English Heritage Launches First National Socks and Sandals Day (8 July) as Controversial Fashion Trend Gains a New Following

  • We are encouraging people to try the polarising pairing on 8 July and share their snaps on social media #SocksandSandalsDay
  • Free entry to Roman sites for those who share photos of themselves wearing socks and sandals on 8 July
  • A survey has revealed that 18–24 year olds lead the revival

a photograpjh of one male and two females wearing socks and sandals next to a historic wall

It may be considered the ultimate fashion faux pas, but English Heritage is calling on the nation to forego the sartorial sensibilities of the 21st Century and be inspired by the Romans as we launch the first Socks and Sandals Day today (Friday 8 July 2022) to mark the 1900th anniversary of the commencement of the building of Hadrian’s Wall. Anyone who shares a snap of themselves on social media today sporting the socks and sandals look can also spend this new national day enjoying – for free – one of English Heritage’s Roman sites; they’ll also be in with a chance of winning a pair of special Roman-themed socks designed by artist Luke Edward Hall.

Although in the Roman period socks and sandals could well have been worn as a matter of practicality, today they are considered by the majority to be a crime against fashion. A YouGov survey commissioned by English Heritage has revealed that, in spite of their rising popularity with celebrities (such as Bella Hadid and Justin Bieber) and fashion writers at The Times and Vogue, 73% of UK adults would not sport the socks and sandals combo, although 24% of men said they would dip their toes in to the twosome. However, it is 18-24 year olds who are leading socks and sandals into the future of fashion with 32% saying they would strut out proudly, compared to just 12% of 45-54 year olds – the most reluctant age group.

Perhaps to protect their feet from the cold English weather, Roman socks, called ‘udones’, were made either of pieced together cloth or woollen yarn using a type of knitting called ‘nalbinding’ or a method which looks similar to netting called ‘sprang’, and sometimes had open toes and heels. There is evidence of socks on Hadrian’s Wall where a list written to one of the fort’s inhabitants on a tablet details a package of clothing, including socks and sandals. But this trend also stretched across the Roman Empire; a sock from Antinopolis, a city founded at an older Egyptian village by the Roman emperor Hadrian in AD130, is so well preserved that it still shows the impression of the leather thong of the sandal from when it was last worn nearly 2,000 years ago. Figures of feet wearing both of these items adorned objects including the handles of razors and knives, such as those found during archaeology at Housesteads Roman Fort in Northumberland and in the River Tees at Piercebridge.

Frances McIntosh, English Heritage’s Collections Curator for Hadrian’s Wall, said: “Socks and sandals have seen a resurgence of late with celebrities like David Beckham and Rihanna donning this previously controversial trend, but it might be surprising to many that we can actually trace our penchant for comfort and style right back to the Romans. From care packages of woolly socks sent to shivering soldiers on Hadrian’s Wall, to the fashion of sandals from Rome, wearing the unlikely pair together should come as no surprise. After all, if fashion is cyclical then here comes 122 AD!

We hope members of the public will be inspired by the Romans and join us this Socks and Sandals Day by sharing their best socks and sandals looks on social media and then joining us – for free – at one of our Roman sites. Birkenstocks, gladiators, snazzy socks – we can’t wait to see them on social media!”

On 8 July, those who share a photo of themselves on social media wearing socks and sandals in advance of visiting us will receive free entry – that same day – to these Roman sites:

• Aldborough Roman Town, North Yorkshire
• Birdoswald Roman Fort – Hadrian’s Wall, Cumbria
• Chesters Roman Fort – Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
• Corbridge Roman Town – Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
• Chysauster Ancient Village, Cornwall
• Housesteads Roman Fort – Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
• Lullingstone Roman Villa, Kent
• Portchester Castle, Hampshire
• Wroxeter Roman City, Shropshire

Please note, while socks and sandals are great for everyday wear, when visiting historic sites that can include natural and uneven surfaces, we recommend wearing sturdy footwear with a good tread.

Share socks and sandals snaps with @EnglishHeritage on social media using the hashtag #SocksandSandalsDay and be in with a chance of winning a pair of socks designed by artist Luke Edward Hall.


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