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Since When Are Red Socks and Tights Everywhere?

Of course, there is always a deeper, beyond-the-runway reason behind every suddenly-ever-present trend—even one as arbitrary as red socks. One fashion historian and professor at St. John’s University, Emma McClendon, says this fashion movement is just another product of the 2000s resurgence. “When I see them, they make me think of American Apparel,” she says. “We’ve been seeing a lot of style interest on social media and among Gen Z shoppers in the so-called indie-sleaze look, and tights were deeply connected to that part-hipster, part-indie, part-party-girl look that American Apparel marketed so well in the mid/late-2000s.”

But those aughties looks were inspired by earlier 20th-century trends. “Prior to the 2000s, the most significant period for colorful tights was the 1960s, in tandem with the youthquake style of dressing and the mod movement,” McClendon adds. “London-based designer Mary Quant, in particular, made colorful, opaque tights a cornerstone of her aesthetic. In fact, the connection between youthful, trendy, London style and tights was so strong that model Twiggy came out with her own line of colorful tights during the period that was a sensation among young shoppers.”

“Red packs a big punch,” echoes fashion historian Ruby Redstone, freelance writer and cohost of the podcast Covered, which covers fashion lore and legacies. The significance of red in fashion predates the 1960s, particularly in the undergarments department, and has many meanings. “Red dye is one of the first dyes introduced across many cultures in fashion history, and it has long held strong sociopolitical associations,” she shares. In some Chinese cultures, wearing red socks is a way to ward off bad luck. Redstone also says that in ancient Rome religious figures wore red socks to differentiate themselves from laypeople. “The Catholic pope still wears red socks today for similar reasons!” she points out. “In Renaissance Europe, red tights and stockings indicated high social status, as they demonstrated the wearer’s access to expensive innovations in dyeing and weaving techniques—as well as the wearer’s excellent sartorial taste.”

More than an Instagram fad and better looking than most viral fashion obsessions, the red mania—specifically in the sock department—shows no signs of slowing. If wearing red stockings is simultaneously a wink to fashion-following pals, a nod to style icons of the ’60s, and a potential good-luck charm, then I’m willing to dive in feet first until trend fatigue do us part.

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