The Sock Life

The Evolution of Basketball Socks


How Basketball Socks Have Evolved Throughout the Years

When it comes to basketball, socks and other attire have been ever changing. From short ankle socks to knee-high tube socks, socks have evolved throughout the decades. In this post, we’re looking back at how basketball players used to wear socks and how they wear them now.

The Beginning of Basketball: 1891 – 1920

Basketball first began being played in 1891. During this time, players would wear their street or gym clothes which were often baggy pants or wool shirts. Most men would wear very high socks stretching above the knee. The 1895 Wichita YMCA Basketball Team is captured in uniform below.


The First Real Basketball Uniforms: 1920 – 1940

After 1920, the first basketball jerseys began to appear. The jerseys fastened like a leotard to ensure shirts wouldn’t become untucked. Women and children were expected to wear kneepads. In 1917, Converse released “Chucks” named after Charles Chuck Taylor. Men across America began wearing these high-top converse with sock stretching just above the shoe.


The Baggy Socks Trend: 1940 – 1960

In the 1930’s, polyester-nylon blend was created. By the next decade, basketball uniforms had completely switched to this new fabric. In addition, players could be seen wearing very short shorts, fitted jersey, and belts. In terms of socks, the baggy sock trend was popular. These loose fitting socks would lay just slightly above shoes near the ankles.


The Iconic Tube Socks: 1960 – 1990

During the 60’s and 70’s, players began wearing much taller socks with stripes, called tube socks. These trendy socks were often brightly colored and stood out. Besides the socks, the uniforms remained similar to the previous period, with short shorts and tight shirts.


A Huge Transition: 1990 – 2000

The 90’s began a huge transition for basketball uniforms and socks. Players no longer wore knee high socks, but rather no-show socks. In the 80’s Michael Jordan was a pioneer in wearing long and loose shorts, which became the entire sport’s style by the 1990’s.

Present Day Basketball Socks: 2010-2018

Today, basketball players wear socks with a variety of colors and heights. Most players can be seen with socks up to their calf. Many teams, both amateur and professional, have custom basketball socks with their mascot and the team’s colors. The uniforms are similar to the 90’s but have become even more loose with longer shorts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What led to the initial change from high socks to no-show socks in basketball attire? 

The initial change from high socks to no-show socks in basketball attire was likely influenced by changes in fashion trends and player comfort preferences. Athletes might have found no-show socks less restrictive and cooler, helping to improve their performance on the court. Additionally, as basketball shoes evolved and provided more support and cushioning, players may have felt less need for high socks. 

How have advances in fabric technology influenced the design and functionality of basketball socks over the years? 

Advances in fabric technology have significantly influenced the design and functionality of basketball socks. New materials that wick moisture away from the skin, provide better cushioning, and offer antimicrobial properties have become integral in sock production. These innovations lead to socks that not only provide better performance by keeping players’ feet dry and comfortable but also help in reducing the risk of blisters and fungal infections. 

Why did basketball players start wearing custom socks with team mascots and colors, and how has this trend impacted team branding and fan engagement? 

Basketball players started wearing custom socks with team mascots and colors as part of the broader trend of personalizing sports gear and uniforms. This customizability allows players to express their individuality while still being part of a team. For teams, custom socks serve as an additional branding tool that enhances team identity and unity. This trend has also impacted fan engagement, as fans often wear team-themed apparel, including socks, to show their support and feel a closer connection to the team. 

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