The Origin of Stockings

Historically, even though the word sock is at least as ancient in origin, what men typically wore were often referred to as tights, probably mainly when referring to the longer hose at times when they were the fashion for men. The word was used to refer to the bottom “stump” part of the body. By analogy, the term was used to refer to the one-piece covering of the lower trunk and limbs of the 15th century—essentially tights consisting of the upper stocks (later to be worn separately as knee breeches) and nether supplies (later to be worn independently as stockings).

Before the 1590s, stockings were made of woven cloth. The first knitting machines were for making stockings. The socks themselves were made of cotton, linen, wool or silk. Polished cotton called lisle was standard, as were those made in Balbriggan.

Before the 1920s, women’s stockings, if worn, were worn for warmth. In the 1920s, as women’s dresses’ hemlines rose, they wore socks to cover their exposed legs. These stockings were sheer, first made of silk or rayon (then known as “artificial silk”), and after 1940 of nylon. The first pantyhose appeared in the 1940s and 1950s, when film and theatre productions had stockings sewn to the briefs of actresses and dancers, according to actress-dancer Ann Miller and seen in popular films such as Daddy Long Legs. Today, socks are commonly made using knitted wool, silk, cotton or nylon. The introduction of pantyhose in 1959 provided a convenient alternative to stocks, and the use of socks declined dramatically. U.S. sales of stockings exceeded stockings for the first time and have remained this way ever since. BegIn87, sales of the hose with a suspender belt started slightly declining due to the newly invented hold-ups, but it remained a sold sock.

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