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Tube socks are socks that are knitted in a single long tube, so that they have no clearly delineated heel and ankle region. As a result, they are a one-size-fits-all design, with people purchasing different lengths depending on how large their feet are and how far up the leg they want their socks to reach. Numerous clothing stores sell these socks, especially athletic stores, and they can also be ordered from various manufacturers. In addition, they are relatively easy to knit, and they can be a fun beginning knitter pattern.
Many people associate tube socks with athletics, especially 1960s athletics, when striped ones became very popular. Athletes tend to wear them with a low percentage of cotton, since cotton does little to wick moisture and can easily cause blisters. The socks can be found in many types of fibers, including synthetic materials. Many manufacturers make them available in different weights as well, with heavy socks for winter wear in cold climates, and more lightweight versions for use as dress socks or for summer wear.
Although true tube socks are knitted in the shape of a tube, some manufacturers make versions with a knitted heel and a more heavily padded sole, for comfort. These socks share the ribbed cuff of traditional tube sock, which prevents the sock from sliding down the leg. As the socks and cuff gradually lose elasticity, however, they will start to slip when worn, as the ribs become stretched out.
Some people wear these socks simply because they are comfortable, and because they provide a layer of insulation in cold weather. Others view theem as a sort of fashion statement, and one may see tube socks on certain groups in various communities, who wear them as part of an overall style or look. In the late 1990s, for example, many skaters began adopting them as “old school socks,” sporting them along with other skate clothes.
Because tube socks are so simple to knit, the basic pattern has probably been made for centuries. Certainly during the First World War, an astounding number were produced as many countries contributed knitting to the war effort. The Red Cross, for example, encouraged both men and women at home to knit socks for soldiers in the trenches, since a solid pair of socks could insulate feet from extreme cold and painful blisters. Many knitters started making them because they were a fast knit and because a poorly turned heel can cause pain in the wearer, so these socks would have been more comfortable.