A Brief History of the Burning of the Socks
The annual sock burning began in the Spring of 1978, when, after a snowy winter, boatbuilder Bob Turner bid his oppressive sock-wearing days farewell for the summer by throwing them into a campfire. What was an act of defiance turned into tradition, and this weekend marinas and yacht clubs around the country will celebrate the return of Spring, Sperry topsiders, flip flops, and best of all: boating season. As Turner stated to Baltimore Magazine, he was amazed at what a lasting impression he's had, stating, "It was never meant to be taken seriously. It just says, 'Enough with the socks! Time to go sailing!'"
Fast-forward to 2016, where the sock-burning represents a time to clear out the yacht club cobwebs and embrace spring. On each coast we spotted events with everything from cookouts and bonfires to golf-cart parades, boatyard clean-ups, yard sales, and polar bear plunges.
To get close to where the Burning of the Socks began, head to the Annapolis Maritime Museum for live music, an oyster roast, and a recitation of the poem "Ode to Equinox," written by the museum's former executive director, Jeff Holland (full poem below). Before you go, make sure to read SpinSheet's handy guide to sock-burning etiquette, chock-full of good advice such as, "Do not wave your socks around your head like a deranged cowboy."
Them Eastport boys got an odd tradition
When the sun swings to its Equinoxical position,
They build a little fire down along the docks,
They doff their shoes and they burn their winter socks.
Yes, they burn their socks at the Equinox;
You might think that’s peculiar, but I think it’s not,
See, they’re the same socks they put on last fall,
And they never took ‘em off to wash ‘em, not at all…
So they burn their socks at the Equinox
In a little ol’ fire burning nice and hot.
Some think incineration is the only solution,
‘Cause washin’ ‘em contributes to the Chesapeake’s pollution.
Through the spring and the summer and into the fall,
They go around not wearin’ any socks at all,
Just stinky bare feet stuck in old deck shoes,
Whether out on the water or sippin’ on a brew.
So if you sail into the Harbor on the 20th of March,
And you smell a smell like Limburger sauteed with laundry starch,
You’ll know you’re downwind of the Eastport docks
Where they’re burning their socks for the Equinox.
Know of an odd boating tradition we should write about? Email [email protected]. Happy Spring!