11.13.2006 | 12:59 pm

A Note from Fatty: I’m really pleased to have my good friend Kenny advertising on my site. Rather than doing an ad-for-schwag, however, Kenny’s offering 20% off to everyone who reads my blog. That’s an awesome deal. And let me point out that Kenny is not just a great rider; his photo lab turns out the very highest-quality photos I have ever seen. Yes, your pictures are actually going to look better if you have Kenny print them than if you go with some megadeveloper. No matter where you live (as long as you’re in the US, that is), I definitely recommend having Kenny print your photos. Plus, if you do, he’ll have enough money to race more often. And that would be good.

Last weekend, I did something truly altruistic. Something which, I daresay, proves that I am a genuinely good human being. It is, I suspect, one of the top three things I’ll use to make my case to St. Peter (or whoever it turns out to be) at the pearly gates.

Specifically, last weekend I let my Dad have a pair of my Smartwool socks on permanent loan.

You see, my Dad’s in the hospital right now, recovering from prostate cancer surgery. So I drove down to Grand Junction to spend the weekend with him (I also brought one of my mountain bikes — the Rig — so I could go riding with my sister, but that’s beside the point).

While I’m sitting with my Dad, he mentions that his feet have been cold ever since he got to the hospital, and that he hates the socks the hospital provides: the polyesther just feels gross.

I sympathize, observing that my feet are nice and warm, because once the weather turns cold, I wear my calf-length Smartwool socks full-time, whether I’m biking, working, snowshoeing, at church, or lounging at home.

My Dad — who in all other ways is a much superior outdoorsman to me — has never worn Smartwool socks. He therefore believes these socks will be scratchy and uncomfortable.

“Nay,” I reply, sagely. “These socks are the most comfortable socks in the world.” And then — even though I brought only two pair with me for the weekend, I go down to my car and get a pair of Smartwool socks.

Those of you who are familiar with Smartwool socks know what a sacrifice that was. But I did it anyway, because — as I believe I’ve made clear — I am a good and generous human being, not to mention the best son that has ever lived.

Of course, within a few minutes my dad is comfortable. Or at least his feet are, anyway.

Smartwool for Biking
During the Summer, I can’t think of a better sock to wear than the ubiquitous DeFeet Aireator socks. The light mesh breathes nicely, they last a reasonable period of time — they usually make it through a couple seasons before i wear a hole in the big toe — and, as near as I can tell, they’re free. I have never purchased a pair of Aireator socks, but have dozens from different bike shops, races, events, and other promotions.

I do not make any effort match these socks when I ride. As far as I’m concerned, the ”Carnac” sock I got free with a pair of shoes I bought years ago goes nicely with the lone “Cascade Creampuff” sock I’m able to find.

But once Autumn begins, it’s Smartwool, all the way. My feet stay warm when it’s cold, without getting hot when I luck into a nice day. They’re an order of magnitude better than any other cold-weather sock for cycling.

So, the questions are: what length of Smartwool socks should one wear, and what color(s)? Well, you might expect the answer to be, “whatever you like,” but that answer would be wrong. The correct answers are:

  • Color: Any dark color, but choose carefully. Once you make your choice, you should stick with it forever. That way, as you lose the occasional sock, you’re not left with an orphan. Instead, you now have a spare. Huzzah! For myself, I chose dark green, but I sometimes wish I would have gone with black, because black goes better with non-biking clothes. Which is important to me, because I am all about fashion.
  • Length: Calf-length. Nothing feels so nice as a pair of socks that stay up, and the calf-length Smartwool socks definitely stay up. And they do it without cutting into your legs. And you know what really looks dapper? Dark, calf-length socks on a cyclist who’s wearing shorts, as demonstrated below:

 Nice socks! 

PS: This has been an uncompensated endorsement. Though I wouldn’t mind some compensation, should it come my way. (Attention Smartwool people who are no doubt curious why you’re suddenly getting a lot of hits from the domain: I wear size Large, and would like Adrenaline Lt Crew, Larch Green).

PPS: Family and friends: Christmas is coming, and some Smartwool socks would make an excellent and affordable gift.


  1. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 11.13.2006 | 1:10 pm

    Shouldn’t you have posted this over at Random Reviewer?

    Also, you forgot to mention how self-affirming smartwool socks are. After all, nothing affirms your state of middle-agedness like wearing calf-length colored dress socks while cycling. Just ask the recumbant cyclists.

  2. Comment by barry1021 | 11.13.2006 | 1:26 pm

    Two Good karma credits for making your dad comfy. No, make it three.
    As for your socks color choice, you need a bit more color-if we are going to wear the weird shirts, we might as well go all the way, I say. Lots of red.
    And congrats for demontsrating once again, when it comes to sucking up in the hope of getting freebies, you are second to no one. I may have a job for kenny tho.

  3. Comment by Al Maviva | 11.13.2006 | 1:29 pm

    Beeyouteafull. I’ll sleep well tonight, with visions of your smelly (but toasty) feet dancing in my head.

    I’m actually inclined towards Wool-e-ators myself, but find that the Performance generic kevlar toed socks are the best in the summer. They make a good gift, too. True story: I’ve got a fat cousin (imagine that) who golfs a lot, who blows out golf socks like he was trying to prove something. So I got him some of the kevlar toed socks to golf in last summer. Now he’s hitting me up for a bag of socks for Christmas.

    Which I don’t mind. Though sending him booze and porno certainly was cheaper. On the plus side, he won’t go through the socks as quickly as he went through fifths of Scotch.

  4. Comment by sans auto | 11.13.2006 | 1:30 pm

    I too love the smartwool socks, I wear them every day on my ride to work. Now, I need to mention one major issue that I have with them, they don’t stretch out. In cold weather, I wear the smartwools. If my feet are still cold, i throw on a pair of booties. On those days when it is too cold for the booties and the smartwools, on days that Botched is intimidated by the weather, you cut a hole in the bottom (for the cleat) of an old pair of big wool socks and you put them on under the booties. You just can’t do that with smartwools. I can’t bring myself to buy wool socks only to cut a hole in the bottom and I can’t bring myself to wear anything but smartwools against my feet.

  5. Comment by Eufemiano Fuentes | 11.13.2006 | 1:32 pm

    Hey, FC.

    Those socks might stay up well on your ‘non calves’. But, for the rest of us cyclists out there with generously bulbous and ample calves, I would suggest crew length unless you are going full tights.

    Smart wool is all the rage here in Algeciras. They are worth 3 packs of Marlboros and a sponge bath.

  6. Comment by SyracuseStu | 11.13.2006 | 1:38 pm

    I completely agree with these feelings about Smartwool socks. Although, i personally struggle to determine if this is a love affair for me…or an obsession. I would like to also suggest that ANY well made wool sock is an equal substitute, as my particular road to wool sock ownership started witha pair of Craft ankle socks found on-sale. These are so well loved that I took a chance on smartwools at full price a couple years ago (a very big step as paying full price for anything PAINS me). That chance was never regretted.

    Must say, however, that for me the correct length is whatever length is just slightly longer than the shoes I am wearing. Ankle socks for biking shoes, mid-calf for hiking boots, knee socks for snowboard boots, etc. (Well, I guess after knee socks it’s thigh-highs and a skirt, and I just don’t have the legs to pull that off…especially since I stopped shaving them years ago).

    As for color…anything dark enough not to show the mud. Although, I find your “Stick with one color” idea quite good. I am still young and foolish enough to think variety is a good thing, i guess. I have much to learn.

  7. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 11.13.2006 | 1:53 pm

    SANS! I’m shocked that you could justify $17.00 for socks. SEVUUHNTEEENN. Dollars. Not pesos. I totally get that dug, ‘The Man’ and Fatty ‘the burgeoise’ could be into super-socks, but Sans?

  8. Comment by Tim D | 11.13.2006 | 1:58 pm

    Heresy, heresy I cry! Calf length sock? Dark colours?

    Socks should be ankle length and white. An extrovert of the Lion King levels of cool could get away with matching his socks to his shorts, but mere mortals cannot.

    Tim D

  9. Comment by Jade | 11.13.2006 | 2:03 pm

    Yes Botched, they really are worth that much.

    I have to admit, I can’t say that about SmartWool, specifically, but I wear Thorlos socks, and they are every bit as wonderful as Kenny says SmartWool socks are. And every bit as expensive, and worth every penny. Besides wearing them walking/cycling/sitting around, I put them on once when I had a nasty flu and a high fever, and they kept my feet dry and warm even when the rest of me was sweaty and shivery.

    Kudos for giving up a pair for your Dad, Kenny. I’d be loathe to give up any of my Thorlos.

  10. Comment by sans auto | 11.13.2006 | 2:08 pm

    They were a gift

  11. Comment by Boz | 11.13.2006 | 2:15 pm

    Check out TJ Max. I picked up a couple of pairs for skiing for $10.00 US. Quite the buy for great socks. Wool does wear well, I have a pair from 1989 that are still serviceable. But the Smartwool are just so comfy.

  12. Comment by the weak link | 11.13.2006 | 2:39 pm

    Heck, you buy Smartwool socks and you make a donation to People Who Fight To Save The Earth. How cool is that?

  13. Comment by bradk | 11.13.2006 | 2:43 pm

    i’ve recently discovered the joys of not bathing for days on end and it just wouldnt be possible without smartwool socks. i smell a bit for the first day or two but after that my pores get all clogged and no more stink. that 2nd to 3rd day of not bathing is just magical as you transition from smelly to not smelly. however, in the early stages of not bathing my feet would smell for days. after finding smartwools my wife can now tolerate my new lifestyle. and, the smartwools almost never need washing. they feel good and don’t smell even after wearing the same pair for 5 days in a row. two thumbs up!

  14. Comment by Jsun | 11.13.2006 | 2:43 pm

    Wool is fantastic!! After a few weeks you won’t even notice the scratchy feeling of wool whitey-tighty-Y-fronts and they don’t hold odors like polyester products.

    How come sheep don’t shrink when they get rained on in the summer?

  15. Comment by Born4Lycra | 11.13.2006 | 5:19 pm

    Firstly all the best to your Dad. Get well soon.
    Secondly I’m with Botched the grey mid calf socks look decidedly dowdy almost as if you got to the ride and were just going to watch. Then at the last moment you decided to ride and the lads whipped up a top and shorts but you had to ride in the socks you had on. Good job they found the top or you would be wearing your cardigan as well.

  16. Comment by MBonkers | 11.13.2006 | 5:53 pm

    Ahhh, smartwool. My wife seems perplexed by my love of smartwool socks. Her feet get hot easy. I wear my light hikers almost all year round at work, and my gray calf length bicycle smartwools are every bit as good as fatty claims all fall and winter. The day before reading this post, I was asking for some new ones for christmas.

  17. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 11.13.2006 | 8:56 pm

    I think bradk said out loud what fatty hinted at… “I wear my calf-length Smartwool socks full-time, whether I’m biking, working, snowshoeing, at church, or lounging at home”. And brad, you do stink, you’ve just grown accustomed to it.

    At least now I know why my eyes water when there’s a firm North Easterly blowing. It’s the fumes wafting across the pacific from the Utah shoe bandit.

  18. Comment by Argentius | 11.13.2006 | 11:46 pm

    Smartwool socks = best thing in the G-D world.

    I hate cold feets. Hate, hate, hate.

    I also dislike hauling out booties for every spring and autumn ride.

    Sockguy’s smartwool socks are nice, not very expensive, and supercomfy. Now that our team has a sock guy deal, I fully intend to buy 10 pair and wear them as everyday socks.

    On warmth — they breathe well, and aren’t too crazy thick. It’s pretty hard to overheat feet, even if it rhymes, so they’re good as high as 70, too.

  19. Comment by Brewinman | 11.14.2006 | 5:54 am

    Gotta agree with everyone else. smartwools are the best. I wear them everyday (a different pair mind you)!

  20. Comment by barry1021 | 11.14.2006 | 7:12 am

    Are you sure your wife is tolerating your new lifestyle, or is she getting more ammo for the divorce proceeding, at which time she will take all your wool socks whilst she skins you alive? Just askin’.


  21. Comment by Rocky | 11.14.2006 | 8:23 am

    You forgot to add that Smartwool socks make you the envy of other riders as a snappy acoutrement to an already exceptional set of wardrobe choices. Lycra, microfiber, and Smartwool are the fashion choices of the enviable.

  22. Comment by mark | 11.14.2006 | 8:48 am

    Am I the only one who wears smartwools in the summer? I find that as warm as my ankle length black smartwools are for the cool spring and fall rides, they are equally cool and breathable in the 100 degree plus rides of mid summer. I couldn’t live without them.

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who has a wacky obsession with smartwool socks. I’ve also found that the washing machine likes them, as smartwools seem much more likely to be eaten than my lesser socks.

  23. Comment by M | 11.14.2006 | 9:02 am

    After years of trying different brands of socks that were never worn more than once, my husband now only wears Thorlos (Work, running, church). He owns them in two colors though, black and white, because hehas a little too much fashion consciousness to wear strange colors to church. I always thought I was unlucky that his feet loved socks that are $10/pair; now I see how lucky I am.

    A plug for Kenny’s One Hour Photo: They took my wedding photos (yes, a one hour photo lab has professional photographers). The prints were great quality, they cut our engagement photos into a custom size for very little cost, and best of all, I got to keep all the negatives as part of the deal. How many photographers out there let you do that? You wouldn’t believe how long I read this blog before I realized that it was the same Kenny.

  24. Comment by Al Maviva | 11.14.2006 | 9:33 am

    You’re spot-on, Rocky. When I wear smartwool socks, chicks dig me, my hair is more lustrous, and I feel I have the political power sufficient to remove the dictators of small Latin American nations with the snap of my fingers.

    When I wear regular socks, gay prostitutes hit on me, all my hair falls out except for the stuff on my back, which seems thicker, and I find myself wanting to vote Green but inexplicably scratching out “Pat Buchanan” on leftover write-in ballots from the ‘00 election – the 1900 election, to be precise.

    So yeah, I totally endorse SmartWool socks. They’ll make you better looking, and help you acquire mistresses, wealth, and unspeakable political power. And your feet will be warm.

  25. Comment by T1mm0 | 11.14.2006 | 9:39 am

    You fella’s keep buying those SmartWool socks; it supports our agrarian economy down here in New Zealand. I know that Icebreaker ( is a little hard to get hold of in the US but they have superior socks/clothing even to Smartwool. And they’re rigously tested by me in the rugged mountain biking of NZ!

  26. Comment by VA Biker | 11.14.2006 | 10:08 am

    I’m with Mark from above on this. I love to wear Smartwool socks year-round. They offer extra cushioning for my road shoes, without having to mess around with extra inserts that may or may not work. Work fine with my more cushioned MTB shoes, too.

    Moisture from my feet is taken away with these socks, where others just do not work as well.

    I’ve always bought the quarter crew length (just covers the ankle) from sierratradingpost. Dark grey for me. Can’t tell they’re seconds. Who cares?

    My biggest concern is that Smartwool was bought by Timberland last year. I’m afraid the latter is going to mess with a good thing and wreck the product line.

  27. Comment by fatty | 11.14.2006 | 11:16 am

    everyone – you guys have no idea how happy it makes me to see that we all love the same thing (it doesn’t bother me at all that some of us like different brands: variations on a theme). i feel validated.

  28. Comment by bradley | 11.14.2006 | 12:44 pm

    Smartwool socks are available at your local REI, assuming you have a local REI, or other fine outdoor store. But how could someone live without a local REI store, that’s what I want to know. I’m thinking a couple more links to a fine REI store and they might send Fatty some Smartwool socks. And yes, I too am a smartwool wearer. ;-)

  29. Comment by Jun | 11.15.2006 | 5:52 pm

    I also love wool socks. However, I’ve found that Smartwool does not hold up and I’ve been happier with DeFeet wooleators in the summer, and Woolie Boolies in the winter. I got the Woolie Boolies on sale ages ago from longcycle (they still appear to have them for $12) and they’ve held up.

    I’ve also been wearing Sock Guy wool socks lately. They aren’t as good as the DeFeet, but I got them from Carsrcoffins so it’s in support of a good cause.

    Don’t get me started about wool jerseys, etc. I’m still nursing along some original swobo jerseys and shorts.

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