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Socks are so much a part of our lives that we rarely even think about them. But there are plenty of useless but fun facts about socks. Here, we’ll look at eight of them, including where the term “socks” came from and the reasons behind the infamous nylon stocking riots of 1945, as well as a special bonus ninth fact that is one you really need to know.
Why wait around for the important bonus fact? It’s this: not all socks are simply socks. When you wear compression socks for heel pain, you get relief from the type of foot pain we all get when we sit or stand for extended periods of time. For nurses, teachers and office workers, compression socks can work wonders.
But what about those eight other facts about socks? Read on and learn. If nothing else, they can serve as random icebreakers at your next social occasion.
Like many English words, “sock” comes from an Old English word. The original, “socc,” meant light slipper, which is pretty accurate when you think about it. The word socc apparently is a derivative of the Latin word “soccus” that referred to a thin, light “shoe” that people wore with sandals. So, that “socks and flip flops” look has been around for a long, long time.
You may have noticed two Major League Baseball teams use the words “sox” as a stand-in for “socks” - the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox. That’s because newspaper editors back in the early 20th century needed to shorten the team names - originally “stockings” - to fit into headlines. The teams eventually just adopted “sox” for the official franchise name.
Like many other material goods, socks once symbolized the “upper crust” of society. Men of wealth - and, of course, royalty - wore expensive knee socks The more silk used in the socks, the higher your status. This all started around the year 1,000, but it helps explain why a nice pair of socks are still a popular Christmas gift.
When knitting machines were invented in 1589 by Englishman William Lee, he did so to cut down on the time it took to knit socks by hand. His machine could knit at eight times the rate of hand-knitting.
So, if men wore knee stockings to show off their wealth, what happened? The 20th century happened. In the early 1900s, socks shrunk to ankle height because men’s trousers were now worn long, and they no longer needed to cover their lower leg. Meanwhile by the Roaring ‘20s, women were wearing shorter skirts, so they began to wear stockings to cover their legs (often with colorful stocks or beautiful designs). It’s a switch that has stuck.
Speaking of stockings, the lack of nylon stocking during World War II led to riots in the United States. DuPont, which had been using nylon for the war effort to make parachutes, announced they would have “nylon by Christmas” after the war ended in 1945. But when a small supply went on sale across the country in September and quickly ran out, riots broke out in places such as Pittsburgh, where 40,000 women got in line to get just 13,000 pairs of nylon stockings. In other places, women mobbed the stores, knocking over displays and each other to get to the few pairs of stockings available.
The main function of socks is to wick away the moisture from your feet, which can produce an astounding half a liter a day. They also protect your feet from getting blisters from rubbing and chafing, and help keep bacteria from forming that can make your feet smell.
Long before the advances made in the materials used today for socks and stockings, the Greeks wanted something to wear on their feet, too. So, they used matted animal fur. Needless to say, we should all be thankful for innovations in how they make socks.
Thinking about fun facts about socks is actually pretty enjoyable once you start, considering how much we interact with them and what a strange history they have. At the very least, we should all be thankful we’re not trying to decide which matted animal fur pair of socks to buy!