knee socks: United States 1970s

The Sock Choice: A Personal Essay

by Jeff Stadt

I'm not sure if I noticed the clothes I wore as a young boy, and only have vague memories and photos of this time period. This was America in the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. We wore hand-me-down's mostly, since with three kids, my folks had a difficult time providing for us.

I do remember the time I discovered knee socks, and even though barely a teenager, I decided those were what I wanted to wear. Before that time, though, I wore what I was given without much discussion. Many photos show my brother and I, close in age, wearing white ankle sweat socks with black leather oxfords. Ankle socks, both white and dark colors, were the norm then. We did where shorts with dark ankle socks and those black oxfords for most of our youth, until adolescents. I loathed the look, in retrospect, of those white socks and the black "dressy" shoes, but that is a good reflection of American taste in male fashion. I wasn't liberated from the crew sock until about junior high.

I always wore dark socks, never liking those white ones. I guess that I did have a fashion sense as a boy after all, and hated them. One time my mother bought me a pair of socks; they were a dark green argyle pattern made of a cotton nylon blend I think. I'm not sure if the were, in fact, men's crew socks, but the stretchy fabric made them knee socks. They came above the calf, but not enough to cuff (that style had passed with the Boy Scouts, who eventually went to the crew style as well). I knew that I liked those very much for some reason, comfort mainly and perhaps to distance myself from everyone else who wore crew socks. That might sound strange, which it probably is. So I told my mother that I wanted more like those. She asked: "Argyle?" And not

Figure 1.--
knowing how to express myself, or clueless, I replied, "Yeah, I guess so." So the next time she went shopping, she bought another pair of argyles. But of course, they were cotton and ankle length, much to my chagrin. So I went back to her and explained what I wanted, and she scrunched up her face and shrugged her shoulders and agreed.

Since then, I was the only boy in my school or of my friends who wore the knee socks. Back then, in the late 70's and early 80's, when I could buy my own with my allowance, there were many choices of colors. Mostly in nylon, though. They came in sky blue and dark green, camel and light gray, and the basics of black, brown and blue. It was also easier to find argyles in the knee length, mostly in adult sizes, but by then, I could accommodate them (one advantage to being over weight). The only knee socks my peers wore were the tube socks with shorts for gym class or after school and sports. I continued to wear the dark colors, but did give in to peer pressure and did wear white tube/knee socks for gym class.

I continued to wear casual brown shoes, or black oxfords. Occasionally the gym shoes, but always with dark socks until I was out of school and lost weight, got a job and all. But I still prefer the knee length to the ankle, even as trends shift. It is extremely difficult to find anything besides dark, dressy colors (except if you purchase soccer socks). And for boys, it would seem in America the crew (or ankle) socks reigns in the advertisements of today. Mostly white, which has usurped the dark colors in todays' ultra-casual fashion environment. But this was the first fashion statement I recall making in my formative years. Starting from the ground up, I suppose

Christopher Wagner

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Last updated: August 5, 1998