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What are Bobby Socks?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Bobby socks are ankle length socks classically designed for wear by women. They were especially popular in the 1940s and 1950s, as a perusal of the ankles of young women in art from this period will reveal, and they periodically come back into fashion when people develop nostalgia for this period in history. Many sock stores carry bobby socks, and they can also be ordered through specialty suppliers and uniform companies, or knitted by hand, for people who are familiar with knitting socks.

In addition to being ankle length, bobby socks are also typically ornamented with a layer of lace or other material. The tops of the socks may be designed to fold down to showcase decorative materials, and it is not uncommon to see a bow or similar ornament on the back of the sock. Traditionally, bobby socks are plain white, but patterned and colored versions are available in many regions of the world.

The term “bobby socks” appears to date to around 1927, right around the period when it became fashionable and acceptable for women to display their ankles. The “bobby” in “bobby socks” is a bit of an enigmatic figure, as there is no clear explanation for the origins of the name. Some researchers have suggested that it may be related to the “bobby pin” which was in vogue during the same period.

Various types of loafers and Oxford shoes are classically worn with bobby socks, so that the socks can be clearly seen. Women tend to wear skirts with these socks, often choosing full skirts which will flare out with movement, although it is acceptable to wear slacks with this sock style. The bobby sock is generally not acceptable for wear in the workplace, as it is regarded as a casual style, although if the socks are largely obscured by long skirts or slacks, this may not be an issue.

Some schools include bobby socks as a uniform option for their girls. Girls may choose to wear bobby socks to have an opportunity for more personal expression in a school with a strict dress or uniform code, or because the socks are more comfortable to wear. Because of the common use of bobby socks in school uniforms, plain versions of these socks are often readily available from companies which supply school uniforms and accessories, although women with large feet may not be able to fit into uniform socks, as they are designed for girls.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon71076 — On Mar 17, 2010

In the late '50s, bobby socks were the big rage and we searched for triple-fold bobby socks (white only, please) and never had anything on them, like ruffles or poodles, etc. The adventurous ladies stuffed the roll-down with something to make the rolls look fatter. We looked swell!

By anon32563 — On May 23, 2009

My recollection is that girls hated to wear fold down bobby socks as they got older, especially the thinner ones that we called anklets. Anklets were considered childish. Girls from stricter more old fashioned homes wore them to an older age than other girls did. And if they were comfortable, girls still preferred longer socks that I guess made them think they were wearing hose. The turn down cuff of the anklet or bobby sock was avoided; the girls pulled their socks up as high as they could.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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