They were adopted as a fashion which flattered plump calves and also expressed rebellious deviation from Japan's strict dress code for school uniforms. They were first worn by high school girls and later by junior high school girls who sought to emulate the look of the older female students, but are generally not worn by young adults and older women.
The socks originally imported to Japan were thick and voluminous boot socks for mountain climbing, manufactured in and exported from the United States. For those who wanted to wear them loosely, these socks were stretched out by the owners before the popularity and mass production of loose socks.
They are nearly always white, though black and navy blue ones also exist. Generally, they are larger than normal socks. To wear them, one stretches them out and puts them on. They are usually worn below the knee, held up with a special adhesive sock glue, and resemble leg warmers. Loose socks are often paired with skirts above the knee and a pair of mary janes or loafers.
Birth and establishment
At the beginning of the 1990s, it became fashionable for Japanese high school girls to shorten their skirts. In the mid-90s, they wore imported mountain-climbing boot socks to make their legs look thin and attractive. These socks were manufactured by such sock makers as America's E.G. Smith. It is not known if there was a time when loose socks were called "boot socks", but they quickly became referred to as "loose socks" and, together with miniskirts, became an established fashion.
The two most well-known views are that the fashion originated in Sendai, Miyagi or in Mito, Ibaraki. In both stories, to protect against the cold, girls bought, loosened, and wore large socks. It is said that they became popular because they made fat legs look thin. After that, the socks became established merchandise and spread to major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, and then throughout the whole country. They rapidly gained popularity, chiefly with high school girls.
The height of loose socks' popularity was from 1996 to 1998. Furthermore, in that period varieties such as "super loose" and "gom nuki loose" (loose socks with the elastic removed) were born. There were even socks two meters long. These were mainly worn by the yamamba gal subculture. Some schools forbade pupils to wear loose socks at school, so girls would often change into loose socks and wear them outside the school campus. This sort of trend was picked up on by the mass media, which brought attention to loose socks as emblematic items of high school girl culture.
After 1998, the fad slowly began to die out. Since about 2000, regular navy blue knee socks have been comparatively spreading. The wearing of loose socks, however, is still prevalent among high school students, especially in more urbanized parts of Japan (i.e. Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka).