This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Hose. According to the most reliable authority the use of hose or leg-gins, comprising in one piece all the leg-covering below the waist, originated in Europe during the Middle Ages. The hose was afterwards separated into breeches and stockings, which last, in the early part of the sixteenth century, was made of cloth, even for the use of kings and queens. The hose of the Middle Ages generally covered the person from the waist to the toe. By and by when large puffs around the hips came into fashion, the name of stockings, or nether stock, was assigned to the lower part of the tight leg covering, the loose puffs being termed "breeches." In this manner the old and much used word "hose" came to be retained only as an equivalent for stockings. In present use (whether singular or plural) hose denotes a covering for the lower part of the leg. It is, however, a commercial word, and applies properly only to the article as exhibited for sale in dry good stores. Thus a customer may purchase " hose," but after having put them on they become stockings or socks. That which women wear are stockings; men wear socks - though both when purchased, are hose.
In the manufacture of hose they are either "common cut," "seamless," "full-fashioned" or "full regular," for the definition of which terms see Hosiery and Knit Goods. Balbriggan hose is a brown or unbleached variety of which the threads are unusually hard, having very little nap or wooly surface. Lisie-thread hose are knit of an extremely fine hard-twisted thread, made of superior cotton, treated in a peculiar manner. Cotton fibre possesses naturally a waxy surface, which, if not destroyed in manufacture, gives a brilliant appearance to the fabric. "Carding" impairs the effect, but " combing " conserves it. Carding leaves the fibres in a jumble and cris-cross, while combing lays them straight, side by side. The latter process secures a stronger yarn and a more glossy one, though expensive. The spinning of lisle thread is done under moisture, thus forming a compact and solid yarn, with a surface capable of exhibiting the colors applied to it with a brilliancy unapproached by a softer yarn. Lisle thread also makes a more elastic hose, the threads sliding more easily in the mesh. If properly made and of good material, lisle hose are very durable; but like all other fabrics, the genuine article is often counterfeited and imitated. Good goods always possess s silky brilliancy, and a gritty linenish feel. There are no lisle goods made in in this country except a few "common cut," at about $1.25 per dozen, the fine goods being imported from Europe. British hose are so called from being imported from England. They are a firm, stout-made, half-hose, stained a yellow color which does not fade or bleach out. Until lately the best cotton hose knitted in the United States averaged in price from $2.00 to $2.50 per dozen. Our manufactures can knit finer hose, but heretofore it has been impossible to sell them in competition with the imported goods. The finest silk hose in the world is now made by three different companies in this country. Ladies' goods range in price from $18 to $36 a dozen. All hosiery is to be judged by the fineness of the thread and the closeness of the texture, which may be partly appreciated by weighing, as it were, the articles in the hand. In ribbed hose a deception is sometimes practiced, against which it is necessary to guard. The spaces between the ribs, which ought to be formed by an inversion of the stitch, contains no stitch at all, but an open range of threads, pervious to the weather and utterly destitute of durability. As ribs of stockings exposed to sale are necessarily almost in contact, the fault cannot be detected without introducing the hand and opening the tissue, when it will be instantly apparent. The standard length of ladies' hose is twenty-seven inches, though frequently in cheap foreign stuff it will be found they have been reduced to twenty-five and even twenty-four inches. In numbering hose one " size " is one-half inch in the length of the foot. Between this fact and the shoe sizes some confusion arises in people's minds, since in shoe sizes a full size means a difference of one-third of an inch in length. This is not expressed as one-third but in even numbers, six, seven, eight, nine and ten. These figures do not represent the actual length of the foot, as do hose sizes. Ladies' hose range in size from eight to eleven. Men's sizes run from nine to twelve, representing the actual length of the foot. [See Appendix "A."]