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What are Knee High Socks?

By Claudine Williams
Updated May 21, 2024
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Knee high socks are a type of covering for the feet that extends up the legs, reaching to the knees. Sometimes referred to simply as knee socks, they are available in a variety of fabrics, textures, styles and colors. They often are worn as a fashion statement but can be worn for practical purposes. Although they cover the legs, knee high socks can be worn to show off the legs and draw more attention to them.

Like other types of socks, knee high socks can be made from many types of materials, including cotton, nylon, silk and wool. Wool knee high socks, for example, might be worn during winter to keep the feet and calves warm. Nylon knee socks are thinner and might be worn with more formal clothing or during the summer. Knee socks of all types can be worn with many kinds of footwear, from high heels to boots. Well-made knee socks will stay up on the legs and not slide down to the ankles.

These socks are often associated with younger women. Cheerleaders have worn these socks in high school or university colors. Knee highs are also worn with short plaid skirts and collared shirts, as an accessory for uniforms worn by girls in private school. The socks, therefore, are often associated with a schoolgirl look. They are sometimes worn as an accessory in costumes mimicking this look.

Knee high socks were highly popular in the 1960s and 1970s in many societies. They were worn with miniskirts and rose to just below the knee. Brightly colored socks with stripes were popular.

Modern knee socks sometimes rise over the knee and end on the thighs. These thigh high socks are worn with everything from high heels to boots. They are sometimes paired with sheer or opaque stockings. When worn with knee or thigh high boots, knee socks cushion the legs against the boots' rough material. The socks are also worn with ankle boots, and the boots and knee socks usually match.

Celebrities have been spotted wearing knee socks that do not cover the feet. These are called footless knee socks. Popular designers have added knee socks to their lines.

Care for knee socks is similar to the care of lingerie. The socks usually can be laundered in a machine. Sheer socks or socks that contain delicate designs might need to be washed by hand. White knee socks can be bleached and washed in hot water. Brightly colored knee socks are usually washed in cold water with a gentle laundry detergent.

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Discussion Comments
By anon998397 — On Jun 03, 2017

Your husband would probably like seeing you in them. My wife has over 200 pairs and wears them regularly. She is 52

By myharley — On May 12, 2012

I had a favorite pair of pink knee high socks when I was a girl. These had Cinderella on them, and I loved wearing these socks.

I still remember when I got them for Christmas, and wore them so much it didn't take long for them to get holes in the toes.

I would wear those socks as often as I could. If I wore them with a frilly dress and nice shoes, I really felt like a princess.

It is interesting how one pair of socks can change the way you feel. Today there are so many styles and colors of socks to choose from. Knee high socks can be just as stylish as any other kind of sock - it just depends on what your particular style is.

By LisaLou — On May 11, 2012

I wear wool and cotton knee high socks in the winter. My office building stays cold, and the longer socks keep me a little warmer.

I seldom wear a dress when it is cold outside, so have several pairs of knee high socks. They might not look very classy, but they do a good job of keeping me warm.

The worst thing about them is they can be kind of bulky depending on what type of shoes I am wearing. If I am wearing dress shoes, I will usually have to wear nylon knee high socks that are thinner and fit inside my dress shoes.

I don't think knee high socks are nearly as popular as they used to be. Now I see many women wearing tights. They can be both dressy and warm, so I will probably start wearing them on the colder days.

By SarahSon — On May 10, 2012

It has been a long time since I have worn knee high socks. It seems like I could never get them to fit right.

Either they were too tight and felt like they were cutting off my circulation, or they would not stay up and would keep falling down.

There is nothing more frustrating than one, or both of your socks constantly sliding down your leg. I found myself continually pulling them up, only to have them slide down again a few minutes later.

By julies — On May 10, 2012

I was a teenager during the 70's and remember well wearing striped knee high socks with miniskirts.

On the days when we had a basketball game, we would have to dress up, and it was very common to see this combination at school.

I don't think very many high school girls wear knee high socks anymore, unless they have to wear them with a uniform or they are athletic socks.

Some of the striped knee high socks also had places for each of your toes. These were usually really loud and funky looking.

If you wanted to look a little more sophisticated or dressy, you would wear a pair of argyle knee high socks with your miniskirt.

By OeKc05 — On May 09, 2012

@lighth0se33 – They should eventually stop fading. I had some orange knee high socks, and they basically did the same thing for awhile.

I just kept washing them out by hand until one day, the water didn't turn bright orange. After that, I decided to try washing them on the gentle cycle in cold water with some other orange, red, and brown clothing. I didn't put any garments of a lighter color than the socks in the load, just in case.

I didn't notice any bleeding of the orange onto other garments. I think that once the socks are past the stage of bleeding into the sink water, they are ready for actual laundering. Just be sure you use cold water, though, because warm water can make them bleed more.

By lighth0se33 — On May 09, 2012

I got some red knee high socks last week, and they are giving me problems. The first time that I wore them, I wore ankle boots on top of them, and I sweated a good bit. This made the red dye bleed out into the lining of my boots, and it stained my skin red, as well.

I don't think I can get the stain out of my boots, but it washed off my legs easily enough. I didn't dare put these socks in the washer with my other clothes. I washed them out by hand, and they turned the water in the sink bright red.

Will I ever be able to wash these socks with other clothes, or will they forever bleed red dye into the water? I hope that the color will settle over time and not be so ready to escape the socks.

By StarJo — On May 08, 2012

I often wear black knee high dress socks to work. They hide underneath my pants, so they are not a fashion statement.

The reason I like the knee high socks is that they go up high enough that the top of them doesn't show. I used to wear regular length dress socks, and every time I would sit down, my pant legs would rise up and show the top of my socks. This looked very tacky.

I pair the black knee high socks with closed-toe pumps, ankle boots, and ballet flats. I wear them with either black or gray pants or long skirts.

By Oceana — On May 08, 2012

My friend has always had an awesome sense of humor, and it often carries over into her style. One example is the funky knee high socks she wore to her wedding.

She had a typical white wedding dress, but with it, she wore rainbow colored knee high socks. They had stripes all over them, and the colors went in the order of the colors of rainbow from top to bottom. On her feet, she wore a pair of simple white satin ballet slippers.

Her husband wore a pastel blue suit with a bowtie, so they matched in their weirdness. It was so like them to poke fun at tradition, and her socks did this just as loudly as his suit.

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