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In an era when feminine clothing seems more and more designed to emphasize legs, the Hot Sox Co. is riding high. Hot Sox has been blazing new fashion trails since the late 1960s, first with multicolored patterns in knit hosiery, then utilizing computer-aided designs for knit-wear.

Now an international legwear empire, Hot Sox products are sold in every major department and specialty store throughout America, including Nordstrom and Dillard's in Salt Lake City, as well as in Canada, Europe, Asia, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Scandinavia, South America, Mexico and Israel.The sox are hotter than ever.

Hot Sox started as Rainbow Socks, in argyles, checkerboards and stripes. Then the socks progressed to lurex and metallics, and from there to toe socks and leg warmers. The idea was actually born in a car, on the way home from a visit to friends at Cape Cod.

Gary Wolkowitz, Hot Sox president and design director, says, "In that car ride, we named the product, conceived the idea, the process, and who would do what. This was a Sunday. On Monday, we went to Delancey Street and bought blank opaque socks to dye and silkscreen. We found a silkscreener, but the shop owner didn't want to do our job. It was too much work! Instead, he gave us the keys to his studio and said we could do it ourselves. So we did."

Today, the company is unique, according to Wolkowitz: "There is probably not another company in the world that does what we do: every category of women's hosiery, including trouser socks, tights and leggings; men's, boys and licensed designer categories. We're experimental, and we like pioneering new products. And that continues to make it interesting. That first investment of $3,000 was a risk at the time. But it created a future we never dreamed of."

For fall 1996, Hot Sox is reinterpreting tradition with large-scale Houndstooth Tights designed for the leggiest shoppers. They are also offering plaid with Hot Sox Glen Plaid Tights and Argyle Tights for a modern version of classical styles. Hot Sox Herringbone Tights also fit well into the newly trendy tweeds.

Clearly, the '60s have made a comeback. Synthetic fabrics are everywhere, producing shiny vinyl miniskirts with white boots, a perfect situation for Hot Sox Knee-Highs. Wolkowitz admits that anyone designing hosiery is always happy to see a revival of the miniskirt.

Gray tones of color, from anthracite to carbon, create the season's most important palette. The Hot Sox Cityscape Collection presents a metropolitan story based on the elegance of gray, many of the styles unabashedly borrowed from menswear. Throughout Hot Sox tights, knee-highs and trouser socks, rich and sophisticated shades of gray interrelate with the season's ready-to-wear.

In the Street Beat group, Hot Sox roamed New York's East Village to get inspiration for neon plaids, racing stripes and novelties with color. The Symphony collection includes exquisite patterns from tapestries, needlepoint and florals for essential and stylish nylon knee-highs and trouser socks.

Hot Sox will introduce a new series this fall - the Luxury Collection, presenting trouser socks in blends of silk, angora and cashmere. The collection grew from the continuing enthusiasm for drapey knits in sweaters, and a consumer desire for cashmere designs. Colors range from pinks and yellows to stone grays and beige.

As long as women's skirt hems don't make a sudden drop to the floor, Hot Sox are liable to stay on easy street for some time to come.