Bobby socks are white, ankle-length socks, most often made from cotton, that have been worn by women, children—and especially teenage girls—since the 1930s. In particular, adolescents wore them with penny-loafers or saddle shoes. However, bobby socks are more than just a type of footwear. In December 1942, Frank Sinatra (1915–1998; see entry under 1940s—Music in volume 3), then a skinny, bow-tied young singer from New Jersey, opened at the Paramount Theatre in New York. Those same girls and young women who favored bobby socks came to see him and spontaneously screamed and collapsed as he performed. They danced the jitterbug—the latest craze in dancing (see entry under 1900s—The Way We Lived in volume 1)—in the theater aisles. They swooned (fainted) in their seats and jammed the area surrounding the stage door and demanded his autograph. They flowed out into the streets of midtown Manhattan, tying up traffic. These crazy youngsters were dubbed "bobbysoxers." In fact, one of the more colorfully named of Sinatra's countless fan clubs was "The Bobbysox Swoonerettes."
The media quickly stereotyped bobbysoxers. On the negative side, Newsweek magazine viewed their behavior as a kind of madness, a mass sexual delirium, labeling bobbysoxers immoral female juvenile delinquents. However, the general feeling was that they were nothing more than ridiculous young girls who were unable to control their emotions. When not swooning over their "Frankie," they talked nonstop on the telephone and became obsessed over the latest fads and styles. By the 1950s, the typical fashionable bobbysoxer wore her socks rolled down to her ankles. She kept her hair in a ponytail and wore tight sweaters. She completed her look with a felt poodle skirt that covered layers of petticoats made of a stiff material called crinoline, allowing the skirt to bulge out from her waist and hips. An alternate look was the choice of a straight, hemmed skirt that almost brushed against her bobby socks.
Frank Sinatra was not the only popular singer associated with bobby socks. In 1959, Frankie Avalon (1939–), an idol for a future generation of adolescent girls, had a million-selling hit single titled "Bobby Sox to Stockings." The lyrics point out that when a girl replaces her bobby socks with stockings, she is grown-up enough to fall in love and "give her heart away."
For More Information
Palladino, Grace. Teenagers: An American History. New York: Basic Books, 1996.