The Ancient Romans First Committed the Sartorial Crime of Wearing Socks with Sandals, Archaeological Evidence Suggests

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Of all sar­to­r­i­al crimes, none require quite so much brazen­ness — or sim­ple obliv­i­ous­ness — as the wear­ing of socks with san­dals. But unlike most wide­ly dis­dained fash­ions, which usu­al­ly tend to have enjoyed their hey­day two or three decades ago, the socks-and-san­dals com­bi­na­tion has deep his­tor­i­cal roots. And those roots, so 21st-cen­tu­ry researchers have found out, go much deep­er than most of us may have expect­ed. “Evi­dence from an archae­o­log­i­cal dig has found,” wrote Tele­graph sci­ence cor­re­spon­dent Richard Alleyne in 2012, “that legion­naires wore socks with san­dals” — ancient Roman legion­naires, that is. “Rust on a nail from a Roman san­dal found in new­ly dis­cov­ered ruins in North York­shire appears to con­tain fibres which could sug­gest that a sock-type gar­ment was being worn.”

“You don’t imag­ine Romans in socks,” Alleyne quot­ed the archae­ol­o­gist head­ing the cul­tur­al her­itage team on site as say­ing,” but I am sure they would have been pret­ty keen to get hold of some as soon as autumn came along.”

As with any new dis­cov­ery about life in the past, this changes the way enthu­si­asts of the peri­od have gone about re-cre­at­ing their favorite ele­ments of it: take, for instance, her­itage edu­ca­tor and crafter Sal­ly Point­er. “Point­er has been enam­ored with the ancient world since she was a kid,” writes Atlas Obscu­ra’s Jes­si­ca Leigh Hes­ter, “when she cooked up plans for potions, devices, and craft projects — all with the goal of under­stand­ing how things came to be.”

Image by David Jack­son via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Look­ing to socks worn in ancient Egypt (see above), Point­er makes her own ver­sions of these “cheer­ful­ly striped” socks using a tech­nique called naal­bind­ing, “which is some­times con­sid­ered a pre­cur­sor to two-nee­dle knit­ting and involves loop­ing yarn on a sin­gle nee­dle,” and in this case mak­ing each sock­’s two toes sep­a­rate­ly and then join­ing them togeth­er. Should more evi­dence emerge about the tech­niques and styles of the socks Romans seem to have worn under their san­dals, Point­er and mak­ers like her will no doubt be the first to make use of them. But for now, we need only make one impor­tant revi­sion to the his­tor­i­cal record: “Britons may be famous for their lack of fash­ion sense and Ital­ians for their style,” as the sub-head­line of Alleyne’s piece puts it, “but it appears we may have inher­it­ed one of our biggest sar­to­r­i­al crimes from the Romans.”

via Tele­graph/Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Styl­ish 2,000-Year-Old Roman Shoe Found in a Well

Rome Reborn: Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Ancient Rome, Cir­ca 320 C.E.

Ani­ma­tion Gives You a Glimpse of What Life Was Like for Teenagers in Ancient Rome

The Ancient Egyp­tians Wore Fash­ion­able Striped Socks, New Pio­neer­ing Imag­ing Tech­nol­o­gy Imag­ing Reveals

How Women Got Dressed in the 14th & 18th Cen­turies: Watch the Very Painstak­ing Process Get Cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly Recre­at­ed

Get­ting Dressed Dur­ing World War I: A Fas­ci­nat­ing Look at How Sol­diers, Nurs­ers & Oth­ers Dressed Dur­ing the Great War

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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