It’s quiz time. What is the difference between a sock and a stocking? Is it:

  1. a) The material?
    b) The opacity?
    c) The length?
    d) The gender of the customer?

    If you answered c, congratulations! The difference between a sock and a stocking does indeed come down to length. However, there’s still a lot more to know about socks, stockings, hosiery and other sock-related terminology.

    To help you pull your socks up when it comes to knowing your clocks from your garters, the sock experts at Corgi have compiled a helpful glossary and guide.


Socks, Stockings & Hosiery

These three nouns are often used interchangeably, however there are some key differences which you should know about.

Although stockings are more typically associated with female wearers today, men have worn stockings for centuries. Stockings differ from socks in length; while socks traditionally reached the mid-calf, stockings rose to cover the knee. In the past, the vogue for breeches left a great deal of lower leg exposed. This style required a covering such as stockings to protect the shins from the elements. As breeches fell out of favour and were replaced by long trousers, male stockings also became a thing of the past.

Hosiery, meanwhile, encompasses socks, stockings and any other undergarment worn on the legs. The etymology of the word is rooted in the Old English hosa, a word referring to leggings.

Hand Linking & Machine Linking

If you’ve ever researched how socks are made, you may be familiar with this important sock terminology. Hand and machine linking are two key sock manufacturing methods, which specifically involve the manner in which the toes are added to the sock to complete the garment.

Whether you favour spotted socks or striped footwear, your preferred hosiery is made using circular knitting. This means that socks are knitted in a spiral to form a tube-like shape. When the body of the sock has been knitted, the final stage of linking (adding the toe of the sock) must be completed.

In hand linking, an individual craftsperson carefully matches every single stitch in the body of the sock to its equivalent stitch in the toe of the sock, creating a (literally) seamless finish. Although this is considered a time-consuming approach to sock manufacturing, the end result is second to none. This is the approach we use in our production process.

Machine linking, by contrast, uses mechanical production lines to attach the toes of socks. This form of sock manufacturing uses one of two techniques: rosso or melo. Although mechanised processes are faster, machine linked socks lack precision. This means the end product will have a significant ridge between the body of the sock and the toe.

Clocks and Garters

Do you know your clocks from your garters? These two old-fashioned terms relate to different areas of a sock.

Historically garters were a separate accessory, used to hold up men’s socks - just as they are used in women’s hosiery today. In the past men’s garters took the form of bands placed around the top of the sock to prevent it from falling down. Today, the garter of a sock refers to the elasticated band around the ankle that ensures they remain vertical.

Clocks, by contrast, are an aesthetic addition to a sock. Around 1000AD socks became fashion items as well as practical garments. To display their wealth and status the nobility would splash out on the finest knits, designs, colours and patterns. In the 1600s it became fashionable for the upper echelons to don socks featuring an ornamental design or figure on the side, near the ankle. This is known as a clock.

Use your new sock knowledge to source exceptional footwear. Browse the Corgi online store to discover hand linked socks in a plethora of shades, styles and designs.