Teenagers of the 1950s and '60s were truly a new generation. When a teen culture first developed, it was driven by the rebellious new rock 'n' roll music, and found an outlet as teens bonded at the sock hop. These school or community dances took place at school gyms, where wood floors meant dancers had to remove their shoes and jitterbug, bop, frug or twist in their stocking feet. Teens learned the dances, and picked up the fashions, from Dick Clark's American Bandstand, which was broadcast on TV starting in 1957.
Peggy Sue at the Hop
In both music and fashion, the early '60s looked and felt a lot like the late 1950s. Girls' dresses were likely to be full-skirted shirtwaists. These fell well below the knee, although they became a little shorter in the '60s. In the '50s, several layers of petticoats gave them fullness and bounce. Skirts might have been pleated -- plaids were popular -- or pencil style. "Kick pleats" in the backs of long pencil skirts made it easier to dance the night away. The poodle skirt, which instantly recalls the era, was part of a '50s poodle craze that included home knickknacks and even a "poodle cut" hairstyle.
Clean Cut Wasn't Too Square
Forget the Happy Days leather-jacket, greaser image of the Fonz, at least at the sock hop. School dress codes meant that guys usually wore neatly ironed chinos or slacks with collared shirts. For authentic early '60s style straight from the movie American Graffiti -- and real life -- wear a cotton plaid button-front shirt with your chinos. If you had a letter jacket, you'd wear it, unless you'd given it to your steady girl, who would wear it with pride.
Kicking Off Your Shoes
You wouldn't want to be barefoot when you left your penny loafers, saddle shoes or blue suede shoes at the door. Pantyhose hadn't been invented yet, and nylon stockings were expensive and didn't lend themselves to dancing. The "socks" worn to sock hops might be white anklets, bobby socks or even knee socks.