Product Spotlight: Custom Socks!

Product Spotlight: Custom Socks!

There's more to socks than meets the feet!

Rick Cundiff

Are you looking for a small promo product to boost office morale? How about a little something to give away at conventions or trade shows? Or maybe a freebee to toss in with a purchase from your business?

You’ve probably considered all the usual suspects: pens, lanyards, patches, custom coins and the like. I’ll bet there’s one thing you probably haven’t considered – custom imprinted socks!

Socks can indeed be the “feet-ured” items for all these needs. They’re a fun item that’s likely to surprise people, and even bring a smile to their faces. Let’s consider the history, uses and promo abilities of socks.

A Brief History of Socks

Let’s start with the basics – why do we wear socks in the first place? The answer to that is shockingly obvious – So we can sing “Old Time Rock and Roll” and slide across the floor like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business,” duh.

Seriously, socks came about to meet two needs, protection and warmth. Ancient Greeks used matted animal hair or animal skins to protect their feet, beginning around the eighth century BC.

The most important function of socks was to protect the feet in cold weather from frostbite. In that role, they could be lifesaving.

By the second century AD, Romans improved on the basic concept. Rather than using animal skins, they began using knitted fabrics. Those new socks proved softer and more fitted than their predecessors.

A pair of socks excavated from an Egyptian burial site is one of the oldest examples in existence. They were created between 300 and 420 AD, using a precursor of today’s knitting that used only a single needle.

The split toe style implies they were meant to be worn with sandals. Picture that for a moment – a Roman warrior wearing the style of countless Florida men today.

As you might think, socks were time-consuming to create in the era before machine knitting. That meant only the wealthy wore them. Most people made do with simple cloths wrapped around their feet. Surprisingly, these simple footwraps, worn with boots, remained in use by some Eastern European armies up to the beginning of the 21st century.

In Europe, holy men wore socks known as puttees to signify purity, beginning around 500 AD.

A Word About the Word

Where does the word “sock” come from? It’s derived from the Old English socc, meaning a light slipper. That in turn comes from the Latin soccus, meaning “a light, low-heeled shoe.”

Socks Rising

In the Middle Ages, socks were upwardly mobile – literally. They became longer to cover the lower part of the leg. Of course, elastic didn’t exist at the time, so that led to garters to prevent them from falling down.

In 1589, the advent of machine knitting brought socks to the masses. A knitting machine could produce socks six times faster than hand knitting. Mass production made them affordable and accessible to all.

Socks were traditionally made from silk, cotton or wool. In 1938, the invention of nylon led to socks crafted from blended fabrics, a practice that continues to this day. The natural materials help wick moisture away from the foot, while the nylon increases durability.

In the 20th century, sock production became big business with many textile mills throughout the country producing them. With more than 100 mills employing more than 7,000 people, Fort Payne, Alabama became known as the “Sock Capital of the World.”

Lower trade tariffs later led to Chinese companies overtaking the Fort Payne mills in production volume. The Alabama city still lays claim to the title of “Sock Capital of the U.S.A.”

Sock Styles

From their origins, socks have been made in varied lengths. Today, no-show, low-cut and ankle socks are close to the original styles. No-show socks give the appearance of not wearing socks at all. Low-cut and ankle socks are popular with runners and other athletes.

Socks that rise higher on the calf, such as quarter-length and crew socks are excellent choices for hiking and other outdoor activities. Over-the-calf socks are best suited from business and formal wear.

Knee-high socks are common in sports such as football or baseball, as well as a mandatory part of some school uniforms.

Sock Fashion

Over the years, socks have gone from simple utilitarian items to fashionable accessories. Brightly colored socks were an early status symbol. With the advent of modern machine embroidery and printing processes, socks became a medium for self-expression.

Just about any popular image today, from Betty Boop to Mickey Mouse to the Punisher can be found on a pair of socks. You can wear the logos of your favorite sports teams, bands, businesses or nonprofit organizations on custom printed socks.

Seasonal and holiday socks are especially popular, with witches and black cats on orange socks for Halloween, or green Christmas trees on red socks as examples. Really, you can celebrate just about anything you want on a sock today.

Promo Socks

Which brings us to custom promotional socks. Whether it’s a holiday theme, a company logo or a favored saying, you can order custom promo socks to help any cause you desire. Why not honor Dad on Father’s Day with socks printed with the kids’ names and even pictures?

On a bigger scale, socks make terrific promo giveaways for employees, customers or conventions and trade shows. If you’re an athletic shoe store, offer your customers free socks with your logo imprinted on them with every shoe purchase. Your name won’t be on the shoes, but if they have the socks, they’ll remember where they bought them.

Trade shows and conferences also are fertile ground for giveaway socks. While just about everyone else is giving away the usual pens, keychains and the like, you can give prospects a nice warm pair of socks. With your logo printed on them, of course.

They’re a lot more memorable than the 427th ink pen someone’s been handed the same day. It’s all about what makes a good impression. Socks make a great one!

If you’re interested in giving promotional socks a try, call or email us today to find out more. We’re foot soldiers in the business!

Rick Cundiff

Rick Cundiff

Content Director, Blogger

Rick Cundiff spent 15 years as a newspaper journalist before joining TJM Promos. He has been researching and writing about promotional products for more than 10 years. He believes in the Oxford comma, eradicating the word "utilize," and Santa Claus.