Wondering things like, “What are the oldest socks ever?” and “How were they created, and why?” Here’s everything you wanted to know about socks!
What Is A Sock?
A sock is clothing worn on feet and usually covers the ankle and some part of the calf. People wear them under a shoe or boot. Long ago, they were made from animal skin or twisted hair. In the late 16th century, machine-knitted ones were first made. Throughout time, both hand knitting and machine knitting were used to create socks. After 1800, machine knitting became the dominant method.
The word “sock” most likely comes from the Old English word “socc.” “Socc” means light shoe, slipper.
Their primary purpose is absorbing perspiration. The foot one of the largest producers of sweat in the body. One foot can produce over 0.25 US pints of perspiration per day! Socks help absorb it. They do this by drawing it to areas where air can evaporate the sweat.
Other benefits of wearing socks include: Adequately fitting socks provide a layer between your feet and shoes. They also prevent the boots from rubbing directly on your feet, which helps stop blisters.
In cold climates, they are made from wool, insulate the foot and decrease the risk of frostbite. They are also worn with enclosed shoes to prevent the boots (and feet) becoming smelly. People wear them under sneakers (white-colored) and dress shoes (generally dark-colored). They’re very practical. But they are also a fashion item, and they are available in lots of colors and patterns.
A Brief History Of Socks
Socks have developed over thousands of years. The earliest known ones were made from animal skins collected up and tied around the ankles. According to Hesiod, the ancient Greek poet, in the 8th century BC, Greeks wore some called “piloi.” They were made from matted animal hair. The Romans also covered their feet with leather or woven fabrics. Around the 2nd century AD, the ancient Romans started sewing the fabrics together. This method made fitted stockings, called “udones.” By 5th century AD, they were called “puttees.” Why? This is because they were worn by holy people in Europe to signify purity.
During the Middle Ages, the trousers and stocking together were one whole piece of clothing. Later, the sock parts of the pants were frequently replaced. This is since they became dirty much faster. After a while, stockings became entirely independent items of clothes. Also during that time, the length of pants increased. So, the sock became a tight, vividly-colored cloth covering the lower leg. During that time, they didn’t have elastic in them. So instead, garters were put over the top of stockings to stop them from slipping. As breaches got shorter, socks began to get longer and more costly. By 1000 AD, they became a sign of luxury among the aristocracy. From the 16th century onwards, an elaborate pattern on the ankle or side of a stocking is called a clock.
The English Reverend William Lee (who was born in 1550 in Nottingham) invented the knitting loom in 1589. Its purpose was making knitted fabrics far more accessible to produce. Queen Elizabeth I received a pair of black stockings from Lee but refused to grant a patent for the device. She was appalled by the socks’ unskillful form and worried it would take work away from the people.
France’s King Henri IV offered Lee economic support, so the inventor moved to Rouen, France. There, he established a stocking company. Before long, the knitting loom had spread everywhere throughout Europe. After the Industrial Revolution they were still made of wool, became more accessible and cheaper to produce. This spread their appeal across European society. Even so, knitting machines and hand knitters operated side by side until 1800.
Reverend William Lee’s innovative invention developed further. At the beginning of the 19th century, the first circular knitting frames were generated. This supported an almost mechanized process. As a result, many home workers lost their jobs, and many manufacturers sacked sock makers. Over time, cheaper materials were used, and factory production developed. Because of this, they became mass-produced goods.
The next milestone in sock creation was the occurrence of nylon being introduced in 1938. Up until then, people made them only using one material. The introduction of Nylon was the start of blending two or more yarns in the production process that continues today.
The Oldest Socks Ever!
Yes, many people want to know the answer to this question. “What is the oldest sock ever found?” Well don’t worry my curious friends, luckily, we have the answer right here!
The oldest socks ever found, are ancient Egyptian ones and are currently housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England. Their description is as follows, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
“The Romano-Egyptian socks were excavated in the burial grounds of ancient Oxyrhynchus, a Greek colony on the Nile in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. They were given to the Museum in 1900 by Robert Taylor Esq., ‘Kytes,’ Watford. He was the executor of the estate of the late Major Myers and these items were selected among others from a list of textiles as ‘a large number of helpful examples.”
They were made by a technique called “Nålebinding” which is a very ancient technique. A cross between knitting and crochet. (You can find out more about Nålebinding by clicking here.)
What Are They Made From Now?
Socks can be produced from a variety of materials. These include wool, cotton, olefins, spandex, nylon, polyester, or acrylic. To get an increased softness factor, other materials are also used during the process. These can be bamboo, cashmere, silk, mohair or linen. The color variety of choices is vast. It can be any color the designers intend for it upon its production. Sock ‘dyeing’ can come in a wide range of colors. Sometimes art is also put onto them to increase their novelty. Dyed ones may be a vital part of the uniforms for sports. They allow players teams to be distinguished when only their legs are visible.
As you can see, they are made from many different things. Here is a list of the most common materials, and their benefits:
Wool, which is usually merino wool. Merino wool is an excellent insulator and helps prevent sweaty feet.
Cotton, which is lightweight and comfortable. Cotton is one of the most common elements.
Olefins, which is a synthetic fiber made from polypropylene. Olefin is durable and holds its color well.
Spandex is a durable synthetic fiber known for its elasticity. Spandex is often used for exercise and fitness.
Nylon, which is also a synthetic fiber. It is well known, and one of the benefits includes its similarities to silk. This makes it lightweight and smooth.
Polyester is a very common fiber, being used to make all sorts of clothing. It’s stain-resistant, and when blended with cotton, it can be strong.
Acrylic is a synthetic fiber made of a polymer called polyacrylonitrile. It’s reliable and warm and has similar properties to wool. This makes it an excellent choice for creating warmth.
Other, less common materials, include:
Bamboo fibers are taken from the natural, quickly-growing plant. It’s softer and more breathable than cotton and has a natural shine, so it feels similar to silk or cashmere. Bamboo is very long-lasting naturally microbial and hypoallergenic, making it a luxury option.
Cashmere is a soft, natural fiber which comes from the Cashmere goat. It presents light-weight insulation with bulk. It’s considered a luxury fiber, for two main reasons. One, because of how smooth and comfortable it is, and two, it’s very labor-intensive and expensive to produce.
CoolMax is the brand name of a polyester-blend designed to draw sweat away from the skin.
DryMax is a brand name of a specialty Olefin fabric. DryMax fibers are combined with an anti-microbial treatment. This makes it stay moisture and odor-free.
Elastic is a rubber or spandex core coated in nylon to provide extreme stretch or elasticity.
Flax is probably one of the most ancient fibers in the world. Even the Ancient Egyptians used it! Flax fiber is taken from the stem of the plant. It is very flexible, glossy and soft. It’s more durable than cotton but is less stretchy.
Lurex is a synthetic fiber that resembles a shiny metallic thread. Its primary purpose is adding detail to patterns.
Modal is a natural plant fiber, which comes from beech trees. It keeps its color better than cotton, and it’s more water-absorbent.
Mohair is a long, soft, silky natural fiber. It comes from the Angora goat. (It’s not to be confused with the Angora rabbit, which produces Angora fiber.) It is stronger than wool and dyes better than any other specialty hair fiber. This makes it a luxury fiber.
Rayon is a natural cellulose filament fiber recognized for its sheen, its soft feel, and its high moisture absorption features. The term “rayon” sometimes is used as a generic term for “plant fiber.”
Rubber latex, which comes from rubber trees, is used for added elasticity and stretch.
Silk is a soft, moisture-absorbing fiber and is very smooth. It possesses qualities such as strength and acts as a natural insulator that doesn’t conduct heat. It’s woven from the cocoon substance of silkworms, a type of caterpillar.
So, there. Everything you wanted to know about socks. Did you find what you were searching for, or learn something new? If you did, great! If you want others to discover this fabulous knowledge, then you can help us by sharing this on social media. Do you have any Sock knowledge that somehow wasn’t mentioned in this list? Let us know, and we’ll add it. Anyway, hope you have enjoyed this, and stay tuned for more ways for you to have happy, healthy feet.
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