History of Socks
The word sock comes from the Old English word socc, which means “light slipper”. Originating from the Latin soccus, which is a term to describe a “light, low-heeled shoe” and deriving from the Ancient Greek word sykchos. The first socks, made from animal skins, gathered, wrapped and tied around the foot and ankle. In the 8th century matted animal hair was also used to make socks.
At the start of the second century AD, Romans started to stitch fabric together to make a more fitted sock called “Udones”. During the middle ages, the style of trousers became longer and the sock became more fitted. An item of clothing, made in brighter colours and fitting the lower leg, however, the tops of the socks were not elasticated and needed a garter to hold them up. Later when trousers became shorter, known as Breeches, socks became longer and more expensive.
Production and Manufacture
The introduction of the knitting machine, when invented in 1589 would speed up the process of sock making considerably. Although hand knitters and machines did work alongside each other into the 1800s. The use of nylon from 1938 was the beginning of a revolution in sock manufacturing. Socks were made from wool, silk and cotton. The new nylon material, where mixing 2 or more yarns together, a process still used today, would give the sock added stretch and durability would change all this.
Now made from a variety of materials such as cotton, wool, nylon, acrylic, polyester, olefins, (such as polypropylene), or spandex all for a different selection of uses. Adding materials including silk, bamboo, linen, cashmere and mohair enhance the sock making process. This improves the quality and feel of the socks. We buy nearly 4 billion socks around the world each year.
Styles and Uses
The modern sock, manufactured in a variety of colours and lengths to suit all types of styles and needs.
The ankle sock extends to the ankle or lower. Often worn for athletic use with training footwear or for a casual look.
The Knee-high sock, sometimes associated with a formal dress or as being part of a uniform when worn with a Kilt for example or in sports like football and rugby.
The business or dress sock are coloured for a more understated look with casual footwear. Worn mostly in an office setting but worn for many other uses. A sock is usually known to have patterns and also known to be a cause for bleach stains in laundry machines due to their coloured manufacturing process and dyed attributes.
The Crew is a short, thick everyday sock usually ribbed at the top of the ankles. A low cut sock is cut below the ankle.
The low-cut sock is similar to the Bare sock. Designed to create a look of “bare feet”, formed to cover the contours of the foot. The low-cut sock, usually worn with shoes such as boat shoes, moccasins and loafers. A unisex sock but women and girls commonly use them.
Thermal socks are thicker and used in cold environments, commonly worn for skiing, skating, and other winter sports. They not only provide insulation but greater padding due to their thickness.
Diabetic socks are a sort of thermal sock made from acrylic, cotton, nylon, and elastic. With a soft, wider top, made to improve comfort while at the same time keeping feet cool and dry. There’s is no solid evidence that they are helpful.
Toe Socks encase each individual toe separately, the same way fingers fit in a glove. Other socks, most notably Japanese tabi, shaped like a mitten, with one compartment for the big toe and one for the rest of the toes, so Flip-flops can be worn with the socks.
The Ancient Egyptian style of sock is a blend of modern Western socks and Japanese tabi, both of which it predates. Like tabi, Egyptian socks have one compartment for the big toe and another for the rest, permitting their use with sandals; like Western socks, they fit snugly to the foot and do not use fasteners like tabi.