Socks have come a long way since their inception in ancient Greece. The word itself derives from the Latin soccus, which was a loose-fitting slipper. The concept did not evolve from slipper to sock, either. Eighth-century Greeks used to wear matted animal hair for socks.
“You’ll make a fine sock.”
It wasn’t until 1589 when William Lee invented the first machine to weave socks. If necessity is the mother of invention, then Mr. Lee absolutely needed his wife free to pursue other tasks, because he cites Mrs. Lee wasting too much time weaving as the prime cause for his invention.
Today, of course, weaving socks is not on the daily to-do list…unless you live in Yiwu, China. This town is known for its sock exports; fittingly, it is called a “sock town.” In 2004, a factory in Yiwu exported three billion pairs of socks to Wal-Mart, Pringle, and Disney. For non-math majors, that amounts to six billion individual socks.
Nylon, created in 1937, now dominates the sock market. The socks of yesteryear were made of silk, wool, and cotton.
Were it not for the durability of nylon, the sock may not be able to endure superstitious tennis star Serena Williams, who wears the same pair of socks throughout a tournament.