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Report | April 2015

Socks future looks up

Only 2 per cent of population in India wears socks and therefore, 98 per cent market is yet to be exploited, reveals R Senthil Kumar and S Sundaresan.
A sock is an item of clothing worn on the feet. The foot is among the heaviest producers of sweat in the body, as it is able to produce over a pint of perspiration per day. Socks help to absorb this sweat and draw it to areas where air can evaporate the perspiration. In cold environments, socks decrease the risk of frostbite. Socks have evolved over the centuries from the earliest models which were made from animal skins gathered up and tied around the ankles. India´s present export of socks is around Rs 50 crore per annum, which could go up to Rs 100 crore within the next two years. A survey conducted recently show that only 2 per cent of population in India wears socks and therefore, 98 per cent market is yet to be exploited, while consumption of socks in most advanced countries is extremely high. This paper will emphasise the science of socks in terms of raw material, manufacturing, finishing and recent developments.

Fibres used in socks
Socks come in a variety of fibres and fibre combinations. Commonly used fibres include cotton, wool, nylon, acrylic, polyester, olefin, and spandex. Occasionally, luxury fibres such as silk, linen, cashmere, or mohair will be blended for softness, but this adds to the cost. Synthetic fibres, particularly nylon, are strong and make an excellent choice for socks which commonly receive hard wear. Besides durability, synthetic fibres add shrink resistance. Socks may be 100 per cent nylon or reinforced at the toe and heel with this durable fibre. Acrylic fibres are long wearing but also add a cushiony softness and bulk to socks made from them. Acrylic fibres are commonly found in socks for casual wear. Olefin fibre has become important for outdoor sport socks. Olefin fibres do not absorb moisture; however, both olefin and acrylic have wicking ability. This means that moisture travels along the fibre away from the skin.

Some blends of socks are made so the fibres with wicking ability are next to the skin and the absorbent fibre forms an outer layer. This accomplishes the same result as wearing two socks, but is less bulky. Stretch fibres, including spandex, elastic or rubber, are present in many socks. They help socks stay up and hug the leg and foot. Spandex is used extensively to provide support in the ankle, calf, and arch areas, especially in sport socks. These socks stay in place. While elastic or rubber yarns sometimes are used, they deteriorate from body oils and do not last as long as spandex stretch yarns. Also, elastic in sock tops binds more than spandex.

Finishing of socks
Few finishes are applied to socks. However, those that are perform important functions. Anti-static finishes are desirable on socks made from synthetic fibres. They help prevent trousers from clinging to the socks and lint from collecting on them during wear and laundering. A more common finish for socks is one that resists the buildup of odor and bacteria. The feet are among the three areas of the body that contain large sweat glands (the other two are the armpits and the palms of the hands). Feet wrapped in a layer of socks and shoes for long periods become warm and perspire. Although perspiration is odorless and 99 per cent water, it provides a perfect medium for bacteria to grow. The bacteria cause foot odor. Anti-bacterial agents in the fibre reduce bacteria growth and resulting odor. Most anti-bacterial finishes used today are durable and remain after repeated launderings.

Sock knitting and quality
Socks are knitted, giving them stretch and the ability to conform to the foot and leg. Generally, a st

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