Haight couture: Tie dye is taking over
I wear tie-dye socks now or: How I learned to stop worrying and embrace the hippy aesthetic
Words— Ben Kriz
"Holy shit, Ben! Your feet! Are you oka—oh those are your socks,” my friend says as he gazes at my purple tie-dyed socks. You see my friend apparently thought these purple socks with lighter purple and white marks (or “resists” as they call them in the tie-dye community) were, in fact, my feet. We were at a Mexican resort for a long-time friend's wedding and he thought perhaps I had some kind of scuba diving accident. Like the circulation to my feet had been cut off and changed colour. Or that I had badly bruised them somehow (perhaps in some freak swim-up-bar incident). I’m not sure exactly what was going through his mind but the socks—they got a reaction. Sometimes that’s all you want when you decide to wear purple tie-dye socks. Incidentally, later that same night, another friend caught my socks out of the corner of her eye thinking something similar. “What Happened To Your Feet—Oh. They’re socks.” (For the record, upon realizing they were just tye die socks, both friends complimented me on them.)
All this is to say, for these old friends, the socks were not expected. They're not the most outrageous socks in the world. They're tie-dye but they're tastefully tonal in colour. But they definitely put out a vibe. I’ve never been particularly hippy-ish. I’ve only recently discovered the Grateful Dead in my mid-30s (yes, arguably the peak time people discover the Grateful Dead). My Alberta born-and-bred parents were about the furthest thing from hippies so I wasn’t going to get any sort of granola outlook from them. South Park was all the rage in middle school and Cartman didn’t like hippies. No, hippies were not a thing to be.
But lately. Lately, I’ve been considering some very hippy-esque aesthetic choices when it comes to my wardrobe. Tie-dye socks one day, climbing shorts and a souvenir T-shirt from a national park another. Even open-toed Teva sandals and tie-dye socks are worn together.
Why am I drawn to this? I’m a bit self-conscious about my recent hippy style co-opting. It’s so obviously a trend. It’s embarrassing. Like when non-skaters pretend they skate. But these vibes align perfectly with the state of the world right now (and my state of mind). With the looming threat of climate change, an orange goon in the White House, and social media’s omnipresence in general—who wouldn’t want to embrace a more mindful, harmonious hippy life (at least in some aspects). Numerous scientific studies have shown that what we wear also affects the way we think and behave. Clothing can put the wearer in a different psychological state, as one assistant professor at Barnard remarked, “I love the idea of trying to figure out why, when we put on certain clothes, we might more readily take on a role and how that might affect our basic abilities.”
And the hippies got some things right. They espoused looking after the environment, the art of self-care before it was #selfcare, and being open and compassionate. Sure, many hippies and baby boomers, as George Carlin so eloquently put it, “are now staring down the barrel a middle age burnout...so they turned self-righteous...and went from 'Do Your Own Thing!' to 'Just Say No'”—but before that, their heart was in the right place.
But now in 2019, pot is legal in Canada and many U.S. states, there’s a yoga studio on every corner, tie-dye has gone high fashion, Birkenstocks are relevant, and a new generation are taking to the streets to protest our handling of the planet. So with that in mind, maybe tie-dye clothing and renewed interest in psyche rock, owning a lot of cacti, and getting into hiking is an embrace of those hippy values and a rejection of where the world otherwise appears to be headed under various right-wing populists. So I am here: ready to change my habits and do my part in whatever way I can and I’m going to do it while wearing tie-dye socks with sandals. And if you’ve got a problem with that, well that’s just like...your opinion, man.