People have been wearing socks since at least the 8th century, but socks really became popular at the beginning of the 19th century, when men began wearing trousers instead of breeches. (They had previously worn stockings but socks were easier to keep in place beneath a trouser leg.) By the 1840s they were being made with ribbed cuffs, so that they did not fall down. Men's socks were usually made of cotton, merino or silk.
Ownership & Use
These socks would have been worn during the day and would have added a flash of colour to the owner's appearance.Tartan stockings were particularly fashionable for women in the 1860s and were worn with matching petticoats. Tartan reappeared as a fashionable fabric during the mid 1880s and 1890s. Some garments copied authentic examples but others were fancy tartans that no one would recognise.
Technological improvements led to a great expansion in the stocking-making industry after 1850. This meant that socks could be manufactured in greater numbers. I. & R. Morley Ltd. was probably the largest firm in the 1890s, employing thousands of workers and with factories and warehouses in London and the provinces. By this time the company was producing knitted underwear and sports garments as well as socks and stockings.