The Deal with Striped Socks
Or: “It Was Late and I Was Tired.”
Today’s post is a brief one, but it answers a question a lot of new dancers have about why many of us swing dancers wear striped (or otherwise funky) socks.
Believe it or not, it’s actually a nod to men in the 1930s and early 1940s, many of which loved striped or otherwise wildly patterned socks. For evidence, simply look at the bottom row of almost any class pictures during the 30s and early 40s.
I’ve heard it mentioned before that part of it was a way youth could express themselves in a world with an otherwise rigid-dress code imposed by the idea of “adulthood.”
What many people don’t realize about the swing era is that it is marked as the first time that “youth” became it’s own culture. Before then, teenagers were just waiting to become adults, and had no identity as a group.* But with swing, jitterbug, and, in it’s own small way, striped socks, youth created a voice of their own.
Fred Astaire, arguably the best dressed man of all time, often used crazy socks to make a statement.
For me personally, I like to wear striped and funky patterned socks for the paradoxical reason that my swing friends know why I do it, and no one else in public does.
In the old days (2001-2005), you could only find them in the women’s section at Target. (Yes, I had to get knee highs). Nowadays, though, stores are carrying them for men. H&M, J Crew, The Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy sometimes have good ones, and Urban Outfitters often has great patterned socks. Target also occasionally has some striped socks for men. Vintage Argyles seem to be currently in style.
*– Jon Savage actually wrote an perhaps-too-intellectually-written but otherwise interesting book about the rise of youth culture called Teenage.