

  • i second that.

    that is VERY weird.

    feet. ugh.

    By Blogger surly girl, at 8:01 PM  

  • You think that's weird? I honestly thought for a moment that you had delved into my dark past cause I indeed have an ex who is known as 'the sock man' due to his propensity towards socks upon his appendages....I kid you not!

    By Anonymous Jools, at 8:51 PM  

  • Socks?


    Still, it could have been worse.

    By Blogger Billy, at 9:14 PM  

  • According to the internets, it's called Aretifism.

    By Blogger Billy, at 9:17 PM  

  • For some reason (i.e. I have a warped and indiscilplined mind0m it reminds me of that Pulp sone where Jarvis narrates the story of this guy who keeps stealing plantes from the municipal flower beds. He's finally discovered by the authorities when the ceiling of his tower block flat collapses.

    "All he wanted was a garden...."

    By Blogger Robert A. Swipe, at 12:02 AM  

  • I knew someone who was a student in Liverpool in the early '80's. He and some friends hitched a lift back to Liverpool from Manchester and the driver kept asking the bloke in the front passenger seat if his feet were sore from all the walking. It reached a point where he pulled into a layby and asked the passenger if he could take his shoes and socks off so he could massage his feet.

    Needless to say they all got out of the car as soon as possible.

    I wonder if he was related to Sock Man?

    By Blogger Betty, at 8:54 AM  

  • Spin, you are a delghtful story teller!

    By Blogger Remiman, at 9:35 AM  

  • There are clubs that specialise in this kind of thing in Berlin. "Socks must be accompanied by branded trainers (Adidas, Nike, etc.)"

    By Blogger daggi, at 10:09 AM  

  • Wow. I wish I had interesting stories like this to tell.

    Daggi: when i first read your comment i thought it said "branded traitors," and I was trying to envision the extent and nature of their clientelle.

    By Blogger Chaucer's Bitch, at 6:49 PM  

  • Betty - it could be the same guy!

    No, hang on, the Sock Guy was definitely into socks more tha feet. Sweaty men's socks.

    We thought he was being dead hygienic with the plastic bags and everything, while all the time he was just preserving the hot sweatiness. My boyfriend's sweat, specifically.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 8:17 PM  

  • Oh.
    Tell you what, though; what a great one to tell on an ex!

    (Ask me nice and I will tell the one about what i found in MY' ex's backpack.)

    By Blogger First Nations, at 12:43 AM  

  • "The Sock Guy really liked you"

    Thanks, that's made my day.
    in fact i'm still chuckling.

    and might be for some time.


    By Blogger {Minion}, at 10:31 AM  

  • Wait... you mean you didn't see that coming? No-one ever questioned why he wanted the socks?

    In New York City, we have a name for perverse people like that. They're called "residents".

    By Blogger Da Nator, at 10:12 PM  

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