The latest exhibition at the Bata Shoe Museum is entitled Socks: Between You and Your Shoes. The exhibition features approximately 40 rare pieces, including a sock dating back to the thirteenth century and made from human hair. There is a replica of the socks worn by the Otzi the Iceman (5,300 years ago). Knitting was first developed between 500 and 1200 C.E. in the Middle or Near East and on show is a 900 year old sock excavated in Egypt. Clothing by knitting spread along the Mediteranean into Spain before it became popular in Europe. By the 17th century knit socks were a staple in many people's wardrobes. Socks were also made of material that had been sewn together. The Ancient Romans wore socks made from sewn wool cloth, the Uzbek's of Western Asia traditionally wore boot socks of sewn leather and today in Japan many people still wear crisp cotton tabi with their zori. Sock-making was one of the first skills to be mechanized. In the late 16th century, Englishman William Lee invented the stocking frame, a machine that allowed socks to be knit at faster speeds than hand-kniktting. Over the centuries, refinements were made to his concept and today all kinds of socks, from thick sports socks to whisper-thin hose are factory fabricated. Other highlights in the exhibition include linen socks worn by King Charles I (1600-1649), Napoleon Bonaparte's socks worn during his exile on St. Helena, exquisite pale pink silk stockings worn by Queen Victoria during her reign and teeny, tiny hand-knitted socks made by talented knitter Althea Crome (Merback) who created all of the clothing worn by Coraline, the figurine in the stop-motion film by the same name.
Socks: Between You and Your Shoes will be on view until April 2011.