“College Socks” is a dynamic narrative blending the worlds of academia and boxing, centered around the young and formidable boxer, Kid Allison. This tale unfolds in San Diego and swiftly moves to the refined lawns of Camberwell University, where Allison’s fists meet more than just the expectations of a brawling youth. 

The story was sent to Street & Smith’s Sport Story Magazine on May 20th, 1931, and later accepted later that month. Howard got $100 for it.

In “College Socks,” Robert E. Howard weaves a compelling tale of ambition, deception, and the harsh realities of professional boxing, contrasted against the backdrop of academic integrity and youthful naivety. The story not only highlights Allison’s physical prowess but also delves into the emotional and psychological impacts of the characters’ choices, making it a resonant piece on the costs of chasing glory outside one’s true calling.

See also “A Student of Sockology”. featuring Steve Costigan. For a detailed comparison between the two stories, see below.

From the letters

We learn from a letter (#165) Howard wrote to Tevis Clyde Smith, the week of May 1931:

I should have answered your letters before, but I’ve been working pretty hard. In the time I’ve been back from Marlin — a little more than two weeks — I’ve written three Costigan stories, a Kid Allison tale, a western adventure yarn and a long historical novelet.

The Kid Allison tale is “College Socks”. Two of the three Costigan stories are “Cultured Cauliflowers” and “One Shanghai Night“. What Western story it was we don’t know.

In a later letter (#168) to Tevis:

Well, there ain’t much to say. I’m working pretty hard and I reckon you are too. Street & Smith gobbled up another Kid Allison. They’re generally pretty prompt; just about twelve days after I sent them this yarn — “College Socks” — I got a check for $100.

Howard got some praise from Wilfred Blanch Talman, which we learn in a letter (#175) written circa September 1931. The letter opens like this:

Dear Mr. Talman:
Thank you very much for the letter you wrote to Street & Smith. I know it will help me with the editors. I’ll return the favor at the first opportunity.

Even Lovecraft said some encouraging words about the story in a non-extant letter. We can read the answer from Howard in a letter (#180), circa October 1931:

Thank you very much for the nice things you said about “College Socks” and thanks very much indeed for the letter to Street & Smith, which I know will help me along a great deal with the editors.

Both Talman and Lovecraft wrote letters to Street & Smith trying to help Howard get a foot inside.


“College Socks”. At eighteen, Kid Allison, known for his boxing prowess among smaller clubs, finds himself in a serendipitous encounter with Professor Horace J. Clements from Camberwell University. The professor, worried about a promising student, Harry Richards, who’s been lured by the glitz of boxing under the tutelage of Spike Cleary, seeks Allison’s help. Cleary, a seasoned yet unscrupulous boxer, has convinced Harry, with the support of Peggy Stanton, that his future lies in professional boxing, not academia.

Clements’ plan is simple yet unconventional: he hires Allison to demonstrate to Harry the harsh realities of boxing against truly seasoned fighters, thereby discouraging him from leaving his studies and football career. The match, however, escalates beyond a mere exhibition bout into a full-blown and brutal confrontation between Allison and Cleary, witnessed by an ensemble of university students, faculty, and the young woman, Peggy, whose naivety about the sport’s brutality is soon shattered.

The narrative climaxes in a visceral and bloody match that not only tests Allison’s resilience and fighting spirit but also serves as a harsh lesson for Harry and a turning point for Peggy’s perceptions. In the end, Allison’s victory is not just a personal triumph but a pivotal moment that realigns the lives and futures of the young university students involved.


  • Kid Allison (“The Texas Wild Cat”): The protagonist, a young and upcoming boxer with a reputation for his fighting spirit. His encounter with Professor Clements leads him to a pivotal boxing match that serves broader purposes than he initially realizes.
  • Professor Horace J. Clements: A distinguished academic concerned for the welfare and future of one of his students, Harry Richards. Clements orchestrates the boxing match as a deterrent for Harry’s burgeoning but misguided boxing ambitions.
  • Harry Richards: A star football player at Camberwell University, misled into believing his future lies in professional boxing. His encounter with the realities of the sport reshapes his future choices.
  • Peggy Stanton: Harry’s girlfriend, initially enamored with the romanticized view of boxing. Her perspective is dramatically altered by the match’s brutality.
  • Spike Cleary: The antagonist, a professional boxer with dubious ethics, seeking to exploit Harry’s athletic fame for personal gain. His defeat by Allison serves as the narrative’s moral resolution.
  • William Dormouth (The Coach): The football coach at Camberwell University, deeply concerned about losing Harry to boxing. His role underscores the narrative’s theme of misguided ambition versus true potential.

Alternative title and variant of:


Detailed comparison between College Socks and A Student of Sockology

The stories “College Socks” and “A Student of Sockology” by Robert E. Howard presents the same core narrative with slight variations in character details, settings, and the progression of events. Below is a comparison highlighting the differences between the two:

Title and Narrative Focus

  • “College Socks” focuses on the early career of Kid Allison, emphasizing his youth and the beginnings of his reputation in the boxing world.
  • “A Student of Sockology” centers on Steve Costigan, presenting a narrative that blends boxing with a comedic element, typical of Costigan’s adventures.

Main Character and Background

  • Kid Allison in “College Socks” is introduced as a young, promising boxer with a knack for fighting, portrayed at the beginning of his boxing career.
  • Steve Costigan in “A Student of Sockology” is already known for his tough brawling style, with a broader and more established background as a sailor and fighter.

Academic Influence

  • In both stories, Professor Horace J. Clements from a university approaches the boxer to help dissuade Harry Richards from pursuing a boxing career. However, the university name differs: Camberwell University in “College Socks” and Camberton University in “A Student of Sockology”.
  • The professor’s approach and reasoning are similar in both narratives, focusing on Harry’s unsuitability for a boxing career due to his intellectual and physical disposition.

Harry Richards and Peggy Stanton

  • Harry Richards‘s portrayal is consistent as a star football player misled by the allure of boxing. The influence of Peggy Stanton and a professional boxer (Spike Cleary) is a common element in his misguided ambition.
  • Peggy Stanton serves as Harry’s romantic interest in both stories, initially supporting Harry’s boxing aspirations but eventually realizing the sport’s brutality.

Antagonist – Spike Cleary

  • Spike Cleary‘s role as the antagonist is consistent, depicted as an unscrupulous professional boxer looking to exploit Harry. His defeat by the protagonist underscores the moral lesson in both stories.

Fight Dynamics and Outcome

  • The boxing match’s progression and the display of brutality are central to both stories, with detailed descriptions of the fight serving as a harsh reality check for Harry and Peggy.
  • The resolution, where Harry realizes his true calling lies outside the boxing ring, is mirrored in both narratives.

Moral and Conclusion

  • Both stories conclude with Harry deciding to stick with football, acknowledging his unsuitability for boxing. Peggy’s change of heart regarding boxing and her future plans with Harry are also consistent.
  • The aftermath includes a token of appreciation from the university, recognizing the protagonist’s significant impact, albeit presented slightly differently in each story.

Setting and Dialogue

  • “College Socks” and “A Student of Sockology” share a similar setting, but the dialogue and specific interactions reflect the distinct personalities of Kid Allison and Steve Costigan, with Costigan’s narrative incorporating more humor and a slightly different style of interaction.


While “College Socks” and “A Student of Sockology” narrate essentially the same story, the differences lie in the character portrayals, specific details surrounding the boxing match, and the narrative tone. Kid Allison’s story is more straightforward and focuses on the early stages of a boxer’s career, while Steve Costigan’s adventure blends humor with the raw elements of boxing, adding depth to his character’s established persona.

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