Sock Hops: A Brief History

Every Halloween, fifties costumes for girls or guys always seems to be a popular choice. Dressed in poodle skirts and leather jackets, on October 31st many people look like they have flashed back to 1950’s, heading to a sock hop. We all know what the attire for these dances was, but how many of us know the history behind them?

Before you learn anything else, it is important to understand the origin of the name “sock hop.” In the 1950’s, school dances were held in school gyms. Because the floors were varnished wood and easily scuffed by shoes, schools required the removal of shoes before dancing.

Although shoes were not worn during the actual dance, saddle shoes were the popular shoes to wear to the dances. Poodle skirts and blue jeans were also very popular. And to fit with the name, most wore ankle socks as they danced.

This precaution is part of the reason teenagers enjoyed these dances so much. Most saw the removal of shoes as an act of rebellion. With so many things changing throughout this decade, this was just one that sock hops showcased.

Another was the introduction of rock and roll music. In the early 1950’s, the music was very conservative, stemming from the swing music of the 1940’s. However, in the mid-fifties, a man named Elvis came along and changed everything.

elvis, sock hop, poodle skirtsElvis introduced rock and roll to this rising generation of shoeless rebels. Most of the older generation did not approve of Elvis and his shaking hips, or the style of music that those hips were shaking to. And if Elvis wasn’t bad enough, soon after came Carl Parkins, who added R&B to the mix.

New kinds of music brought new kinds of dances to be explored. Some of these included the Cha Cha, the Twist, the Stroll, the Hand Jive and the Bop. Many of these dances accompanied a specific song that was popular during that time.

There was more to sock hops than great outfits. Because of these dances, rock and roll became popular, new dances were invented, and many of the social norms of the time were broken down. We owe many of dance styles and social trends that we have now to the mighty changes that happened during this era and to those who were willing to urge that change forward.

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