Knock Their Socks Off

The below article appeared in Time magazine in 1966.

“The overall effect,” explains Lloyd Chiswick, 27, a Stanford University senior, “is studied but complete nonchalance.” Says a Princeton junior: “The whole thing is wrapped up in coolness, in both senses of the word.” They were talking about the most widespread fad on U.S. campuses, which is not to wear socks—not with sneakers, loafers, sandals or even brogues.

At Harvard, going sockless is to the “preppy-clubby” set what the armless sweatshirt is to the athletic crowd. Northwestern Student Leader Skip Mylenski wouldn’t have thought of attending the homecoming dance at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel any way but bare-ankled. Columbia University students skip the hose for Manhattan theater dates, and at Berkeley, when Theta Delta Chi threw a party, nearly all of the brothers turned up sockless. Maintains Theta Delt David Greenlee, 20: “When you walk down Telegraph among all the beatniks, and you’re wearing a pullover sweater and Daks and no socks, it shows a relaxed attitude.”

Provocative Hairs:

Nobody knows just where or when the fad first began. Easterners say that it started in the West; students at U.C.L.A., one of the few schools where the fad has not caught on, insist that “it looks like it came from New York.” There is a suspicion that thousands of students have taken it up for no other reason than that their socks are in the laundry bag.

Some now defend the fashion on esthetic grounds. “You have this break between your pants and your shoes,” explains a Los Angeles display artist. “Two textures. Why ruin it by sticking a third texture in between?” Others now give the trend Havelock Ellis overtones, agreeing, as one Californian puts it, that “hairs on the ankle look provocative.” Some girls agree. “It looks sexy,” says Rosalie Netter, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. “You can see the bone structure, like finely chiseled stone,” says Wisconsin Sophomore Karen Knauf.

Cultural Leftover:

If anything could kill the look on campus, of course, it would be the news that adults are doing it too. West German Playboy Gunter Sachs, it was noted, married Brigitte Bardot in Las Vegas last summer with his socks off, and already there are signs of backlash. “Socklessness is a cultural leftover,” fumes one Princetonian. Sock sales are even rising in some areas. Still, as the first snowstorms swirled across the Midwest last week the purists were standing fast. “If I could get a pair of lined desert boots,” said one, thinking onward in Wisconsin, “maybe I could get by all year without socks.”

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