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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hosiery – When Did It Start?

In colder climates such as the United Kingdom, we are much more comfortable if we have something warm covering our feet. Whilst it is possible to wear sandals without socks in the summer, simply wearing shoes or boots, without that insulating layer of a softer fabric, such as wool or cotton socks, between the skin and the shoe would certainly result in blisters or worse sores.
Hosiery History
So, the usual reason for wearing socks and other hosiery is for warmth and comfort. Another reason for wearing a particular type of stocking has emerged in recent years, with the development of the TED, or compression stocking. It was found that wearing such a stocking helped to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after surgery and many people who regularly travel on long-haul flights also wear them during the flight for the same reason.

More information on this subject can be found at: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/2609.aspx?CategoryID=69.

What were the earliest socks made of?

The earliest foot coverings used animal skins to help protect the feet from rough surfaces and to add warmth in colder weather, thus combining the purpose of both a shoe and a sock. No examples of these have survived to the modern day, as the earliest known pair of socks, displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, date from around third century Greece. These were designed to be worn with sandals, as they have two sections, one covering the big toe and one the other toes.

Felt, or matted animal hair was also originally used for foot coverings in ancient Greece, evolving into lengths of woven cloth which were wrapped around both feet and legs from around 200 AD. The main drawback of these examples of socks was that they did not stretch, as knitting had not been developed in this period of history.

How did knitted socks evolve?

The earliest methods of knitting developed in the Middle East around 250 AD, with “needles” made of bone or wood looping yarn around itself – very similar to how we hand-knit today. This meant that the resultant fabric could stretch, which revolutionized the way clothing could be made.

Fashion played its inevitable role, with women’s socks and stockings being hidden beneath long skirts, whilst men’s socks were openly displayed, from thigh-length stockings to short socks, worn on top of the stockings inside boots or shoes.

Introducing the hosiery knitting machine:

It wasn’t until 1589 that the first stocking frame knitting machine was invented, speeding up the process of knitting in tubes by many times. There have been several different versions of knitting machine and UK sock manufacturer, Corgi Hosiery, at http://www.corgihosiery.co.uk/ still uses machines over 120 years old to produce its luxury range of cashmere socks, with the finishing being done by hand to ensure the ultimate comfort of flat seams.

Modern knitting machines, with the ability to create a wide variety of patterns, have led to the production of ladies’ socks, in particular, - though men and children’s socks have a wide range too – in a huge variety of bright colours and patterns. Stripes, dots and stars can be used to complement other items of clothing and matching gloves, hats or scarves can all help to present an individual fashion statement.

It’s a far cry from the earliest use of animal skins to cover the feet and I, for one, have no wish to have it any other way.

Guest Author: Ryan Holman

Thank you for taking the time to read our fashion blog post. We hope that you have found this historical information about Hosiery to be informative.

You may have interest in learning more about the history of fashion in our terms section.

For those of you that truly enjoy the history of fashion, you may want to view the 100 Years of Fashion Video here on our blog.

If you have comments or questions about this subject, please add your thoughts in the discussion area below.

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