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The Tool Kit Journal

For the love of socks… A brief history of socks

by Franck Jehanne

“True love is like a pair of socks: you gotta have two and they've gotta match”.

Eric Fromm

The story of the sock is one that crosses cultural boundaries and is almost as long as the history of humanity. It has had as many up’s and down’s as the changing fashions which has dictated its length.

As far back as the cavemen, socks were used to keep feet warm by tying animal skins and fur around the foot. The earliest known pair of socks is dated from around 300-500 and were discovered in the Nile delta in Egypt.  They had split toes to wear with sandals and came up to the calf. 

The Greeks had something called “piloi” which were made with matted animal hair and came up to the ankle, and are mentioned in the writings of Hesoid.  The Romans had their own version and by the 5th century AD, they were had morphed into something called “puttees”, worn solely by holy men as a symbol of their purity.

The length of the sock has changed, along with its status.  Long knee and thigh length socks were worn by nobility in Europe in the middle ages.  Socks made of wool were worn by the lower classes while coloured silks were reserved for the members of noble families.

In 1589, with the invention of the knighting machine by William Lee and his setting up of his first factory in Rouen in France, socks started to increasingly be used as stockings.  From then on, the spread of the machine helped spurred on the spread and the popularity of socks.

The industrial revolution resulted in fall in cost of producing the basic stocking (as socks were know at the time) making it a lot more affordable and popular.  Colours and motifs began to appear and their length started to get shorter and the term “sock” started to appear during this time.

A leap in the history of socks came with the invention of nylon in 1938 and the blending of cotton and nylon giving it stretch and comfort which increased its popularity.

This combination of cotton and nylon makes some of the most comfortable socks and this is what we use in our socks.  Colour, design and trends have evolved according to fashion.  At Heating & Plumbing London, we believe in creating products that form part of your daily wardrobe but with a playful twist of colour and design.

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About the Author

Franck Jehanne is the co-founder of British lifestyle brand, Heating & Plumbing London. After 10 years working for Cartier and other luxury brands from the Richemont group, he started his entrepreneurial journey in 2011, leading to the creation of the brand in 2017.

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