I guess I was about nine years of age and a year or two before sitting the 11-Plus school examination when I began to be conscious about what colour socks I wore, OK, they were grey, always grey, but the most popular socks of the period invariably had two coloured bands around the top. On older boys of secondary school age, the colours of these bands would indicate which school you attended and at my pre-secondary age I wanted to be disassociated with this identity.
We must remember that boys in this era would remain wearing short trousers until the second or sometimes third year of secondary education and blazers and school tie would usually identify the school, but after school hours and at weekends one could still determine your educational status by the socks you wore. This was the pre-jeans era, boys would wear shorts for their leisure activities, more often than not the same shorts they wore to school. But socks were socks, boys generally didn’t have specific socks to wear for their leisure time, you wore your school socks and that was that, but they did brand you.
Mostly grey, as previously mentioned, the socks of the various schools in our area were as follows: if they had two red bands you were doing well as you would be in the Boys Grammar School and had passed the 11-Plus; green bands signified you were an examination failure and went to Heolgam Secondary Modern School and blue bands were for the private Summerhill School on Park Street which usually meant you had also failed the 11-Plus. There was an anomaly here as the other private school in Bridgend, Bryntirion Boys Preparatory also had grey with red bands, but not many local boys went to this school, except me for a single term, but I’ll leave that tale for another day. I guess there were other variations of socks for the numerous other schools in the vicinity, but the passing of time has made such recollections rather hazy in my mind.
So, before I moved on to secondary education, I wanted to be neutral so usually wore socks with plain grey tops or my favourite ones with yellow bands and a few rare colour photographs of this period exist where I’m wearing the latter. When I went to secondary school though my socks were my blue-striped Summerhill ones which I wore until I was thirteen, even on holiday as seen in this photograph.
Up to the mid 1960s boys of all ages were still wearing long woollen socks for school and my father kept a very large stock in the shop of all sizes and different coloured bands, but by the late 60s and into the 70s less of these were being sold as boys wore long trousers at much younger ages and no longer needed or wanted long socks. By the time my father came to sell the remaining years of the lease of the shop in 1980 he still had a huge number of these styles of socks left in stock. The majority went to a charity working in deprived countries so hopefully had some use, but I decided to keep a number of pairs for posterity.