“You choose your friends by their character and your socks by their color.” Gary Oldman
Socks have always been used to warm the feet. The earliest versions were made of animal skins and tied at the ankles. In the 8th century the Ancient Greeks made them from matted animal hair. Ancient Romans used socks made of leather and were worn by older men and women. Wearing them was seen as a sign of weakness by men who were not on military duty. By the end of the 1st century AD this attitude had changed and socks were worn by men as a symbol of wealth.
By 1,000 AD socks became a symbol of wealth, but they were a bit different from the socks we use today. Socks in the Middle Ages were colored cloths tied around the legs and held up with garters.
By the 16th century a new style of socks, called venetians, came into fashion. They ended just below the knee, were secured by garters and were knitted. As the craft of knitting began to spread around Europe, knitted stockings became more and more popular since the fabric was superior to woven fabric due to their better fit (more flexible and comfortable) and the wider range of options in design and color.
As finer needles in Spain and Italy were made, socks with more detail appeared. Silk knitted stockings made in Spain were popular at courts throughout Europe.
In 1589 William Lee invented the knitting machine, which made it possible for socks to be knitted 6 times faster than by hand. Socks were commonly made of silk, cotton and wool, until the invention of nylon in 1938, which meant a true revolution for the sock. It gave socks more elasticity and strength.
The typical Japanese sock with a separation between the big toe and the other toes is called a tabi (足袋). They are part of traditional clothing and are worn with footwear such as geta (wooden raised clogs), waraji (straw sandals) and zori (more modern style sandals) and the most common color is white. Unlike common socks, tabi are made of three pieces of fabric. Two pieces of cloth are cut and sewn down the center for either side of the foot and a sole. Originally, the front top half was left open to slip the foot in and then tied closed with fabric ties. Modern tabi are open at the back so that they can be slipped over the foot with fasteners called kohaze on the outer side that close around the back of the foot and fasten to loops of fabric hidden on the inner side of the ankle.
More info on the tabi:
1. archaic: a low shoe or slipper
2. also plural sox: a knitted or woven covering for the foot usually worn under shoes and extending above the ankle and sometimes to the knee
3. a shoe worn by actors in Greek and Roman comedy (source: Merriam Webster).
The English sock comes from Old English socc, slipper/light shoe, from Latin soccus, slipper/light low-heeled shoe, probably a variant of Greek sykchos, a kind of shoe, perhaps from Phrygian or another Asiatic language.
Dutch sok has the same origins.
Spanish calcetín is the diminutive of calceta, a kind of sock that covered foot and calf, from calza, a type of clothing that covered the foot ,the whole leg and the butt, from Latin calceus, soft shoe/slipper, from calx, heel.
Italian calzino has the same origins.
Sock in other languages
Dutch: de sok
Spanish: el calcetín
Italian: il calzino