Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Socks and Sandals, Roman Egypt-style

Some of my favourite extant historical garments are the kind that make you do a double take; the kind of garments that don't normally come to mind when thinking of clothing in a given historical era. These were, for me, one of those pieces. These, ladies and gentlemen, are the Egyptian toe socks of Oxyrynchus. (drumroll).

These red woolen socks date from the 4th to 5th century A.D., and were found in Egypt, near the ruins of the Hellenistic town of Oxyrynchus (yes, the same place as the Oxyrynchus Papyri came from, if anyone was wondering). I love to imagine who might have worn these fabulous socks over 1500 years ago. The split toe is made so they can be worn under a pair of sandals.*
They were constructed with a technique we now refer to as nalbinding- a precursor to knitting which involves a single large sewing needle.

*In fact, in Japan today split toe socks are very popular, and are made to be worn with traditional geta sandals.

Source: The V&A website's write-up on these socks and their construction, available here.


  1. Those are super cute! They remind me of Japanese tabi. :)

    1. Yes, Japanese tabi are exactly what I was thinking of too when I first saw these socks (but I didn't know what they were called)! :)