History of Socks and hosiery
The word "sock" is derived from the Latin soccus, the Old English socc and the Middle English
word socke. The "soccus" was a shoe worn by Roman comic actors. It was a "calceoli" or sock-like
and fitted loosely so they could be taken off quickly. Roman’s sometimes wore soccus with
sandals and then removed their sandals indoors; the soccus remained on their feet.
8th Century Barbarians wore brightly colored socks.
During the Crusades and Gothic periods (1000-1300) linen hose made from two-leg profile pieces
replaced tube hose sewn together. Tapes tied to the waistband held these up. Under the hose was
worn a shapeless pair of linen legs which were stitched through the crotch, hemmed at the top
and gathered by a drawstring around the waist.
Over time, the outer hose were joined and called closed hose or a pair of legs.
From about 1340 onwards men started to wear shorter garments called gippons or pourpoints.
Long garments survived at court and ecclesiastical and academic circles. Short garments exposed
the leg and required hose that was better supported and tighter.
By the 12th century the word meant a low shoe or slipper and later a knitted foot covering
sometimes extending to the knee. By 1583 the word "stocking" was used to describe a covering
for the feet and legs. "Hose" came from the Old English and Old High German word hosa,
meaning leg covering.
Reverend William Lee of Nottinghamshire, England invented a sock-knitting machine in l589,
and started to make hosiery out of cotton, wool and silk. The machine made bright colored socks
easier to produce, cheaper, and encouraged their popularity.
The developments of better knitting techniques were enveloped as well as the introduction of the
full bottom hose and codpiece. The leg sections of these limb coverings were made to fit more
smoothly by means of a series of small darts, hidden by embroidery, around the ankles of the
hose. As doublets and suercotehardies came into general use the hose or chausses were first worn
over the breeches but eventually these became only brief trunks and were then discarded in favor
of the full bottom hose. Either these styles of leg coverings were attached to the doublets or jupes
by cord laces with metal tap tips.
The embroidered ankle decoration known as "Clocks" were hot fashion stuff on thigh or knee
high hose in the 17th Century!
In the eighteenth century both men and women wore stockings usually white made of silk or
It was the Victorians in the late 19th century who insisted than men should wear dark socks
especially after the death of Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband in 1861. A long period of mourning
followed which, in addition to the industrial revolution, made black the most prominent color in
In the 1930s a new circular knitting machine meant garments could be made in one piece, and no
longer needed to be sewn together.
Julian Hill was one of the scientists at the Du Pont Company in Delaware, in a group led by
Wallace Carothers. Hill was looking for a silk substitute, and one day he discovered that by
pulling a heated rod from a mixture of coal tar, water and alcohol he could create a filament that
was strong, sheer, and silk-like in appearance. Further research led to the first synthetic fiber,
which soon came to be known as Polymer 6.6. Two years later, in 1937, Du Pont patented the
discovery, the same year Wallace Carothers, fatally depressed, committed suicide. As a tribute to
his work, Du Pont decided that he - rather than Hill should be hailed as the inventor of Polymer
Synthetic fibers were presented to the public at the World's Fair in New York in 1939. Taking the
NY from the city's initials, the fiber became known as "nylon".
Nylon was a revelation. The first nylon stockings appeared in New York stores on May 15, 1940.
Over 72,000 pairs were sold in the first day alone, and the Japanese silk market collapsed almost
overnight. Department stores throughout America saw a similar stampede. In the first year, 64
million pairs of stockings were sold and manufacturers could not keep up with demand.
Sock decoration became popular again after WWI, when shoes replaced ankle boots.
In the late 1990's many synthetic materials and cool-max , and dry-max have revolutionized
socks, to have a great pair of socks may not require any cotton in the future, Smart socks with
chips built in and thermostats and temperature control are around the corner. Socks in space?!!!!