Bleach Bum: Adler’s Clean White Socks

Back in the heyday there was only one white sock for the college man to wear with his Weejuns: wool ones by Adler. Though the ad above testifies to Adler’s pristine whiteness, it was actually much cooler to bleach them a sickly yellow color.

I stumbled across the above image (which you can find on eBay) via an incoming link from a blog called Greensleeves To A Ground, which covers classic cool from a French perspective. The guy in the ad (circa 1963), looks like he got a trip to Europe as a graduation present.

In fact, 1963 was the year my mother went to Europe with two girlfriends — for the whole year. Back then you could save your money from a part-time job and spend an entire year seeing all of Europe, something that’ll never be possible again in anyone’s lifetime.

Anyway, the French site has some great vintage images. It also has a post on Adler socks that includes a music file of a song called “Adler Sock” by a ’60s garage band called The Denims, plus comments from Ken C. Pollock — subject of our “Southern Gentleman” Q&A — rendered in French, which are kind of fun to read.

Below is an encore of Mr. Pollock’s remarks on the collegiate wardrobe from the Ivy heyday, and how jaundiced Adler socks fit into the look — CC

We had pretty much a uniform, just like college students have today with their t-shirts, cargo pants and flip-flops. Then it was Weejun penny loafers, which had to be as decrepit as possible, often held together with duct tape. We wore thick white woolen socks by Adler. On the label it said “Do not bleach,” so of course we all bleached them. It turned them a sickly yellow color, and that was standard.

Then we wore khakis or chinos, but the kind we tried to find were not the better brands like Corbin. There were a couple of companies that used to make them for the Army in World War II. They were only $5.95 and had a rough quality to them, and developed a lived-in quality quicker than a better brand of khakis.

Then most of us wore university-striped Gant shirts and Baracuta jackets. For dressing up, we wore a gray herringbone jacket and a thick, heavy-silk club tie.

23 Comments on "Bleach Bum: Adler’s Clean White Socks"

  1. I’ve always wondered about those wool white socks specifically so this was very much appreciated. And that KP quote/anecdote is amazing.

  2. Christian | May 4, 2010 at 9:52 am |

    Be sure to read the whole interview (it’s in two parts); lots of great insight from a guy who was there.

  3. Back then you could save your money from a part-time job and spend an entire year seeing all of Europe, something that’ll never be possible again in anyone’s lifetime.

    Of course it will be: just wait a few more years until several other countries pull a Greece, their artificially over-valued currency implodes, and most of the continent goes back to having prices that properly reflect its lack of viable economic activities that don’t involve grapes or olives. Of course, that presumes that the affect on the world economy won’t push a loaf of bread to $50 . . .

  4. J. Kiger | May 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm |

    In Western PA and at Penn State in the 1960’s we wore weejuns and similar heavy white wool socks bleached creme colored but they were from “Wigwam” not Adler.

  5. Beautiful description of every guy at my high school!

  6. Hey Christian,

    thanks for talking about my article. It’s an honor to be mentioned on Ivy Style !

    J. Kiger : In my article, I talk about some Wigwam White Husky Socks, that I found in an online store. They seems to be near from the 1960s white wool socks.


  7. Adler made socks in other colors besides white. Dark blue socks were popular. The “Ivy League” uniform for young men also included Canterbury belts and Gant shirts, always button-down of course. In my class, Weejuns were definitely NOT to be scruffy but were to be as well polished as possible. Their ability to take a good oxblood shine was their main virtue. And “cargo pants?” Back then I don’t think they existed. Chinos yes, but not cargo pants.

  8. Christein Stone | December 8, 2010 at 1:50 pm |

    Where can I find Adler socks in CNY?

  9. Maggie Dellmore | October 2, 2012 at 5:02 am |

    Where can I purchase Adler wool socks?

  10. In the mid 60’s, we used to get Adler wool socks in West Hartford Center at the very snobby English Shop. You’d save up your money for weeks (those of us who weren’t doctors’ or lawyers’ kids) to get a couple new pair of these. Those socks were great thick wool and came in many colors, including the classic off-white, fire engine red, green, light blue, turquoise, burgundy and, of course, black. These socks were worn with bass Weejuns, chinos, button down Oxford shirts and, in the Fall, sweaters and the ubiquitous “toggle coat”, which came in navy blue, burgundy and camel colors. If you really wanted to be cool, you might wear a black or red turtleneck under your shirt. Slap some St. John’s Bay Rum on your face, comb your hair which fell rebelliously 1/17th of an inch over your ears, and head on out to the dance at Miss Porter’s in Farmington, where your friend’s female cousin had set you up with a blind date – some girl from down in Westport. I tell ya, Holden Caulfield ain’t got nothin’ on me….

  11. @Grayson Hugh

    I’m approaching 70, and I still dress like that: down to the duffle coat, the black turtleneck, and the bay rum.

  12. Adler Socks: I remember when I went to High School in the late 60″s, colored Adlers were the rage.
    I just could not go to school unless I was wearing some Adlers. You just didn’t do that!

  13. Mike Wiiliams | September 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm |

    As a high school kid in the early 70’s in the northern VA suburbs of Wasgington DC, we shopped at the Varsity Shoppe at Seven Corners. Adler socks, Bass Weejuns…no pennies, canterbury belts, Peter’s golf jackets, Brooks Bros, Gant or Arrow Button down shirts….still dress like that!

  14. Linda D Bonskowski | September 1, 2017 at 11:42 pm |

    Richmond, Va. the 60’s uniform (we called it “Ivy”) for girls: John Myer and Villager skirts, sweaters, and shirts, Adler knee socks, and Bass Weejun shoes. That was IT!!! Nothing else was acceptable!!

  15. Carole Righter | January 18, 2018 at 9:48 pm |

    I just put on a pair of vintage Adler wool socks—-just bleached to light beige or ecru. These socks are older than my twenty something grandchildren. Quality never goes out of style. Where can I purchase for them?

  16. Carole Righter | January 18, 2018 at 9:49 pm |

    Love those socks

  17. Ca. 1958: we wore white socks and high-water khakis with a belt buckle in back.

  18. Old School Tie | September 23, 2019 at 6:50 am |

    @Titus – quite. And great fun will be had by all.

    Nowadays I get my white sports socks from a Spanish manufacturer – Punto Blanco – they are extremely soft, knitted and not the usual cheap terry jobs that dominate the market these days. They come in various colours too, if you want something different.

  19. Back when the term “college man” actually meant something.

    Best Regards,

  20. Peter Gaddie | April 17, 2020 at 10:44 am |

    My Mom outfitted me as a 60s teen with Bass Weejuns (~12 bucks) and Adlers. Drawer full of multiple colors, and only a dirty white/beige, not clean white.
    My older brother preferred Bass Moccasins but they were a whopping $25. Louisville was a preppy, Ivy League fashion town. I sported a Princeton cut with bleached bangs for a few years! ?

  21. John W. Matney | October 26, 2021 at 6:52 pm |

    On Amazon I found some white wool socks by a company called Fox River that are close to how I remember Adler socks looking and feeling.

  22. Brown loafers– taps on heels to make them last longer, no socks, madras shirts, skirts too– the skirts were wrap around– my mother sewed my blouses and skirts. A certain navy blue sweater for colder weather. Modest dressing , not too short. We also behaved ourselves with MANY rules for college girls. A ( certain college )girl does not talk to a “man” while wearing her gym suit. I believe that we presented ourselves better and actually had more fun. Made good grades too.

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