Red Hot Chili Peppers’ stage attire, or lack of to be more precise, is one of the first things that come to mind when you think of the band. Even though they now dress as you would expect from men of their age, it became symbolic of what the hell raisers represented and the chaos that would ensue from the hands Anthony Kiedis and co.
The Chili’s would first perform wearing just socks to cover up their manhoods at one of their very earliest shows only a few months after they formed in 1983 when they performed Kit Kat Club in Hollywood, California, back in 1983 and it would quickly become a trademark part of their on-stage persona.
The Kit Kat Club was a seedy Hollywood strip club and the decision to perform in just the lone sock covering their penis was an idea formed by Kiedis. This strange decision would pay dividends for the band quickly as it gained them notoriety around California as word soon spread about their and club owners then began booking the group on the condition that they would perform in this manner.
The cock-sock was not a look that the Californian rockers would opt for night in, night out after they became globetrotting megastars. However, they would occasionally still perform like this until it was eventually retired in 2000 as they edged close to 40 and decided it was probably best to leave it into the past.
Bursting onto the scene, Red Hot Chili Peppers arrived as a breath of fresh air in the somewhat toxic Los Angeles punk scene which was known for its lack of inclusivity and misogyny. It was decided that their move as men to perform naked was a way of satirising the misogyny that women in the scene were receiving and, more poignantly, how ridiculous it all was by making fools out of themselves in the process.
Flea discussed in 2019 with GQ how the decision to don the cock-sock—which did give them a boost early on in the career—meant that people would never take them seriously because of it. “I do feel respected as a musician, and I feel like people appreciate my playing and my artistic contribution to music. There’s the thing with the Chili Peppers: We put socks on our dicks, and we’re never going to outrun it. People are always going to think of that. I feel that ultimately the measure of art that we or I created, as good as it is, over time will stand for what it is. “
He continued: “The core essence of it, the cerebral part of it—the emotional, spiritual, and physical—are things that will always survive. But yeah, I’ve often felt misunderstood by people who don’t know me and assume that I’m just a raving lunatic or shirtless dumbo jumping around slapping a bass. But all I can do is be the best artist I can be, the best person I can be, the kindest person I can be. And do my best to uplift. That’s all I can do.”
Check out this performance of them rocking the sock look whilst playing ‘Right On Time’ in Seattle.