Joseph Gordon-Levitt went on Colbert last week. Before they got into talking about Snowden, Colbert asked Gordon-Levitt about his mismatched socks (the first 1:45): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Bz4n7N0QsM
You had two different kind of socks on last time I saw you. And you do again.
I kept it a little more subtle this time. But they do not match. That’s true.
Do you do that for some personal reason that you’d like to share with us?
I actually do. No one’s ever asked me that on TV before. My brother did this. My brother, when he grew up, was this really sort of conservative, shy guy. And over the course of his life—unfortunately, he died like six years ago—over the course of his life, he became extremely extroverted. He decided he didn’t want to be shy anymore. And one of the first steps to not being shy anymore was he started wearing bright-colored, mismatched socks. And it was sort of like him dipping his toe ‘cause no one could see his socks. Like he didn’t have to suffer the consequences of being extroverted at first—
So he’s literally dipping his toe into the waters.
Haha yes. I used to just wear black socks. But I then inherited his sock collection, and now I always wear mismatched socks.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: you’re the man.
I also wear mismatched socks. Every day. Some days, I reach into my sock drawer, close my eyes, and see what I get. Some days, I go for complimentary colors or shades. Most days, though, I just go for whatever’s clean— but they’re never matching.
And like Gordon-Levitt, I started wearing goofy, bright socks to remember a late, close pal. My old friend, Gabe, passed away in August 2008. When we ran together, Gabe always wore these bright, objectively ugly socks (and shorts) and had this endearing swagger and huge grin about it all. It was never a loud attention-grab for him; it was just who we was. In December that year—after not a particularly fun four months—I ditched my boring, matching, ankle-high, white socks. I found a worthy replacement pair of heinous, orange mid-calves at a super janky convenience store in Nashville (naturally) and busted them out for my next race. They helped ease the crazy pre-race jitters. I bizarrely/wonderfully started feeling looser—on and off the track.
A year later, I herniated a disc in my back (first of two) and had to give up running for a while. I didn’t race with a healthy back for three years. But I kept wearing my dweeby, bright socks. It was this funny constant during the turbulence of being injured. And the more bright socks I had, the more I started mismatching those babies. It became a source of comfort and a reminder not to take things too seriously. Some people collect stamps or fancy wine or coffee mugs; I’m a sucker for socks.
The commentary has always been hilarious and the same. Someone will look at my socks then seem flustered.
You know that you’re socks don’t match, right?
Sometimes I just tell them that I always wear mismatched socks. But more often these days I try to appear equally flustered. Oh shoot, you’re right! I didn’t even notice! It’s like a walking, ongoing improv class (with mostly middle-aged women at Trader Joe’s).
It’s a pretty silly habit. I don’t really look at my socks during the day. Once they’re on, they’re on. But there’s that brief moment of creative muscle memory, of pulling the different socks up in the morning and feeling slightly more whimsical and playful and consciously allowing that feeling to seep into the day.
I’ve found that every time I’ve made a radical change, it’s helped me feel buoyant as an artist.—David Bowie