Sunday, July 24, 2011


When I was a junior at Redford Union High School, west of Detroit,  I played on the varsity football team.  But not very much.  I've already acknowledged elsewhere in this blog that I wasn't a great athlete.  Maybe not even good.   So I spent a lot of time on the bench watching better players and wishing I could get out there and hear my name called on the public address system.

Then one day opportunity happened.   

A senior linebacker named Denny Manchester came to the sidelines, sweaty and dirty from doing battle on the field.  He was in big trouble.  His jersey was ripped into shreds.  There was no way he could go back in the game without his jersey.  I heard opportunity knocking.  I focused my eyes on the coach hoping he'd notice me.  Other bench warmers didn't seem to realize someone would have to go in for Denny; they wandered off to the the water jug or messed with their shoe laces.  Coach started scanning the bench.

And his eyes met mine.  It was an electric moment.  "Stostad!  Come here."  I had never played linebacker but I could learn. Anything for the good of the team.  I grabbed my helmet -

Coach said "You don't need your helmet.  Come on, get over here." 

How did he expect me to replace Manchester without a helmet?

You know where this is going.  Coach didn't want me.  He wanted my still clean jersey.  I surrendered my shirt to Denny Manchester and Manchester returned to the field.

On the next play, Manchester made the tackle.  The public address announcer announced "Tackle by...Stostad?!"  Now my feelings were hurt by his surprise.  He didn't even know me so how could he know I wasn't a star?  Another play,  Manchester made another tackle.  "Announcer:  Tackle by Stostad!"  And I jumped up and yelled "Go Stostad!"  And the announcer started getting the spirit.  This Stostad guy was pretty good.  Until some dirty rat went up and told him my number was actually Manchester.

Tiffany James - note the (lovely) red socks.
There's a book titled "Dress for Success" which is popular among wannabe business executives.  I have always been skeptical of the premise - I don't see how wearing a blue suit makes you more effective than a talented brown-suiter.
Did my football experience validate the book?  If someone else wears your suit...?

As I was contemplating my uniform success in that game, I got to thinking about Tiffany James.  Tiffany was one of my favorite Outlaws.  She carried the nick name "Crash Test Dummy" because of her fearless attacks on any runner who had the temerity to escape our first lines of defense and start up field.  Tiffany was famous for crashing into sometimes much bigger players, grab with heroic tenacity, and pull the runner down on top of herself. 

I loved Tiffany's style of play.  I also came to love her taste in socks.  Now when I played football we were bare legged from knee to ankle.  It never occurred to me that we should wear longer socks and cover our legs.  When I started photographing Outlaws games and practices, I never gave much thought to socks.  In practice, some of the players wore long socks, most played bare legged as I used to play. 

Tiffany again - these socks may have
been lovely at some time past but football
has apparently done them in.  Crash wouldn't
wear these in a game.
But then I noticed that Tiffany considered socks to be her opportunity to make an individual fashion statement.  A chance to set herself apart from the uniform crowd.  She apparently had a large sock wardrobe and she enjoyed distinguishing herself, not just for her style of play but also for her manner of dress. 

Apparently Tiffany doesn't
wear garters. 
I started trying to remember to photograph Tiffany's socks at practices and games.  In browsing my Outlaw photo collection, I can only find three instances of Tiffany socks.  I'm certain there must have been more.   Tiffany's taste in fashion didn't sit well with the coach.  He thought all the players should be in uniform, and that included wearing the same color socks.  Tiffany was partial to red and red did not work with the Outlaws uniforms at the time.  Nor now, for that matter.  There was a little battle of wills which Tiffany lost when she realized she wouldn't get in the game wearing red socks.

A chance to get garterless Tiffany's socks photographed
in a group with less stylish players.  You may notice
something unsightly in the legs at the left - don't
worry, that's not a player, that's a coach.
This got me thinking about leg covering for other players.  Other than just Tiffany.  I started studying Outlaw photos, noticing socks other players were wearing.

One thing I learned is that longer socks don't stay up very well.  I found lots of examples of players with socks crumpled down around the ankles.  I wondered if the players whose socks stayed in place wore garters.  I considered asking players but I'm afraid it might be in poor taste for an old male photographer to ask young lady football players about garters.  So I'm left to speculate. 

If I do a feature about uniforms, Houston will win my vote as
best.  The yellow on white makes for great photos. 

Another thing I noticed about socks is they come in different colors.  I like the Houston yellow because they show up great in my photographs. 

I don't like the purple socks of Dallas.
And I decided I don't like the purple worn by Dallas.  I don't know if it is because they don't match the rest of their uniforms (or do they?) or if I just don't like purple. 

The Oklahoma City team wore green socks.  These did match their uniforms but I didn't like them very much either.  Now please understand my "like/don't like" decisions were being made long after the games while I was sitting at my computer screen thinking about socks.  Except for Tiffany, I never noticed socks. 

The green socks do go with the OKC uniforms.

One sock off, one sock on... isn't there a rhyme
about that?  Or is it one shoe off...?
In my study I noticed lots of black socks. 

And I noticed some lack of uniformity in the wearing of socks.  On the same team, some players wore socks and some went bare-legged between knee and ankle.  At least one player had socked one leg and bared the other.  I think she and Tiffany could have been friends if only the one sock were red instead of black. 

Power socks!  I've noticed the officials are always
immaculately dressed.  Note that one of his pant legs
covers more of the sock than the other.  Hmmm.  Is
he still immaculately dressed?
I did notice that the officials socks distinguished them from the players and I thought that was a good thing.  But I have to admit, until I started this posting I never noticed that the striped-shirt guys also wore striped-socks. 

You may think that with the season over I must be running out of good subjects to blog about.   Nothing could be farther from the truth.  My analysis of the sport includes attention to detail.  And who knows, someday I may write a football version of "Dress of Success."  In which I'll devote a full chapter to socks.

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