Who Invented Socks? Interesting Facts On Sock History For Kids!

Siddharth Shirwadkar
Apr 07, 2023 By Siddharth Shirwadkar
Originally Published on Nov 23, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Quirky socks worn by a lady on a pink background

Socks are one of the simplest pieces of clothing that we own.

However, socks have a long and arduous place in the history of the world. A pair of socks are a piece of clothing that go up to the mid calf, covering the lower part of the leg and foot.

While one could say that to wear socks is to do so while wearing shoes or similar footwear, they have a much more vivid place in the world. Socks are so much more than that, and this is a article is all about the history of socks.

It is daunting to imagine a life without having socks. It is a staple clothing item found in almost every single person's wardrobe. It seems a trivial bit of our lives, one we take for granted.

These small bits of clothing help keep our feet clean in shoes, provide warmth on cold days, and let us glide over the cold floor without getting cold toes. Over the years socks have become so much more, and have become a fashion statement.

The variety in the kind of socks available is vast, based on different uses such as a pair that goes only up to your ankle for sports, or ones that go up to the calf for formal events or even ones that are knee high.

Not only this, but socks now come in ways that do not even reveal that you are wearing socks.

These sock are not visible except inside the shoe, and are called half socks. These ones are similar to ankle socks, created by brands to be used in the summers, so that parts above the ankle do not get excessively warm.

Through this article we will go on to discuss the more practical uses of a sock, but let us first look at why socks have been a favorite of children and adult alike.

What is this you ask? Christmas! Christmas stockings have long been a part of the festival all over the world.

You hang your stockings and Santa Claus will leave a present for you as he visits your home in the middle of night. A fun and innocent tradition that has been part of celebrating Christmas. Stockings become much more than a functional sock, and more about the joy and love of celebrating Christmas with your family!

If you like reading fun articles with interesting facts and details about fascinating topics such as this one, why not check out these other articles to learn who discovered electricity and who invented cotton candy.

Who invented knee socks?

Knee socks are a specific longer type of socks that are similar to stockings. These were designed to go all the way up to the knees.

Knee socks first came into the picture during the Middle Ages when the sock became a fashion symbol. They were worn to look more stylish and were worn by the general public to keep their entire legs warm during the winters.

These knee high socks needed garters to hold them up, as elastic was not around at the time.

The richer members of society wore fine silk hand-knit socks while the lower classes of society took up knitting socks made of wool and cotton for themselves. Men were at the knitting loom, knitting these socks.

By the 15th century AD, British aristocrats also took up silk knitted socks and adopted them as part of their fashion ensemble. These fitted socks of the past somewhat resemble leggings and were used to keep legs warm.

Knee high socks were a status symbol for the rich but a need to stay safe for the poor.

Knee high socks laid the foundations of what would go on to be stockings in the future, and the materials of wool and silk would eventually be replaced by the fabric nylon. The general idea was that socks that were meant to showcase status, wealth and power, were made with silk and knitted because it was expensive.

The socks the poor wore were bought to fulfil the basic purpose of warmth and protection, and made out of the material wool, which was cheap. If you feel like you are up for a challenge, why not take up circular knitting with your family, and use wool or a different type of fabric to knit your own socks.

It can be a fun family experience and a skill you pick up for life!

Why do socks exists?

The first socks date back long before the Middle Ages, and to wear socks has been a part of human life for the better part of the last 2000 years! The need and necessity of a pair of socks is one that transcends time.

The first pair of socks were seen worn by the people in Ancient Greece. It was observed first around eighth century BC, and socks were made from matted animal hair and animal skins.

The name socks did not even exist. They were actually called piloi, and was meant to be a cloth that was worn around the ankle, which also covered food.

These were seen to have split toes and can be seen as a precursor to the knitted socks that we wear today, made of comfortable fabrics like cotton. What is interesting is that the Ancient Greeks did not wear socks for the primary purpose that we do today, namely inside shoes.

They wore sandals. In fact, a good pair of sandals for someone living in Ancient Greece was a symbol of money and status as they were quite expensive.

It gave them footing over the treacherous terrains. Their motive behind creating socks was to provide themselves with a cloth that provided them with comfort and kept feet warm, especially during the harsh winters. The end result was a knitted cloth that went around the ankle, made of a primitive fabric.

Additionally, it gave them protection from dirt and bacteria that could cause infection when walking around with bare feet. Over the course of history, owning and wearing a pair of socks became more of a fashion statement, as well as a symbol of status and wealth.

This was seen during the Middle Ages when socks became the latest trend in fashion. Kings and other members of the monarchy deemed it a necessity for socks and they became more than a need.

They became a luxury of fashion. This is interesting because in today's age we take a pair of socks for granted, rather than as a fashion symbol.

In today's age, labelling a fabric the best one to make socks with is incredibly difficult as there is a wide range that is available. The best fabric depends on what the intended use of the sock is.

If you wish to keep your feet warm, wool is your go to fabric for socks.

However, using wool for a pair of socks that you mean to use for sports would be disastrous as it does not allow your skin to breathe, and does not let the sweat leave the sock. Cotton is the choice for sport socks.

Clothing brands have divided their socks into sections according to the usage. Clothing companies have come up with a newer form of a fuzzy sock that feels incredibly soft to wear. It will feel as though you are walking on clouds and is certainly an experience you should try for yourself. These are usually called bed socks.

Pair of small baby socks on pink background

Who invented socks with toes?

Toe socks are a more modern pair of socks that was invented quite recently. They work as a form of glove for your feet, meaning that each sock has five slots where you place each of your toes.

Originally, Ellen Russel from Pennsylvania had been thought to have invented toe socks. She filed for a copyright naming her invention glove socks and mitten toe socks. However, the copyright did not sustain as it did not come under the patent law, and the copyright law would not afford her the same protections of the patent law.

If we look back at the history of socks, a physician by the name of Walter Vaughan came up with the idea in 1792. He theorised that the individual slots for each of the toes would remove the irritation felt by sweating.

Although there lies no evidence that he actually invented a sock with toes, just that he discussed the idea of individual slots for your toes so our feet would stay cleaner.

Did the Romans invent socks?

The Romans have had quite a significant impact on the history of the world. They were at the beginning of modern civilisation and the groundwork that they laid for us is significant.

We owe a lot of our inventions to them such as aqueducts, democracy and rights to vote, city planning and so much more, but where do they fit in the history of socks? The Romans certainly made use of socks during their times, but the invention of the sock is much much older.

The Romans came after the Greeks and they have no claim in inventing the sock. However, this does not mean that they did not play a role in the development.

The sock did not become more like its modern part until the second century AD. The second century AD saw humans shift the way they knitted socks. Socks made from animal skins saw the Romans shift to using fabrics.

These newer versions were known as udones. These were softer and were more fitted than the original design.

Additionally, the name socks came from the language primarily used by Romans, Latin. The word finds its roots in the Latin word 'soccus', which was a 'low-heeled shoe' popularly used by actors in Rome.

Furthermore, the word 'socc' from Old English, meaning 'a light slipper'. This culminated to this piece of clothing being called socks. The work done by the Romans was truly succeeded by the Egyptians, who got socks made right in their attempts.

These were the first knit stocks that were made from cotton, in 500 century AD. Not only them, even cowboys need to use socks to prevent chafing caused by their boots!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for How many eighths in an ounce? Curious measurement facts for kids! or What grows on palm trees? Fascinating palm facts revealed for Kids!  

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Written by Siddharth Shirwadkar

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Multimedia and Mass Communication

Siddharth Shirwadkar picture

Siddharth ShirwadkarBachelor of Arts specializing in Multimedia and Mass Communication

Siddharth is a talented content writer with over a year of experience in content writing, based in Mumbai. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia and Mass Communication from Mithibai College of Arts. With a passion for reading and music, Siddharth has demonstrated his ability to create engaging content that resonates with his audience.

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Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi

Postgraduate Diploma in Management

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Sakshi RaturiPostgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi has experience in marketing strategy, social media planning, and recruiting industry experts for capstone projects, she has displayed a commitment to enhancing their skills and knowledge. She has won multiple awards, including a Certificate of Appreciation for Creative Writing and a Certificate of Merit for Immaculate Turut, and is always seeking new opportunities to grow and develop.

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