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