The History of Socks

Summary

  • History of the sock
  • Birth of socks and tights
  • Beginning of knitted socks
  • Birth of nylon stockings
  • Stockings during World War II
  • Stockings in the spotlight
  • Manufacture and sale of fine stockings

History of the sock

The history of the sock goes back to the distant days of ancient Syria (1800 BC – 1350 BC), when we can already find pants resembling tights. However, these have little to do with our current tights. They are not knitted but sewn into fabrics. However, we already know of socks knitted in the round at the time of the pharaohs (1400 BC – 950 BC). The Romans, like other peoples, wear woolen socks when they ride; drawings on vases from ancient Greece attest to the existence of kinds of narrow pants reminiscent of tights at that time.

Here and there, knitted socks certainly appear from the 7th century. However, in the 13th century, the latter was only used in Italy, while the rest of Europe knew the use only of cloth socks. However, it is said that Henry IV of England (1367-1413) also wore knitted woolen socks.

In the 15th century: Birth of stockings and tights

During the fifteenth century, we began to sew together the bottom woolen but also leather to make it sticky. Stockings and tights in scarlet fever, this precious elastic wool yarn, are particularly popular. At the time, showing off two different colored stockings was considered chic and elegant. Enough to brighten up the city streets! Little by little, around the 16th century, the first silk stockings were sewn and then knitted. We go back to dividing the tights down and pants. The gold-set silk stockings of the nobles became an expensive accessory thanks to the art of embroidery.

Beginning of knitted socks

In 1589, the Englishman William Lee built the first sock knitter on which the first industrial socks were knitted flat. This is the real beginning of the knitted sock, even if this one, very coarse at first, cannot compete with the thin silk socks. Initially, almost exclusively worn by men, socks are more and more popular with women as fashionable models appear.

Even if women now cover their feet and legs with this garment, it remains invisible, the skirts retaining their entire length. Women’s fashion for socks was launched with the arrival of the crinoline dress around 1720. White in color, they are held below or above the knee by a garter.

When long pants made their debut during the French Revolution, the supremacy of men’s tights, which had become invisible, came to an end. If tights for men with luxurious embroidery still appeared at court at the end of the 18th century, they failed to launch a new fashion. Instead, the world of women’s fashion is taking possession of an outfit hitherto reserved for men. In 1866, the American Lamb built the first profitable knitting machine. Its production capacity is 10 women’s tights or 20 men’s socks.

Birth of nylon and nylon stockings

It was in 1935 that Wallace Hume Carothers discovered nylon. Carothers deposited his invention in 1937. However, he committed suicide 20 days later and did not have the chance to witness the success of his invention and to see them put on women’s legs.

The name “nylon” comes from the word “No-Run”, a name chosen by the researchers for their new product. As the DuPont marketing department is not convinced by the proposal, we will first invert the vowels (“Nuron”), before changing the r to l, which will give: “Nulon”. Considerations relating to trademark law once again prevent the use of this name; we will end up agreeing on “Nylon”.

As early as 1938, the DuPont company was promoting its invention and discussing its possible use as a ladies’ stocking. On October 24, 1939, the first nylon stockings hit the market. The 4,000 stockings produced as the first commercial test find buyers in just three hours. Official nationwide marketing will not be launched until after this test, on May 15, 1940.stockings are then sold in four days.

The distribution and trade of stockings during World War II.

In 1942, following the entry into the war ED US, nylon finds a new job: the army, seduced by the resistance of this material, it manifests a strong interest, so it remains hard for making stockings. These then become a scarce commodity and serve as currency on the black market.

Down in the spotlight

Least we know that just when the polyamide was invented to ED the United States under the name of nylon, a German-made the same discovery, this time under the name of Perlon. But while the IG Farben group, producer of Perlon in Germany, is dissolved by the Allies at the end of the war and the Perlon factories are dismantled, American nylon stockings begin their march to glory.

The production and sale of nylon stockings resumed in 1945. In New York, 50,000 pairs of stockings were sold in just 6 hours! Nylon stockings are becoming an essential accessory for models and movie stars. Hollywood beauties like Rita Hayworth and Jane Russell show off how beautiful a woman’s legs look in nylons.

The stocking maker“Opal” secures the rights to the Miss Contest and gives Miss Germany 50 pairs of these coveted stockings. While the first stockings have a size of 70 to 40 den, they quickly become increasingly thin. Around 1950, we already managed to produce stockings with a fineness of 10 dens.

In the 1950s and 60s, nylon experienced exceptional growth rates. Wearing these stockings, with the stitching that is their hallmark, acquires the status of symbol of an era. However, with the advent of circular knitting looms, the latter will quickly disappear.

Manufacture and sale of thin stockings

In 1959, the DuPont company patented elastane under the name “Lycra”. The elastane has the property that it can be relaxed over several times its length without losing its shape. The combination of nylon and lycra made it possible to manufacture the first thin tights in 1960.

Tights have the advantage of eliminating the suspender belt, which until then was essential. The arrival of the mini-skirt naturally promotes this change and until the 70s, stockings practically disappeared in favor of tights. Since the end of the 1990s, however, the demand for pantyhose has declined significantly. Many manufacturers have given up on producing it.

This drop in sales is linked on the one hand to the appearance on the market of new yarns with an even longer lifespan, on the other hand to the evolution of women’s clothing habits ( sports socks rather than thin tights, pants rather than skirts). The market currently seems to have regained a balance and women seem to have rediscovered that stockings symbolize femininity. It’s the woman who makes pantyhose what it is.

This delicate fabric gently envelops the bare legs of women. Its shine and cut lengthen the legs and catch the eye. Whether trendy, classic, discreet or avant-garde, beautiful tights are the most beautiful way to show off your legs.

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