For many people, socks aren’t just an accessory. They’re a bonafide wardrobe staple. In fact, it’s not uncommon to just instinctively throw a pair on like we would any other piece of clothing in our closet. While you might not have ever thought to leave your house without ’em, you may have stopped to wonder: Why do we wear socks?
Here’s a little history of why people first started wearing socks and some of the top reasons we still wear them today.
A Brief Sock History
The word sock comes from the Old English word socc, which translates to light shoe or slipper, but the concept of using foot coverings for protection dates all the way back to ancient Egypt between A.D. 250 and A.D. 420. Early knit socks were made individually through a time-consuming process, making the garment strictly reserved for members of high society. As time passed, however, innovations throughout the Industrial Age and an increasing demand for textiles led to greater accessibility of socks.
Nowadays, socks come in so many silhouettes, prints, materials and price points. From comfort, to health concerns, to personal style, there are many different reasons we wear them.
Why We Wear Socks
Socks have certainly evolved over time, but they continue to serve many of the same purposes they always have.
- To Keep Our Feet Warm and Dry: If you’ve ever worn a pair of shoes without socks in the summertime, you know firsthand what a slippery (and probably pretty stinky) experience that can be! Socks are basically a layer of fabric that separates your shoes from your feet. When you’ve been on your feet for a while and they begin to sweat, pairs of socks with moisture-wicking properties help draw the moisture from your feet into the socks, keeping you feeling comfortable and dry. In the winter months, opt for thicker pairs to keep warm. In the summer, breathable fabrics are ideal to prevent overheating.
- To Protect Our Skin: Imagine letting the delicate skin of your feet rub back and forth against a hard surface over and over again, aggressively. That’s a friction blister and wearing closed-toe shoes without socks can leave you susceptible to them. Ouch! Thankfully, the extra padding that socks provide forms a barrier to help prevent the direct, constant rubbing. The shoes rub against the sock instead of right up against your skin.
- To Provide Cushion for Our Feet: Visualize walking around on hard, wooden planks for hours upon hours. Now, think about what it’d feel like to walk on fluffy clouds instead. *Ahhhh* much better. Socks give us an added layer of cushiony comfort between our shoes and our feet that can help soothe us with every step we take. Depending on the fabric and thickness of the socks, certain pairs offer more cushion than others, but all pairs — from festive and fun ankle socks to super sporty performance-focused styles — offer more support than if you wore nothing at all.
- To Improve Circulation: Compression socks have been shown to help promote blood flow back to the heart and are recommended for some diabetics, those with arthritis and people who suffer from pain due to varicose veins. While these types of socks have a clinical history (and used to only be available in basic colors), they are available in many cute, fun and colorful options nowadays for anyone who travels, exercises or sits or stands for prolonged periods.
- To Show Off Our Personality: Socks have evolved to become a true fashion statement. Whether you’re a businessperson with a sense of humor who likes to let their funny socks peek out from under their suit, someone who is passionate about quality and prefers to invest in pairs of fancy luxury socks or a person with a more subdued sense of style who prefers the basics, socks are a reflection of our personalities and should be treated as such. With so many styles to choose from, socks are truly an extension of ourselves!
It doesn’t matter whether you choose to wear them to keep the blisters at bay or to show off your funky sense of style, the beauty of socks is that they serve an equal purpose in both fashion and function!