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11 August, 2011


BOBBY SOCKS:  The word "Bobby" comes from bob, meaning cut short, as in bobtail and bobby pins used in bobbed hair.  Since the socks described by the term were cut much shorter than the earlier knee-high socks worn by girls, they were called "bobby socks". 
NOTE:  To set the mood for this item, click to hear Frankie Avalon's 1950 hit song, "Bobby Sox to Stockings"

Just as I had hoped in a post last week, the unusual word "mulligan" has finally been wiped from my mind only to be replaced in the last 12 hours by the words "bobby socks".

"Why in the world are you thinking about bobby socks now, of all things?" you might justifiably ask.  Well the answer is: I really can't explain it other than the fact that I am an old sentimental fool who has a soft spot for everything bobby socks, including the socks themselves, the girls who wore them and the era in which they were worn.  It may have been something I saw on television that prompted this latest word(s) obsession.

"Bobby soxer" is a 1940s sociological coinage denoting the over zealous (usually teenage girls) fans of singer Frank Sinatra, the first singing teen idol.  By the 1950s, fashionable adolescent girls wore poodle skirts and rolled down their socks to the ankle. More often than not, the footwear of choice was the popular black and white saddle oxford of the period.  In high schools, the gymnasium often was used as a dance floor: however, since street shoes and street detritus might damage the polished wood floors, the students were required to remove their shoes and dance in their bobby socks, thus the phrase 'sock hop' was born.

Bobby socks, saddle shoes and let's not forget penny loafers, were also synonymous with flared skirts and lots of petticoats, cat-eye glasses, drive-in movies, drive-in restaurants, milk shakes and root beer floats, cherry cokes, juke boxes, and rock n' roll music.  The late 1940s and early to mid 1950s was a very exciting decade and still is for that matter, especially for nostalgia buffs.  It was a time of happiness for those of us who lived through it and lots of plain old-fashioned clean fun.

By the late 1950s young women's hair styles changed dramatically from basic pin-up curls and ponytails to big back-combed bouffant, beehives and the French pleat, none of which appealed much to me.  Give me curls or poneytails any day.

Young men suddenly became very fashion conscious in the bobby socks era too.  With the short-lived zoot suit doing a fast fade, more conservative drape trousers became a must for every young man about town.  Normal dress pants were taken in at the cuff, gradually tapering off at the knee.  Regular pant bottoms with cuffs were in the 19-20 inch range, but when draped could be as little and as drastic as 13 inches.  My mother insisted that a 15-inch drape was sufficient for her son.

Pink accessories were all the rage for men at the time too -- pink shirts, ties and sweaters worn with charcoal grey pants and suits.  Duck tail hair styles, slicked back at the sides with far-too-much Brill Cream and Vitalis, also gained popularity during the period.

In time, the pink and charcoal fad gave way to Ivy League stripe, button-down fashions.  Today, I do not think that there is a particular fashion, unless you call baseball caps, T-shirts, faded blue jeans and dirty white running shoes a fashion.

The music of the 1950s very definitely influenced the time period and flourished as a result of the previous decade. The 50s saw the emergence and rise of what would come to be known as Rock ‘n Roll, but it  also witnessed the popularity of Country and Western music in a variety of forms. Musicians like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Hank Williams helped to redefine the entertainment industry with the types of music that they created following the devastating effects of World War Two.    

No discussion of 1950s would be complete, however, without talking about the King of Rock and Roll – Elvis Presley. He is the epitome of the 1950s musical revolution. His rockabilly style followed in the tradition of Carl Perkins, but he had a great deal of success with every form of music he attempted, including country, gospel, and R and B.  Elvis, of course was followed by The Beatles -- and the rest is history as we know it.

Ah yes, bobby socks and the 1950s.  Sock hops, juke boxes, drive-ins.  Lots of wholesome fun and good times.  Gone but not forgotten.  There will never be another era like it.  Girls will never be the same either...At least in this oldtimer's estimation.


Martin (Surrey, UK) said...

My daughter has short white socks to wear to school in the summer term and I always call them Bobby Socks.

Anonymous said...

I also grew up in that era. The girls I knew who wore their socks folded down to the tops of their white buck saddle shoes. I think the black and white saddles were from a later time ( I noticed them being very popular in the mid-to-late sixties and into the early eighties). When I was in school, the "only" colors for saddles were blue and white and all-white. (Maybe the blue was to match their rolled-up blue jeans?) Ah, such sweet memories!

Anonymous said...

I too grew up during that fantastic time......but I remember the saddle shoes only coming in brown or black. I don't think I ever saw blue ones. Maybe it had to do with the part of the country you came from. But those were certainly great times.....