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You won't believe what the earliest socks were like.

You won't believe what the earliest socks were like.

20th Nov 2020

Have you ever stopped to wonder why our ancestors felt thankful to have socks? 

To answer that question, let's walk through the earliest history of socks together.

Stone Ages

It is believed that it all started in the stone ages when, unlike today when in addition to functionality, socks are considered accessories and used to make a fashion statement - socks were a real true necessity. Our ancestors used different materials to fashion some kind of protection for their feet from the elements. Without modern medicine or healthcare, foot infection or frostbite would lead to certain death.

Of course, the first socks were nothing like the ones we have today, as they were usually made or animal pelt or skin wrapped around the foot and tied around the ankle.

When we say animal skin, we are not referring to exotic leopard print.


But rather something like this

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Our next stop in the sock history journey is the ancient civilizations.


The first mention of a clothing item resembling today’s socks can be traced back to the 8th century BC and a Greek poem written by Hesiod. In this poem, he mentions “piloi” - a garment made from matted animal hair worn under sandals. Having a hard time picturing this? So are we, but as you probably recall from your history or art lessons, Greek statues mostly depicted nude people, and this being a family newsletter, well, leaves us without options for a visual aid on this.


The first record of socks that were made from a material other than animal skin is around the 2nd century AD in Ancient Rome. Romans were the first people (that we know of) that used to sew different types of fabric together to create something resembling today’s socks. They were called “udons”, and looked something like this:

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Ancient Romans are also said to have brought the first woolen socks to Northumbria, a medieval Anglian kingdom which is now Northern England and south-east Scotland. This claim was based on the unearthing of a pair of woolen socks in Vinolanda, a Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian's Wall in northern England. These socks were discovered together with Roman tablets which include instructions to “send more socks”. Who could have guessed that even ancient Romans agreed with us that one can never have too many socks?

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Around the same time, the first woven socks were being made on the other side of the world - in Ancient Egypt. The earliest known surviving pair of knitted socks, which is currently on display in Victoria and Albert Museum in London, dates back to 300-500 AD. These socks were made using the nålebinding technique also known as "knotless knitting”. 

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Being socks fans, we can say with absolute certainty that these socks are the most famous and fascinating ones we’ve heard of. A full study was written about them by Joanne Dyer, the scientist of the British Museum. She analyzed the fabric and found that the sock contained several hues of wool yarn woven together in a stripey pattern. According to her, only three natural, plant-based dyes were used to create different combinations in the sock - madder roots for red, woad leaves for blue, and weld flowers for yellow. The socks feature split toes and are designed to be worn with sandals. This may be the source of fashion validation for those that insist on wearing socks with sandals today!

Did we spark your interest yet?

More to come in the next issue of Socksational News!