Retro 1980s socks, knee-highs & other sassy sock styles went beyond black & white

Retro 80s knee-highs and other sassy sock styles

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.


In the seventies and eighties, socks — especially those for girls — started to get a lot more fun as new colors, patterns and ways of wearing them became all the rage.

Knee-high socks? Always in style. Double them up? Totally trendy. Argyle? Preppy! Wear them with leg warmers or tights? So rad.

Here’s a look back at the 1980s socks that were delighting girls, teens and women back in the eighties.

LA Gear socks and 80s style

Slouchy pink and red socks from SOCKS (1987)

Slouchy pink and red socks from SOCKS (1987)

Wigwam 1980s ankle socks in stripes & solids (1985)

Wigwam 1980s ankle socks (1985)

DON’T MISS! The jelly shoes 80s & 90s fad: Bright colors were more important than comfort

Retro women’s long sock styles from 1980

Retro women's sock styles from 1980

Vintage colorful doubled socks from the eighties

With two pairs of socks on one… wear each pair alone, or layer them together for a creative concept in foot fashion.

It’s wild! Socks are taking a turn for the unusual… innovative combinations of abstract shapes, bold patterns and vivid hues with basic solids complement today’s trends in apparel.

It’s easy! lust layer a patterned anklet over its coordinating solid cuffed anklet. It’s fun! Big girls and little girls alike will love the look.

Vintage colorful doubled socks from the eighties

Retro 80s socks for girls from 1982

Retro 80s socks for girls from 1982

You can’t stand on good looks alone. (1982/1983)

Clarks Casuals. In a class by themselves. Superb comfort and classic good looks put Clarks Casuals in a class by themselves.

Because only Clarks combines proven comfort and support features with the kind of timeless styling you want today, in a choice of fashionable colors. So whether you’re striding across campus or just stepping across town, let Clarks classy Casuals take you there in style.

Clarks of England – leather loafers/shoes for teen girls – striped and argyle socks

Clark's Casuals knee socks

Vintage Bonnie Doon thick patterned 80s socks for women (1984)

Vintage Bonnie Doon thick patterned socks for women (1984)

1980s Bonnie Doon sock patterns (1984)

1980s Bonnie Doon sock patterns (1984)

Solid color and retro argyle patterned knee-high socks from the late ’80s

Argyle knee highs of soft, long-wearing Acrilan II acrylic, nylon, acrylic and other fibers. Made in USA.

You wanted longer wearing socks . . . and we’ve got them! Thanks to new Acrilan IP, these socks will wear about twice as long as the socks we sold before — and they’re backed by a full 2 year warranty. Colors: burgundy, healthier gray, navy, forest green, chocolate brown, camel

Flat knit knee-high and crew socks with reinforced toe. Colors: red, medium blue, navy, chocolate brown, winter white, black, camel, heather grey, burgundy, forest green.

Vintage knee sock styles from the late 1980s (3)

Six Sears sock collections from the late ’80s

1. Sears Best cable-knit knee socks: Made of a thick, soft blend of Orlon acrylic for durability, stretch nylon for good fit. White, purple, red, turquoise, navy, fuchsia, winter, iris blue, cinnamon

2. Fashion foot looks complement the latest outfits. Acrylic and stretch nylon. Colors: red, blue argyle plaid, blue, red argyle plaid

3. Socks to kick up your feet and cheer about! Anklets are cotton and nylon. Colors: pale, mauve blue, pink, winter white.

4. Crew socks are comfortable and versatile. Cotton and stretch nylon. Colors: pastels or white.

5. Lace trim anklets are stretch nylon. Package of 3 pairs. USA. Colors: pastels or white.

6. Dots are the key to style-smart terry anklets of cotton and nylon. Package of 2 pairs. Colors: pink and lilac, or red and turquoise. 

ALSO SEE: Remember Swatch & the colorful watch craze of the 1980s?

Six Sears sock collections from the late 80s

Fashion legs for her – doubled socks & socks over tights (1988)

Fashion legs for her - doubled socks and socks over tights (1988)

DON’T MISS: Vintage shoe stores: See what shoe shopping really used to be like

Spring spotlights legs (1982)

From The Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) March 28, 1982

Color, styling, and lace gain importance as skirts get shorter.

For spring ’82, legs are big fashion news. Skirts are getting shorter, more women are wearing shorts and more people are exercising. With so much leg showing, the correct legwear can make or break an outfit.

In fact, what you wear on your legs is just as important as the clothes on your body. New ideas in color, yarn and styling are designed to accent and enhance the big fashion looks for spring.

Four styles of knee-high 1980s socks, each in 5 different colorways
Four styles of knee-high 1980s socks, each in 5 different colorways

Socks have come out of the locker room. No longer just for high school students and athletes (though these are still important markets), they now are being worn in the streets and with skirts for office dressing.

Striped knee highs look great with knickers and little lacy anklets are terrific with soft, feminine petticoat dressing.

Retro 1980s leg warmers: Look back at the iconic fashion fad

The nautical look is in evidence everywhere. Designers are following this trend with basic red, white and blue solid-color knee highs to complement any sea-worthy outfit, as well as with fun socks, such as a striped ankle sock with anchor applique and a low ankle sock with semaphore flag applique. And there’s a nautical-look anchor pattern multicolor knee-high.

Three 80s girls with colorful socks in a faux soda shop

Neutral, earthy hues are surprisingly important for spring, having previously been considered fall colors.

These are nature-inspired colors such as cherrywood, forest, ginger, and mahogany, especially good for sportswear looks. The earthy deep colors are important for background with prints and also go well with linens, canvas, chino and chintz looks.

And brights are significant for this spring, with wonderful colors such as azalea, bluebell, daffodil, iris, poppy and tulip turquoise, which look fabulous as striping or pattern colors on white.

DON’T MISS THIS: Retro 1980s leg warmers: Look back at the iconic fashion fad

Pastel long and short socks, and socks with bright cuffs

And there’s morepretty, soft peasant looks and “country kitchen” looks. Socks and pantyhose with subtle, metallic touches for jazzy, fun nights on the town. Sports socks in terrycloth, with or without appliques.

Striped and solid crew socks for exercising or for just a sporty weekend look under sneakers. Beautiful pastel argyles. Textured knee highs with cable detailing. A windowpane pattern. The list is endless.

Bonnie Doon’s Geoffrey Beene collection offers beautiful sheer and textured pantyhose and knee highs and witty ankle socks.

Reflecting his own couture collection are touches of glitter, refined patterns, smashing colors only as Beene can mix and match them: cornflower blue, fog, mauve, rosa, ecru, ivory and aqua. Especially interesting and new is the horizontal raised-rib-pattern pantyhose, perfect for his total look.

Colorful Hunt Club socks from 1983

Vintage fashion: How to coordinate socks, clothes (1987)

Excerpted from an article by Meredith Schlow – The Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana) December 29, 1987

Anklets. Argyles. Knee-highs. Cables, crews and sport socks. Socks come in different lengths, different patterns and hundreds of different styles. They’re available in fabrics like acrylic, cashmere, cotton and lambswool.

Retro pastel Gitano socks for girls (1989)

For those just joining this class on sock appreciation, here are a few definitions, and hints on how to coordinate socks with your wardrobe provided by the sock-conscious clan at the Du Pont Company in New York.

  • Anklets cover the ankle and reach less than one-third of the way up the largest part of the calf.
  • Crew socks extend over the ankle up to the widest part of the calf.
  • Knee-highs extend over the calf, stopping just below the knee.
  • Slouch socks are made with less stretch in the top so they slide down the leg creating a casual fashion look.

Don’t hide your socks under a too-long pant leg. Roll up the bottom two inches of those jeans, and coordinate the color of your socks with a sweater or scarf.

Stuff the bottom of jeans into a slouched sock, and then pull on a high-top sneaker in a coordinating color.

ALSO SEE: Converse vintage shoes: The old-school Chucks, sneakers & athletic footwear

Vintage high-top Puma sneakers (1988)

Cable knits, ribbed and crochet socks are just a few of the ways socks can be coordinated with a sweater by texture. Wear anklets with a slim skirt and low shoes, or layer knee-highs over knee-highs in different colors to echo the colors of your outfit.

Men have more choices in socks than ever before. Argyles are a classic favorite and are available in bright colors and pastels. Or try a different pattern like paisley or houndstooth.

Coordinate sock and clothing styles. Never wear white athletic socks with wingtip shoes, never black nylon socks with shorts and sneakers. Let socks complement your outfit, not detract from it.

Outdoor feet will feel warmer and more comfortable in a thick wool or thermals, also available in a variety of colors and designs. Children’s socks are now miniaturized versions of the ones mom and dad wear in terms of colors, pattern and styles. Baby argyles, slouched socks and leg warmers are all available for fashion-conscious tots.

Little kids wearing cool retro socks (1988)

Retro Bonnie Doon socks and tights (1987)

Retro Bonnie Doon socks and tights (1987)


Knock your socks off! (1985)

(This is an ad for VCRs, but it featured some cool retro sock styles, so we had to include it.)

Sock styles from 1985 (1)

Sock styles from 1985 (2)

Socks with a superb fit and durability plus warmth, texture and vivid colors (late ’80s)

Our best casual hosiery uses the finest Nomelle yarns of Orlon acrylic and nylon. Knee highs are available in your choice of classic argyle and flat or cable knit styles…

Convertible crew socks, too! (2 thru 4) feature reinforced heel and toe plus an extra high heel guard for added durability. Machine washable. Made in USA.

Retro knee sock styles from the late 1980s

NOW SEE THIS: Totally awesome vintage ’80s clothes for girls

PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest. Thanks for visiting and for supporting a small business! 🤩 


You might also like...

The fun never ends:

Comments on this story

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.