Socks have been around as a form of footwear for thousands of years. They initially started as matted animal hair shaped to fit inside a shoe or around the foot and ankle. The ancient Greeks were known to have used this technique as far back as 750 BC. The Romans innovated with thick fabrics that were wrapped around the legs to form a shaped sock.
Knitting was invented in Egypt during the 12th century AD by nomadic
sheep herders who would create fabric through the simple use of
knotting wool yarn using straight twigs. The technique had
advantages over traditional weaving and allowed any shepherd and his
wife to produce a more valuable product instead of just selling
their wool. The practice quickly spread from Egypt throughout the
Middle East and into Europe. Muslim knitters in Spain started
developing a variety of knitting stitches that allowed them to
create shaped fabrics, the sock being one of the first knitted items
of clothing to be produced.
In 1589, William Lee of Calverton in England invented the first
knitting machine which overnight transformed knitted garments into
something almost everyone could afford. Knitting is credited with
transforming the textile industry and became the precursor to the
In China and Japan during the first millennium BC puppets were being
intricately carved from wood. Puppets were being used in India by
the 11th century as devices to give morality stories a visual impact
that words couldn't convey. Puppets have been used to represent
good, evil, jealousy, and greed without running the risk of
identifying individuals who might exact revenge against the
storyteller. In ancient India puppets were constructed from carved
sticks, and were often elaborately decorated. Sock puppets were
likely invented when knitted socks became more widely in use.
As the puritan movement in England gained momentum, traditional
puppetry was banned along with all other forms of theater. During
these years in England and France, radicals would organize secret
theater shows and used puppets, as they were easier to transport and
conceal than sets, costumes, and large bands of actors. Socks and
very basic stages made of suspended fabric hung behind a table
became a popular way of getting around the ban. It was about this
time that the puppet character Punch was created.
After the return of the monarchy and the end of puritan times Punch
and Judy, puppets became more commonly associated with glove or hand
puppets. Children used discarded socks that could be decorated to
mimic a hand puppet.
Recently the term sock puppet is also used to describe a fictitious
identity used online to promote a particular point of view or defend
a person who is seen as controversial.