Depending on the style, ancient boots, sandals, or slippers were often made of leather with metal studs or flax laces. Good footwear was critical to protect the soles of ancient humans in an era when simple cuts could have turned deadly. Similarly, warmth and protection from the elements were also important concerns. So, if ancient shoes were critical, what about ancient socks? As it turns out, a pair that survived suggests people millennia ago enjoyed fun, fuzzy booties just like modern people. These red socks with a split toe were made in Egypt between 250 and 420 CE, and are now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
These socks were discovered in the 19th century. Their shape includes a split toe, which seems like a complex design considering knitting a regular sock is no simple feat. While these socks look knit, they were created by nålbindning. This process “sewed” three-ply wool together in the form of single-needed “knitting.” According to the museum, “The top of the leg has an overlapping slit at center front; three or four extra stitches are added at the front to form an underflap, ending in a loop, for fastening or tying.” These ultra-functional socks would have slipped right into the sandals of the day for extra comfort and protection. In appearance and purpose, they are strongly reminiscent of tabi—traditional Japanese socks dating back to the 15th century that are also made to be used with thonged footwear. This design was famously reimagined in Maison Margiela's modern-day Tabi boots.
In addition to having functional designs, ancient Egyptian socks could be whimsical too. A similarly-aged sock from Egypt known as “The Lost Sock” in the National Museums Scotland's collection is in the same style. Yet this sock's wool features orange, red, yellow, green, and blue wool stripes. Another Egyptian sock at the British Museum is in chunky color-blocks. While archeologists are not sure if the socks were practical or ceremonial, modern enthusiasts can try to replicate these ancient socks with this how-to article. The best way to get to know the lives of ancient Egyptians would be to walk for a day in their socks.
These ancient Egyptian socks were made 1,600 years ago, and were ideal for wearing with snazzy sandals.
The pair above is one of several fascinating extant examples.
h/t: [Open Culture]