The white anklets known as bobby socks rocked the conservative world when teenagers began wearing the socks with saddle shoes as a form of adolescent rebellion in the late 40’s. During the war years, rationing of silk and nylon prohibited women from wearing their stockings. Improvising, the British made a short ankle sock to replace nylons, and the bobby sock was born.
American women preferred either to go barelegged or to paint their legs with makeup the color of ‘suntan’ stockings (complete with back seam painted on), so young girls were left to adopt the short sock for themselves. They called it the ‘bobby’ sock, after the British slang for police officers.
Bobby socks started as a rebellious fad, but soon became the quintessential teen fashion of the 50’s. Girls who couldn’t get the original anklet made their own bobby socks by folding down a white calf sock into a thick cuff. The short socks were made visible by cuffing up the denim pantleg to mid-calf height. The girls who wore these anklets were dubbed ‘bobby soxers’, and the trend spread to high school girls across the country.
The socks received even more attention when they starred in ‘sock hops,’ dance gatherings wherein the kids would take off their shoes and dance in their socks. While dancing in socks might have seemed rebellious, it was actually to prevent the polished gymnasium floor from being scuffed by the black soles of the popular saddle shoes.
Innocent as they seemed, these white socks set teens on the path of rebellion, or at least that was what parents believed. While the bobby sock was not necessarily responsible for teenage angst and rebellion, it was a strong expression of it, commonly linked with the real plague against conservativism: rock and roll. Parents didn’t stand a chance.