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Socks...Where did they come from?

The humble sock, whether they are an essential part of your day, a fashion statement or purely a bit of fun there is no doubt they are an important part of everyday life.  However do you, like many of us take yours for granted?  Have you ever wondered where the humble sock came from, how did it evolve and where are all the missing ones?

Firstly, its name, ‘sock’ where did this derive from?  It is said to have come, as with most of our language from the ancient Greeks.  Sykchos which in turn became the Latin word soccus a “light low-heeled shoe” that was worn by Roman comic actors.  The modern word we use today evolved from the old English word socc which referred to a light slipper.

According to Wikipedia, socks came into existence as far back as the 8th century BC, the Ancient Greeks wore socks called "piloi", which were made from matted animal hair.   The Romans also wrapped their feet with leather or woven fabrics. Around the 2nd century AD, the Romans started sewing the fabrics together making fitted socks called "udones". By the 5th century AD, socks called "puttees" were worn by holy people in Europe to symbolize purity and later on in the 19th century by British service men in India as part of their uniform.


oldest socks

The oldest pair of socks on record can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  They date back to 300-500 and were excavated on the Nile.  They are the earliest recording of a toe sock, designed to be worn with (like it or not) with sandals.  They were produced with a technique called Nålebinding which is similar to knitting.

As time went on socks became quite a symbol of wealth, by the end of 1000AD they were only really worn by the nobility.  They started to become more commonly available with the invention of the first knitting machine in 1589.  This meant that socks could be knitted six times faster than by hand, although hand knitters carried on working alongside the machines until the 1800’s.  There are still some great hand knitters of socks out there today such as these beautiful ones knitted by Jen.
FUN FACT……. From the 16th century onwards, an ornamental design on the ankle or side of a sock has been called a clock.


So, there we have it the history of the humble sock, but it still doesn’t answer where all the missing ones are!  They say the average person loses 1264 socks in a lifetime with that in mind, show your socks some love and don’t take them or granted, they have come a long way.