Socks. Many of us are guilty of taking them for granted. We put them on in the morning and they keep our feet warm and dry. Yet, the humble sock has played a crucial part in the history of the world and has earned its place in both the cultural and the fashion hall of fame. Want to know more? Here are ten wacky, memorable and utterly random facts about socks for you to wow your mates with next time you’re stuck for a conversation starter.
10 random facts about socks
1. What did the Romans do for us?
Amongst the many Roman achievements that remain a big part of our culture today, those ancient snappy dressers gave us the word of sock. It comes from the Latin word ‘soccus’, meaning a loose-fitting slipper worn by Roman comedy actors on stage. A ‘soccus’ had no ties or buckles and was made from leather or woven fabric. It went on to become popular with the general public too, clearly inspired by what they saw on stage. Sad to say, however, that it was Roman legionnaires who introduced the world to that seminal fashion faux-pas, wearing socks with sandals. Guess you can’t win ‘em all…
2. Rock those socks
Despite the Romans coming up with the word that inspired our name for socks, they weren’t the first people to discover the joys of wearing these snuggly ankle coverings. Our Prehistoric ancestors made rudimentary socks by wrapping animal skins around their feet and lower legs and tying them at the ankle to keep them on. This was presumably not only to help cover their feet and keep them warm and dry but to add an extra layer of protection while out hunting for woolly mammoths.
3. Stocking fillers
Silk stockings have been a highly sought-after fashion statement throughout much of European history. Noblemen, royalty and people of high status showed off their wealth by wearing the finest knee-high silk stockings they could buy to match the rest of their opulent outfit. Silk remained the thread of choice for a very long time, however making stockings by hand was a difficult and laborious process. By 1598, people of all classes had discovered the benefits of socks and stockings made from wool, so William Lee, an English clergyman, invented the knitting machine to enable the popular knitwear to be produced eight times faster than by hand.
4. Etiquette expectations
As with most British customs, a clear set of rules remains to this day for anyone wishing to follow correct sock wearing etiquette. For example, wearing striped or patterned socks with formal black tie or white tie is frowned upon for men – opt for a plain dark sock instead and save your wacky fashion choices for your bowtie instead. Never wear sports socks with business wear, avoid pairs with rips or holes in them and when in doubt, match your sock colour to your trousers for a fluid look from waist to toe. If you must choose a different colour for your footwear, your socks should be one shade darker than your trousers and one shade lighter than your shoes.
5. Clocking on
Snazzy sock lovers who simply cannot leave the house without an eye-catching pattern or cool motif adorning their ankles will be interested to learn that the name for a design on the ankle or side of a sock is known as a clock. The name dates right back to the 16th century. Wonder how many pairs of socks there are with actual clocks and watches on. A case of adding a very special clock to your sock…?
6. Socks and sleep
Bedsocks may be traditionally seen as a bit of a passion killer, but they are a great way to help you get a better night’s sleep. Experts believe that wearing a pair of warm, fluffy bed socks when you turn in for the night will help you improve the quality of your sleep as they encourage healthy blood flow to your feet and stop you waking up in the middle of the night with cold tootsies. It’s well worth a try as we tumble headlong into winter and the colder temperatures.
7. Odd Sock Day
Here’s a good topic to include in any list of fun facts about socks for kids. National Odd Sock Day takes place every year in mid-November to mark the start of Anti-Bullying Week. What a great way to impress upon young minds the importance of allowing people to be individuals! What’s more, kids can have another chance to wear odd or brightly coloured socks on World Down Syndrome Day, which happens on the 21st of March. Again, using eye-catching socks is a powerful symbol of accepting and celebrating our differences and diversity while raising funds for a great cause.
8. Socks in Shakespeare
The Bard himself talks about socks in his lively comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor’, in which Falstaff, a fat rogue, describes being carried in a basket of dirty clothes, including ‘foul shirts and smocks, socks, foul stockings, greasy napkins…’ Lovely! Yellow stockings (that are presumably far cleaner and more presentable) also feature in Twelfth Night, gracing the legs and feet of Malvolio, a vain and pompous man who wishes to woo the beautiful Olivia and so dresses in a way that hopes she will like, including a pair of ‘cross-gartered’ yellow stockings.
9. Sock City
Back to modern times for fact number nine, and there is a place in China that has come to be known as ‘Sock City’, thanks to its status as the world’s top sock producing region. Datang is located in eastern China and produces around 40% of the world’s socks. It is estimated that Datang makes enough socks to supply every person on the planet with two pairs each. That’s an awful lot of socks.
10. Sustainable socks
As awareness rises about the need to look for more environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions to our everyday needs, so a wider variety of natural fibres and materials have become popular in the world of sock manufacturing. Cotton socks are fast becoming rivalled by bamboo, which offers a smooth, soft finish and a more sustainable method of sourcing raw materials. Bamboo is hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial and helps to regulate foot temperature and prevent moisture build-up inside shoes, thanks to its super absorbent properties. It also requires one-third less water to grow as compared to cotton.
Losing the plot?
Ten fun facts about socks not enough for you? How about this for a final encore? Here are some lost socks facts for you to enjoy. A family of four is said to lose an average of 120 of socks every year, and not always in pairs. Resulting in a lot of odd socks floating around, pining for their partner. So prevalent is this phenomenon, that an unofficial ‘Lost Socks Memorial Day’ has sprung up on the social calendar, celebrated annually on the 9th of May. So, whether your lost socks get eaten by the sock monster that lives inside the washing machine, or head off, Frodo-style, on a world-saving mission under the sofa, we commiserate and stand alongside you to remember our fallen friends.
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