The History of Socks

The History of SocksSocks have been used from the earliest times in history to provide protection for the feet. Warm and durable, the knitted or woven hosiery offered some basic needs for those who wore them. Feet stayed warmer. Socks were used to protect the foot from chafing and the sores caused by perspiration.

How were the first stockings developed, and what prompted changes from those designs to today’s socks? Through history, the course of stocking development follows advancements made in industry, machinery, and technology.

In the Beginning …

The very first socks were wrapped together out of animal skins. These primitive stockings were held together at the ankles. The Greeks transitioned from this first stocking to socks made out of matted animal fur and the Romans took progress even further by using fabric and leather. Whether these early socks were considered comfortable or not may be hard to judge, but they did play an important role in protecting feet from the rough ground and bitterly cold temperatures.

Socks Became a Symbol of Prosperity

By the year, 1,000 AD, socks, and ideologies, had evolved to the point where they were used to symbolize wealth. Colorful cloths were tied around the legs and then held up by garters. These configurations set their wearers above others in the community. The distinction between sock wearers and non-wearers became even more apparent during the fifth century when priests began wearing socks to symbolize purity.

A Tool for Displaying Personal Style

As early as the 1500s, socks began to play an important role in style. Decorative strips of fabric were woven together to create distinctive patterns that were to express individuality. In some civilizations, the patterns were used to represent family or political affiliation.

The printed stocking also made its first appearance during this century.  Amidst other changes, the length of the stocking also began to vary, from calf length to thigh-high stockings, and many lengths in between.

An Ever-Changing Industry and The Invention of the Loom

From their first undeveloped days as wrapped animal skins, stockings had traveled along a course until they became symbols of status and individuality. During the 1500s another important change would change the course of the stocking.

This drastic change came to the world of stockings in 1589 when William Lee invented the loom. The process that had once been a painstaking process done by hand could be accomplished in a fraction of that time with the loom. Fortunate men and women quickly obtained their own looms and began turning out all types of clothing, hosiery, and household furnishings.

Fast forward four centuries and the mechanized loom brought mass marketed socks to the world. Since then, nylons, argyles, and other stocking favorites have become symbols of their eras. Socks in recent history have played roles in school uniforms, to improve athletic performance, and as a way to contribute to war movements.

The Modern Sock

Today socks are available in many different fabrics and combinations of fabric. Colors, sizes, and patterns are as varied as the people who wear them. Once nylon was introduced to the stocking industry, blends of fabric such as acrylic, spandex, polyamides, and polyester brought new changes and advancements that continue to affect socks.

Modern socks are found on high fashion runways and for sale in convenience stores. They may be classic or trendy. They might be chosen for their functional purposes or to create a trendy style out of a basic outfit. What does the future have in store for socks? Only time can tell.

Please feel free to contact Ella Gray at ella.l.gray@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.

Editorial Team
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