What is a Sock Hop?
The sock hop was an informal sponsored dance at American high schools, typically held in the high school’s own gym or cafeteria. The term sock hop came about because dancers were required to remove their shoes to protect the varnished floor of the gymnasium. These hops were a cultural feature of the 1950s and early rock and roll. The music was usually records, sometimes presented by a disc jockey. Occasionally there were also live bands. Danny and the Juniors sang “At the Hop” in 1957 which named many popular dances and otherwise documented what happened at a hop. The term record hop is generally synonymous with sock hop.
Poodle skirts, ankle socks and saddle shoes, oh my! Although many girls have dressed up as a 1950’s music lover going to a sock hop for Halloween, many do not know the history behind this revolutionary dance. Even though the sock hop was just a dance, it helped revolutionize the fashion, music and events of the fifties.
Before getting into the history of the sock hop craze, it is important to understand why they happened in the first place. The sock hop started because, back in the fifties, school dances were held in the gym. Most of the gym floors were made of nice, shiny wood and the school did not want the floors scuffed during the dances. So, most schools required the removal of the shoes in order to dance.
The reason this was exciting in the fifties was because removing the shoes (even though it was a rule) was a form of rebellion. The 1950’s was a very different time period than what we live in today. Many things were changing throughout the decade and the sock hop craze reflected the acceptance of these changes. To start, 1950’s music was a big change from what people had listened to in prior decades.
Before rock n’ roll came along, 1950’s music was very straight laced, stemming from the swing era. In the mid-fifties, Elvis came along and introduced rock n’ roll, followed by Little Richard who influenced that rock n’ roll with R&B. Much of the older generation did not approve of this style of music, so the opportunity to dance to these types of 50’s music hits with shoes off was a very big deal.
The reason the older generation frowned upon music inspired by artists like Carl Perkins was that segregation was still commonplace. Blacks and whites often attended different schools, drank from different fountains and certainly did not date. As the 1950’s music changed and evolved, some of these racial barriers were broken down.
Also, sex was very much taboo. It was not discussed in movies, on television or in the media. 1950’s music had started to become sexual, with Elvis’ hip movements and certain styles of dance. Although the sock hop was chaperoned, there was often a brief period during the sock hop where the lights were turned down and the teenagers had the opportunity to “neck” to 1950’s music. Necking was a form of making out that took place just above the neck.
Finally, the opportunity to explore different dances that appeared in 50’s music hits was a big factor in the sock hop popularity. Dances like the Cha Cha, the Twist, The Stroll, The Hand Jive and The Bop were all fun to dance to. Many of these dances were introduced by a specific, 1950’s music hit.
Attending a sock hop was an opportunity for the kids of the 1950’s to embody some of the changes this exciting decade inspired. Although they were making history, many of those who danced the night away to popular 50’s hits would probably just consider the sock hop another way to have fun.
What is the history of sock hop?
Before the advent of automated hardwood polishers and waxer, maintaining the hardwood floors of the school gymnasiums was an expensive proposition. With a view to lowering costs and maintaining appearances, in 1950’s, the school principals always made the kids take off their shoes before the big dance in gymnasium, so that the smooth gym floors weren’t damaged by their sneakers or hard leather shoes, and dance in socks. Dancing is socks provided unanticipated benefits such as sliding on the dance floor, twisting, and jiving. After a while, kids figured out a way to make the dance cool and hence gave birth to sock hop.
How to dress for a sock hop?
- For girls: The sock hop dance skirts were very popular among teenagers. The dress for sock hop in 1950’s was a sweater, a poodle skirt (a classic swing skirt style, narrow at the waist and full at the bottom), bobby socks, a cap, cat eye glasses, scarves tied around their necks and saddle shoes with their hair pulled back in a pony tail with ribbon. Sock hop dance was great for physical exercise, as the dancers would swing in tune with music.
- For boys: A leather jacket over a white T-shirt, blue jeans with white socks and penny loafers to portray the all American 50’s good boy or wear low waist jeans, a white T-shirt with pack of cigarettes rolled in the sleeve or with a leather jacket over it.
What are the features of sock hop dance?
- It is informal, without any specific dress code restrictions
- It is less dressy and geared for most common events compared to homecoming dances
- Dancers don’t need a partner as the allows folks to have fun by themselves or in a group setting
- Dancers have to dance to live or recorded music. Those who do not have a record player can opt for juke boxes or radios
- Sock hop can be held in the afternoons, early evenings and as part of after school events
What is the impact of sock hop on entertainment industry?
- Little Richard wrote a song called “Ready Teddy” that references sock hops
- Danny and the juniors wrote a song “At the hop” which became an oldies classic
- Movies such as American Graffiti immortalized the culture of sock hops
Sock hop dance is as much fun to watch as it is to actually participate in the dance. There are very few steps involved, and they get repeated again and again, so it is fairly easy for anyone to pick up and begin to have fun (unlike salsa or merengue). The dance is appropriate for dancers of all ages and is reminiscent of the 50′s era. A sock hop party is a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday, retirement, New Year’s Eve and 50′s themed parties.
At the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, we’ll be offering a sock hop so bring your dancing shoes and 1950s or 1960s clothing is encouraged (but not required). Free snacks and sodas and a disc jockey to play the music!
50′s – 60′s SOCK HOP
featuring ROCKIN’ RICHARD & ROLLIN’ GINGER
spinning your favorite RECORDS from the 1950′s & 1960′s
EARLY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
BEST DRESSED (decorate your bobby socks & poodle skirts)
BEST 50′s – 60′s HAIRDO
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
BEST DOO WOP GROUP (guys get your group together!)
BEST GIRL GROUP (girls, don’t let the guys show you up!)
Got requests? Let me know, I’ll do my best to have them.
Sign up your group, in advance: firstname.lastname@example.org
SEE YOU ALL AT THE HOP!