Peter O’Toole was an impressive actor and a quirky man. He had a curious habit of always wearing green socks. Don’t worry, there is an explanation.
Were You Paying Attention?
Known for partying hard and losing Oscars, O’Toole earned his reputation as a carouser amongst carousers. He did it all in green socks. One might think he just liked the color green because he was Irish, but that’s not totally accurate. While O’Toole was proud of his heritage, skipping the 1983 Academy Awards so he could be home for St. Patrick’s Day, his penchant for green socks was more personal than that.
In a 2007 interview with USA Today, O’Toole explained that his love of green socks came from a place of rebellion. “My father was a racetrack bookie,” O’Toole said, “And on racetracks when the world was young, green was an unlucky color.”
The Lawrence of Arabia star decided to lash out against his father by wearing an unlucky color. “my way of being disobedient at 14 was to wear green socks, which couldn’t be seen. It has since become a superstition.”
Wore Them All His Life
Sure enough, if you check out interviews O’Toole did, you’ll spot his emerald footwear. In a 1978 interview with Johnny Carson, O’Toole appears rather out of it beside Buddy Hackett. It’s worth watching just to see Hackett and Carson’s classic banter. Carson attempts to get O’Toole to discuss his superstitions, but O’Toole never quite answers his question.
Flash forward 28 years to 2006: O’Toole returns to the Tonight Show, this time hosted by Jay Leno. His socks can be hard to spot until the end of the interview, but they are unmistakably green.
He May Not Be Irish
Now that we know the green socks have nothing to do with Ireland, it’s worth noting that there’s some doubt over whether O’Toole was technically Irish. His father was Irish and his mother was from Scotland. The Troy star claimed he didn’t know his exact birthdate or birthplace, but an investigation by the Irish newspaper Independent found there was no Irish birth record.
Instead, it found a birth record fitting a Peter Seamus O’Toole in Leeds. Whether he was born there or not, he was always considered an Irish actor in his lifetime and didn’t shy away from that characterization. O’Toole passed away in 2013, leaving behind one hell of a cinematic legacy.