Wind socks, most commonly spelled as one word, and sometimes referred to as wind vanes, are flexible cones covered in fabric, used to show the speed and direction of wind. Wind socks are mostly used in airports or airfields, but can also be found on the sides of highways, chemical plants to determine the direction of gas leaks or prevent pollution, farms, and on golf courses. The wind sock’s exact origins are unknown, but their usage dates back to centuries ago in Japan and Rome.

The Japanese Wind Sock:

One of the earliest known uses of the wind sock spans back to Japan during the Boys’ Day celebration, which took place on the fifth day of the fifth moon, in accordance with the Chinese Calendar. This annual event was to honor the males in Japanese families. Each household created a wind sock, out of paper or silk, for each male in their family. These wind socks were shaped like carp because carp were believed to symbolize strength, and it was the family’s wish that their sons too would grow strong. Usually the patriarch’s wind sock was black, while the eldest son yielded a black wind sock.

Although the colors and patterns of Japanese wind socks were symbolic, the patterns of wind socks today are actually quite important. Wind socks are orange with white stripes. The stripes actually add up to three knots a piece, except when the sock is fully extended. Fully extended windsocks demonstrate a speed of 15 knots or more.

Roman Wind Socks:

Unlike Japanese wind socks, Roman wind socks can be dated back to 150 A.D. where they were used as military banners. These wind socks were often attached to pieces that resembled the heads of animals, like dragons, wolves, and dogs.

Modern Wind Socks:

Although it hasn’t been factually determined, it is believed that today’s wind socks were inspired by 19th-century naval ship sails. Modern wind socks are made from either nylon or polyester and attached to wind sock poles. Wind socks are traditionally orange and used as airport and airfield guides or visual aids. They rise in the opposite direction from which the wind originates. If the wind sock is dropping, the wind speed is low, and if it is extended fully, then the wind is strong.

In conclusion, the date of the wind sock’s exact origin is unknown, but they were mainly used for decorative purposes, as flags for ceremonies or banners for war. Today, they are simple and effective tools for various industries, but mainly aviation. These assist with pilot safety by helping gauge the speed and direction of the wind. Hali-Brite manufactures an array of wind socks and wind cones, lighted or non-lighted, as well as solar powered. For more information about wind socks, contact us today.