History of Knee High Socks
Knee-high socks may be a trendy and fashionable hot-ticket item right now, but they have actually been around for centuries! Historical sources have documented the first version of a knee-high as early as Ancient Roman times. It must have been pretty draughty between the columns and cobblestones, because both men and women wore knee-high protection to stay warm in Ancient Rome. There is evidence to show that people of many ancient European civilizations kept their legs warm and protected in knee-high cloth bound with leather straps.
As the years went by and society continued to change at a rapid rate, popular fashion evolved and began to embrace the notion of style over pure function. By the 18th century, women such as Marie Antoinette; herself a synonym for extravagance and avant-garde fashion, were embracing the knee-high as a cheeky undergarment that implied a hint of eroticism amongst a flurry of drab, conservative outfits. Before it was socially acceptable for women to show their legs, it was fun to have an accessory that exposed the thigh- but safely underneath their many layers of floor-length skirts and underskirts. Knee-highs provided a sort of secret fashion which a lady could enjoy and keep to herself as much as she pleased.
Fast-forward to the roaring 1920's and as the hemlines got shorter, socks began to take center stage. It was finally time for women to have fun and show a bit of leg, and maybe even a flash of thigh here and there as they stepped out on the town and danced in shorter skirts. Knee-highs were embraced as a must-have accessory and were made in different styles, patterns and colors. With the rise of the availability of nylon material, it became possible to cover and expose the leg at the same time and wear a style that had enough stretch to stay up. Gone were the long, thick, baggy socks of the early 1900s. It was no longer about keeping warm and toasty, rather a way to express your own unique style at a time when the fashion was pushing the limits with each season. Women were now embracing their freedom and finding their own style with fun flapper dresses and knee-highs.
In the 1930s knee socks were still a popular choice for fashion-forward women, and had come to be accepted and loved by conservatively dressed ladies as well. Thigh-high stockings had to be held in place with complicated garters. In the ‘30s, newly-invented elasticized fabrics made it possible to do away with garters. Knee socks provided a much more comfortable option which would stay in place on its own, at the narrow part of the leg just below the knee. Suddenly women were freed of the hassle of the stocking-and-garter system, and feeling much more comfortable in knee-highs. Women who played sports in the ‘30s wore colored knee highs as part of their team uniforms, opting for neutral colored knee socks of white, tan, or gray for everyday wear.
In the ‘40s, silk was traded for the newly-invented nylon. Nylon stockings were the uniform for any woman stepping out in daytime. Unless she was at the beach, it was unheard of for her bare legs to be seen. Stretchy materials like nylon and rayon were suddenly the norm, as they didn’t snag as much as silk and were much more durable. Stockings were often reinforced at the toe and heel to strengthen those delicate parts of the socks, and many of the knee socks on our website feature a highlight at the toe and heel as a callback to this classic look.
By the 1960s, women had become more liberal and a sweeping feminist movement had inspired a fresh and sexy new approach to fashion. This period of mod culture was all about short dresses, short hair, high heels and even higher socks! Culture icons such as Twiggy showed off their perfect pins in short shorts, miniskirts and white or pastel toned knee-high socks. The look was fun, flirty and tempting without being over the top. By the 1960’s, hosiery technology had advanced to the point that seamless stockings were now possible, and the seamless look quickly became the norm.
In the decades that followed, the knee-high remained a wardrobe staple and made its way into casual, academic and sporting outfits worldwide. What began as a way to keep legs warm had now become a fun fashion accessory to make an outfit hot! The 90's saw Cher Horowitz and her girlfriends confirm the iconic fashion status of the knee-high in the cult film "Clueless" and the generations that followed embraced this look in many variations from preppy to punk!
Today, knee-high socks are more fun than ever and available in a rainbow of styles. With an amazing range of styles, colors and patterns now available, knee-high socks are the perfect addition to every woman's wardrobe. Every girl owns a least a pair or two, and now it’s more affordable than ever to own multiple pairs of knee-highs for every occasion. At a time when we are able to set our own trends and dress however we like, these socks provide endless styling options. The introduction of customized socks also means that, more than ever, women are able to dictate their own style and create socks that are versatile, fun to wear and a true representation of their personal style. Check out our styling guides and have fun creating new looks. Then be sure to share your photos with us on Instagram with the hashtag #chrissyskneehighsocks. We can’t wait to see the new looks you come up with!