When I worked for the Civil Aviation Authority, I found I had to maintain certain dress standards of formal clothing. I had come from the abattoirs and felt the need, and was expected, to fit in with my new environment. I didn't mind it, it went with the job, and my work ethic is such that I took the clothing seriously.
Until, less than two weeks in, I had the socks incident.
I was getting ready for work, and couldn't find clean socks that matched. My laundry was a mess, and I was desperately going through it in order to finding matching black socks. I had to have matching socks, they had to be dark in colour or they would look wrong.
And then I realised what I was doing. I was getting stressed about socks. Socks! The chance that anyone would even see them was minute. I thought about this and very carefully picked two socks out of the bunch. They were not black, or grey, or white. They most definitely did not match.
It didn't matter that no-one would see them. I knew they were there, that I was holding on to a part of myself by wearing them, rather than giving over everything to what was expected. As acts of defiance go, it's pretty minor, but it was important for me. If I don't hold onto who I am, for good or bad, it's very easy to lose myself to what others expect.
After that, I always I wore odd socks to work, often in dayglo colours.
Of course people would catch flashes of them. Initially I would catch people smiling and quietly pointing out my socks to others. Pretty soon I had a few folks asking what colours I was wearing that day. I would pull up my pants legs to show off a bright pink sock on one foot, and a bright green on the other, or whatever combination I happened to have on.
To some I was a figure of mild amusement, to others I became part of their daily ritual, something to look forward to. My socks brightened the days of others, as well as myself. I did have a couple of my superiors comment that I had an interesting choice in socks, said in friendly but mildly disapproving tones. I just smiled and thanked them. I had one tell me that while he didn't object to me wearing bright socks, could I at least make sure they matched? I asked why they had to match. He said it looked nicer.
I pulled up my trouser legs to show off whatever combination I was wearing that day. 'Nicer than this?!' I said, disbelief in my voice. And then I wandered off, shaking my head like he was mad.
Interestingly, when CAA gave me a secretary it was the dread-locked goth girl no-one wanted. She was utterly fabulous at her job, looked amazing, and was great company. I think it was meant to be punishment. It just gave us each someone to unite with. We were two individuals in a place of middle-class clones craving nothing new in their lives except more of what they already had, marvelling only at the newest version of the things they had marvelled at a hundred times before.
That job, nearly 20 years ago, was when I first started wearing odd socks. I still prefer to wear odd socks today, though I make exception for striped socks. I didn't own knee-length, red and white stripy socks back then.
Wish I had.