Archive for : December, 2013

A Historical Look at Hosiery – Part 1

Hosiery, or “hose”, refers to legwear, or apparel worn specifically on the legs or feet. Traditionally made by a “hosier”, the fabrics used for hosiery are knitted and of varying thickness and weight. This thickness is termed “denier”.

Denier is a term which defines how much light will pass through the fabric. Lower deniers, between five and fifteen, describe hosiery which is sheer. Above forty denier, the fabric is dense; at one hundred denier, no light will pass through at all.

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Most women and men will wear some form of hosiery; these days  the  term broadly covers stockings, pantyhose, knee highs, socks, leggings, tights, bodystockings, and even legwarmers. But where did it all begin?

Traditionally, hosiery was worn for warmth.

  • The term “hosiery” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “hosa”, meaning “tight legged trouser”. “Stocking” originates also from Anglo-Saxon; “stoka” meaning “stump”. “Sock” comes from the Latin, “soccus”, which was a soft indoor slipper.
  • Even Neolithic man knew how to spin yarn and fibres; in time cloth was woven and hand knitted. The first examples of knitting as we know it today date from ~1000AD; thought to have originated in Arabic nations, it was introduced to Britain by the 1200s.
  • A pair of hand knitted red wool socks was found in an ancient Egyptian tomb sometime between 400 and 500 AD. They tied by a cord at the top to hold them in place at the ankle.

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  • Romans were documented by author Hesiod as having covered their legs with strips of leather or cloth tied on.
  • Charlemagne wore leg bindings in the period between 770 and 810 AD.
  • Young Venetian men in the 1300s wore silk leggings underneath short jackets. These leggings were usually brightly embroidered, and scandalised the older Venetians of the time.

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  • Queen Elizabeth I received her first pair of silk stockings in 1560.

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  • After the invention in 1598 of the first knitting machine by Englishman William Lee, hosiery was knitted from wool, silk, and cotton. Queen Elizabeth I was presented with a pair of black silk stockings, by which she was extremely impressed and requested more.  She deemed that the knitting machine was an English national treasure!

Stay tuned for Part 2…