Who Invented Socks?
We’ve grown up with them for as long as we can remember. We describe them as gloves for the feet. We use them to keep us warm and protected from the elements, but where did they come from? Let's take a deeper look into who invented socks and why they exist.
What Does The Word Sock Mean?
The modern word sock takes root in the Old English word “socc”, which means "light slipper". This derives from the Latin word “soccus”, a word made to describe a "light, low-heeled shoe" that was worn by ancient Roman comic actors. The word “socc” also derives from the Ancient Greek word “sykchos” which was used to describe a sort of shoe. This word eventually evolved into the modern spelling and pronunciation that we all know today “sock”.
History of Socks
As mentioned above, the first sock can be found in Ancient Rome but looked very different from its modern-day counterpart and while they may look foreign they definitely served the same purpose.
The start of the modern-day sock can be traced back to ancient Greece where they were called “pillo” and were made out of matted animal hair. However, the Romans were also covering their feet by wrapping them in leather or woven fabric. While these were more closely related to the modern sock, people who were considered poor were already wrapping their bare feet in cloth.
Things started to take a turn during the 2nd century AD when the Romans began to sew fabrics together to create a fitted sock that went by the name “udones”. As time went on and we entered the 5th century AD, socks were called “puttees” but were mostly worn by European holy people to symbolize purity.
As we entered the middle ages, socks began to increase in length and became tighter and more brightly colored. Being that this was the middle ages, they did not have a tight elastic band at the top to hold them up so people used garters instead. By 1000 AD the sock became a symbol of wealth and status that only the rich wore.
In 1589 the knitting machine was invented and meant that socks could now be knitted faster than it could by hand. During this time socks were made by both knitting machines and humans until we entered the 1800’s.
Finally, as we entered the 19th century the introduction of nylon was added to the production of socks. Before this time the majority of socks were made of cotton, wool and silk. The blending of these textiles allowed for a stretcher sock that fit more snug to the foot and calves. This is a process that is still used to this very day.
So while we cannot definitively say who invented socks, what we can say is that by all accounts socks were first found in Ancient Rome.
Why Were Socks Invented?
As we see them today, socks serve as a means of protection. They keep your feet warm, clean and safe from the elements. We also wear them as a fashion statement and way to express our individuality.
Socks were created with the intent of protecting one's feet. We all know how uncomfortable it is to walk around barefoot outside, now tack on the snow and cold and things just seem to get worse. Protection from the weather and the harsh environment was the number one reason that people wore socks or other forms of protection for their feet.
If we look back at history we know that day-to-day life was mostly focused outside, there was no playing on the computer or watching T.V all day. As such, you needed to keep your foot warm and protected. If your feet were not covered you could potentially freeze or get frostbite during the colder months.
During the early times, people of wealth were able to use animal skins and furs to cover their feet. This became a symbol of status and those who were not so well off were forced to use simple clothes and linen to wrap their feet up.
As time went on, so did the social status of socks. It became something that only the wealthy could afford. The fabrics became much more lavish and textiles like silk became the norm for people in high society, while peasants were forced to use the cheaper and less lavish fabrics such as wool to cover their feet.
During the middle ages socks, while still worn for their protection and warmth, were now becoming a fashion statement. Nobles were able to create socks of different colors from a variety of fabrics. These bold pieces were a way to express themselves and show their wealth.
How Has The Invention Of Socks Changed Us?
The invention of socks has benefited us in many ways. First, socks are great at protecting our feet, whether that be inside or outside. Even without shoes, walking outside is much more bearable in socks.
Socks also protect us from the elements. Whether this be the sun, to help us avoid UV rays and tans or the snow to avoid the cold and frostbite. We also have different socks for different situations, thick wool for winter, thin nylon/cotton for summer, or moisture-wicking cotton when you want to get your workout on.
They have also become a fashion statement. Different colors match different outfits, fun and unique designs can show people the inner you and let them know what you are most passionate about. Cars socks for car lovers, animal socks for animal lovers, the choices are endless.
With that being said, I think we can all agree that socks have definitely worked to our advantage throughout history and over the years have gotten better and better in terms of longevity, fit, and comfort.