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What are socks made of, and why?


I could start by telling you that socks used to be made of matted animal hair or leather, but I won’t.

I’ll start by asking you, what are socks for?

Socks primary purpose, since the beginning of mankind, has been to keep your feet warm and dry. Therefore the best materials to use for socks would have great insulating properties to reduce perspiration, and excellent moisture control properties, to take moisture away from the feet.

To do this back in the 10th Century was difficult! So socks were expensive, and only wealthy people could afford them.

Socks became a status symbol, and fashion took over.

Different materials started to be woven together to create different styles of socks. And when the sock knitting machine was invented in 1589, socks were able to be produced much quicker and their popularity spread throughout Europe, picking up new fabrics, techniques and styles along the way.

1939 was another game changer, when Nylon was invented. Before then, socks used to be made of silk, cotton and wool. But Nylon opened the doors to the blending of two or more yarns together, which is still the case for the majority of socks produced and worn today.

So what do we know?

100% cotton socks are useless. The might feel nice and be very breathable, but when they get wet, they stay wet! Cotton socks hold moisture close to your skin, increasing friction and the chance of sore feet.

Warm – Tick

Dry - No

 

That’s why most cotton socks are actually only 70-80% cotton, blended with other materials such as nylon and elastane. Take a look on your sock packaging next time. I bet that what you thought was an 100% cotton sock is actually not, and other materials have been blended with the cotton.

The blending process gives cotton socks better moisture control and added stretch and durability, whilst maintaining all the cotton characteristics of a cool and comfortable sock.

Warm – Tick

Dry - Tick

 

While the blended cotton sock is the most common, there are many other options for your feet. Socks can be made from silk, linen, cashmere, mohair or even bamboo!

Bamboo an all-natural eco-friendly material, it is also incredibly soft and breathable, repels odours, and even has anti bacterial properties! Throw in some added thermo regulating qualities as well, it’s easy to see why bamboo is a strong choice for sock materials. 

Warm – Tick

Dry – Tick

 

However to get the daddy of all insulation properties, you first need to speak to Little Bo Peep.  An excellent natural fiber, wool is a great insulator and can absorb up to 30% it’s own weight in water before it starts to feel damp. Making wool socks perfect for those long cold nights.  

Just like with cotton socks, it is also common for wool socks to be blended with other synthetics, to better manage moisture and improve durability.  

Warm – Tick

Dry – Tick

 

 

So just like back in the day, socks still come in a variety of different materials, all with different qualities of warmth and dryness.

And the great thing about it is, socks also come in a variety of different colours, patterns and styles, ensuring you can find the right pair to suit you! 

Whether you want to socks that are warm and inviting when curled up on the sofa, or socks that are cheeky and optimistic when peeping from under your trousers, socks are no longer reserved just for the rich and famous.