The word sock comes from an Old English word socc, part of the language since about the year 1400. It means “light slipper,” and comes from the Latin soccus, a word Romans used to describe a light-weight, soft who with a low-heel. They got that word from a word Romans used to describe a light-weight, soft who with a low-heel. They got that word from sykkos, the Ancient Greek word for a thin foot-covering.
Socks with sandals? Sure!
The oldest socks ever found were discovered near the Nile River in Egypt, and date to sometime between the years 250 and 420 A.D. Even more interesting: They have split toes, meaning they were probably supposed to be worn with sandals, which were the style at the time. This means that when you or someone you love wears socks with sandals (Uncle John does this a lot), it isn’t dorky—it’s historically accurate!
Not so different
The words “sock” and “stocking” are pretty much interchangeable, but technically there is a difference between the two items of soft footwear. Traditionally, stockings are longer, and were worn up to the knees to cover the parts of the leg not covered by old-timey clothes like breeches or pantaloons. Socks, meanwhile, are shorter, reaching as high as mid-calf.
The origin of your socks
If you’re wearing a pair of mass-produced socks, we can tell you where they were probably manufactured. Various factories in the Datang district in eastern China, a.k.a. “Sock City” churn out eight billion pairs of socks every year. That accounts for a third of the world’s sock output.
They didn’t get far
It’s one of the oldest clichés—and stand-up comedy observations—in existence: How come you always seem to be missing a sock after you do laundry, and if so, where do those socks go? While the answer for most is probably “you lost a sock between the hamper and the laundry room” or “static cling,” there might be more nefarious forces afoot. A woman named Cathy Hinz manages a manufactured home committee. It’s like an apartment complex in that there’s a communal laundry room with big industrial washers and driers. In 2017, one of the washing machines wasn’t working right, and Hinz’s husband started to take it apart to see what was the problem. He removed the front bottom panel…revealing a secret chamber where all kinds of stuff had fallen out of clothes and stayed for years—change, credit cards…and dozens upon dozens of socks.