Gen Z Has Officially Ruined This Millennial Clothing Mainstay

A "socking" new development

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Gen Z vs Millennial Sock Trend: Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid
Bellocqimages/Bauer-Griffin/GC Image/Paula Boudes

Every generation embraces its own doctrine of style, but Gen Z is particularly, uh, assertive when it comes to distancing themselves from their just slightly older millennial counterparts. In the past few years, the Youth (read: 12 to 27 year olds) have declared skinny jeans extinct, side parts over and even the French tuck, the former epitome of effortless chic, passé. But even when they came for my go-to smoky eye, I (a 32-year-old millennial) had never felt quite so personally attacked by Gen Z as I did recently, when I learned that my beloved no-show socks were officially deemed “uncool.”

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A few months ago, I was heading to a workout class with a friend (a fellow millennial woman, I might add), when she looked down at the sliver of my exposed ankle above my socks and gasped. “Haven’t you heard? Gen Z is making fun of us for those!” She lifted her own sneakered foot on the subway to display her thick white crew socks, casually scrunched up over her leggings to her lower calf. “I replaced all my socks with these.”

That cannot be right, I thought. I’ve been wearing ankle socks for nearly two decades. Didn’t high, scrunchy socks over leggings go out with the era of ‘80s aerobics videos? Weren’t socks supposed to be hidden?! I shrugged this news off and made it through the workout class without being laughed out by my Gen Z mat mates, but I was struck by the desire to dig into this development as soon as I got home.

Sure enough, I found TikTok after TikTok discussing the death of no-shows. An October video by creator Phoebe Parsons, which has now racked up over 3 million views, plainly lays out the generational sock divide. “This is exactly how you can tell the difference between a millennial and Gen Z, just by looking at their feet," she starts off. "Are their socks up? Or are they wearing hidden ankle socks? Because Gen Z exclusively wear their socks up, and millennials still wear ankle socks.” Ouch! To be fair, Parsons says that she’s a millennial herself, so she wasn’t exactly shaming us no-show-ers, just pointing out the trend.

After my eyes were opened to this fact, though, I started noticing the scrunchy crew socks everywhere—and, much to my surprise, I actually started to like them? They reminded me of those famous photos of Princess Diana snapped in her preppy athleisure uniform: sweatshirt, bike shorts, chunky sneakers and, yes, over-the-ankle white crew socks. Peak ‘90s. So while I was less inclined to try to look like Hailey Bieber leaving a Pilates class, the idea of channeling a retro Princess Diana moment intrigued me. Reader, I bought some new socks. (In fact, you can see them in my recent sneaker review.)

Gen Z vs. Millennial Sock Trend: Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid, Princess Diana in Crew Socks
Bellocqimages/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Johnny Eggitt/AFP via Getty Images

As plenty of other millennials have documented on social media, the act of rolling them up over leggings takes some getting used to. After all, we grew up ingrained with the idea that the mere sight of your socks was a terrible faux pas. But, I’ll admit, after one traipse around the running trail in my new white crew socks, I was hooked. My feet were cozy, my once-exposed ankles were nice and toasty—and, OK, I thought I looked a little more trendy, too.

Although I won’t be completely giving up my favorite no-shows (looking at you, Bombas), I’ll certainly be keeping crews in my regular rotation—and I urge my fellow millennials to do the same. Go forth and embrace your inner Hailey Bieber (or Princess Diana) in these Gen Z-approved crew socks. 

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