SWISS MEN, SANDALS, AND SOCK IT TO’EM

The Schaffhausen television channel, one evening, aired a program critical of Swiss men wearing sandals with socks in the summertime. A young female reporter was upset and thought that this was gauche. She did not like the idea of men wearing sandals in the summer, she particularly thought that men wearing socks with sandals was in really bad taste, and further, the idea of men wearing sandals and black socks made her ill. The reporter went on assignment into Schaffhausen streets, interviewing men wearing sandals and trying to find out why they wore them, why they wore socks with sandals, and particularly, why any sane man would wear black socks with his sandals.

Because it was all in German Language, I could not understand exactly what was going on, but between my wife’s interpretation and my own ideas about sandals, with or without black socks, I found it interesting. I decided to begin a little clinical research of my own.

Many Swiss men wear sandals in the summer; I had noticed that. Please don’t ask me to explain why I had noticed and had been starring at men’s feet, noting their foot attire? I am not a shoe freak! However, I noticed because over the years, I have never personally worn sandals myself, because I just don’t feel comfortable wearing them. As a child, I had no desire to go barefoot like some kids do. Perhaps my aversion to sandals stems from that childhood distaste for being barefoot.

Unlike the television reporter woman, I have no problem with other men, including Swiss men, wearing sandals or anything else. Generally, I find most Swiss masculine fashion appealing (though I would never wear sandals).

One thing about Swiss men’s fashion that I particularly like, is wearing a black beret. My wife will not allow me to wear a beret, when I am with her, because she says it is farmer attire and she doesn’t want me to look like a farmer, though I think she just does not like a beret. But myself, I have nothing against farmers. In fact I like farmers and a few friends of mine are farmers. So when I go out alone, I sometimes covertly don my black beret like other Schaffuuser ‘farmer’ men and enjoy the comfort and dashing appearance of my beret. Anytime, I expect the TV reporter to do a show on American men wearing a black beret.

Getting back to the sandals, I decided that I disagreed with the reporter about the black socks. After a week of study, I discovered that I prefer Swiss men wear any kind, or color, of socks rather than expose their bare toes. Male toes are not a thing of beauty to me. I am not insinuating that Swiss men have exceptionally ugly toes; it is just that I do not find anything attractive about any man’s toes. In fact, I have found over the years that there are a goodly number of women wearing open toed shoes who have unattractive toes (In my opinion, it is really an exceptional woman, like my wife of course, whose foot can boast of attractive toes).

To get to the heart of the men’s sandal matter, ultimately it would be necessary to research their purpose for wearing sandals and exposing a large portion of feet and especially the frontal appendages (toes). Are sandals worn for reasons of comfort, style, or sex appeal?

Certainly, it is questionable whether or not bare feet are sexually stimulating, to anyone. However, to make a point about that, I must digress and relate another sandal experience I had, apart from Swiss men and their sandals.

When I taught high school in San Diego (a place of endless summer and sandal season), it was a violation of the school dress code for girls to wear sandals to school. One day a young female student came into my classroom indignantly complaining that the girl’s vice principal had sent her friend home to change shoes because the sandals she was wearing violated the school’s dress code. When ask why sandals were not allowed, the vice principal (a stately older female) told the girls that , “Sandals expose the nude foot, which is too sexy and distracting!”

Then, the young lady asked me to comment, expecting me to support her contention that bare feet are not sexy. In spite of any feeling that I had to the contrary, I told the student, “Yes! The bare foot is sexy, and it states that very clearly in the Holy Bible.”

The young woman was flabbergasted and challenged me to prove my point, which I had hoped she would do. In those days religion in the schools was less a crime than today, and the Gideon Society used to provide a King James version of the Bible in every class room. By this time, my whole class was involved and wondering how the teacher was going to get out of this mess that he made for himself.

Thumbing through the pages for the appropriate verse in “Songs of Songs”, I read to them from 7:1, “How beautiful are thy feet in sandals,” which in that particular context indicated bare feet were sexy, as were other body parts, comparing legs to jewels, navels to goblets, and breasts to fawns. This was about the only part of the Bible that I knew much about.

Not really fully trusting me, some of the students demanded to read it for themselves and I quickly obliged. It led to an interesting discussion of sex, religion, and footwear. The next day, half the class brought in their own, different Bibles, of every kind and description: Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, and a half dozen different interpretations, all led to basically the same conclusion.

The students became convinced that bare feet were sexually stimulating and it caused them considerable concern. They had to deal with their own personal attitude about bare feet and consequently, it raised a few other questions in their minds about themselves and their own sexuality. My students’ teacher chose to go on to another subject, like the US Constitutional Right to Bare Arms.

Fortunately, I was not tarred, feathered, and ran out of town on a rail for violating the student’s Freedom of Religion. There is, however, my own ‘cross to bear’; I still carry the guilt of convincing my students that toes are sexually attractive when I really don’t believe it.

Now, getting back to my clinical research and the television report on Swiss men, sandals, and socks. Rather than create further problems for myself (my resident visa was due to be reviewed by the Swiss Foreigner Police and I preferred not to jeopardize my residency because of an obsession with men’s bare feet), I would cease and desist expending any effort to find out why Swiss men are prone to wearing socks, even black socks, with their sandals.

Still, the sandal issue is intriguing. Later when riding the bus, I observed that when mothers brought their tiny, baby Swiss sons onto the bus in a stroller, invariably the little boys were wearing sandals with black socks. The mother had to be responsible because the little boys were incapable of putting on their own shoes and socks. At that point, I became convinced that there was a secret conspiracy of Swiss mothers that was responsible for their men wearing sandals with black socks.

Lately, I have become curious about what the motivation is, that prompts Swiss mothers into making their male offspring predisposed to wearing ‘sandals with black socks’. If I ever learn to speak German, I intend to ask them.

From the unpublished book, The Immigrant.

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