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Natural fibers (cotton-wool) when laden with moisture, compress more easily than synthetic fibers (acrylic, CoolMax®). Thus, cotton and wool socks have a higher resistance to sweat transport of wicking. When wet, acrylic fibers swell less than 5% while cotton swells 45% and wool swells 35%. Swollen fibers that are compressed reduce air spaces and thus reduce moisture transport. Thus, cotton socks exhibit a 2.4 times higher resistance to moisture transport.
When combining hydrophobic qualities and mechanical fiber qualities, the fibers that wick moisture best are, from best to worst: CoolMax®, acrylic, polypropylene, wool, cotton.
In studies conducted on runners wearing synthetic fiber socks vs. cotton socks, other significant differences surfaced regarding preferability of fiber composition. Cotton fiber socks, when wet, were observed to stretch and lose their shape inside the shoe. This led to bunching and wrinkling of the socks compared to acrylic fiber socks. After multiple wash-wear cycles, cotton fiber socks were noted to become abrasive leading to potential irritation on the skin surface of the athlete.
In some sport applications, the thermal-insulation quality of the fiber composition becomes critical. New synthetic fibers composed of a hollow core material known as Thermax¨ have been shown to effectively insulate against heat loss. Natural wool fiber socks are still preferable in the outdoor industry because of their remarkable ability to maintain heat while wet. However, the abrasive nature of 100% wool fiber socks has required the blending of wool into other high-tech synthetic fiber materials.

Nylon - dreaming of silk
The catch phrase that appeared during the 1930s, "a fiber that is made from coal, air, water, finer than a spider's thread, more beautiful than silk, and stronger than steel" had an enormous impact on people of that time.
Nylon was first used in socks in the 1950s. The reason why it was said that "it was women and socks that became more powerful after the war" was mainly because of the appearance of nylon during this time.
Nylon is an amazing fiber with around ten times more strength than cotton, is light and beautiful, and rich in elasticity. However, it has its shortcomings such as it has a low water absorption rate, easily causes static electricity, and decreases in strength if exposed to the sunlight for extended periods.
Often times it is woven into the sock in order to increase its strength.
Stockings also used to be weak since silk was used in the past, so once the inexpensive and strong nylon came about, it became popular among women.
Acrylic - the fiber that aimed to mimic the texture of wool
Acrylic was produced with the aim to mimic the texture of wool.
Though it falls behind nylon and polyester in strength, in addition to its thickness and softness, it is often used in socks for its dyeability.
Cotton and its high water absorption rate with acrylic and its high emission rate is the most commonly used combination in socks in Japan.
Polyester - an all purpose fiber reproduction of cotton
In the past, although ironing and sewing sock holes were chores that had to be done without fail, it was the advancement of polyester that relieved people from ironing and the arrival of nylon from sewing sock holes.
Polyester is durable, thick, and wrinkle resistant. Also, since it does not have a slippery feel to it, which is a common characteristic found in synthetics, and has a nice texture, it has been widely used in the apparel business.

Polyurethane - similar to rubber with a higher level of performance
Polyurethane is a ground breaking fabric that is extremely rich in elasticity. If you pull, it stretches like rubber, and if you let go, it immediately pulls back. Therefore, clothing that uses polyurethane fits well on the body yet because it does not tighten the body like rubber, there is no feeling of discomfort when worn.
It is widely used in stretch fabric, sportswear, and stockings.
Polyurethane was first used in 1970. The arrival of polyurethane brought about a more fitted sock. Nowadays it is perhaps more difficult to find socks without polyurethane. Socks are double layered with the face yarn and under thread. Polyurethane is used in the under thread, as a key hidden element. The recently well talked about pressure socks is also one of many achievements of polyurethane


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