The History of Windsocks

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There is something about a windsock that seems simple, but deceptively so. On closer inspection, a windsock can seem like a stroke of genius. This is a tubular piece of fabric carefully designed in such a way that it can provide a surprisingly revelatory insight into wind direction and speed.

Given the very clever design of a windsock, you could understandably wonder who invented windsocks. To learn that, we should look back several centuries to trace the genesis of the windsock.

It’s a fair carp: the Japanese origins of windsocks

The earliest use of windsocks has been attributed to the Japanese. Centuries ago, they strung carp-shaped flags known as koinobori on a tall bamboo pole to celebrate what was then called “Boys’ Day”. This celebration yearly took place on the fifth day of the Chinese calendar’s fifth moon.

On the day, each household would fly one koinobori for the father and another of these windsocks – as they practically were – for each of his sons. Usually, here, each koinobori would be its own colour, with black often favoured for the father’s and reddish for the eldest son’s.

However, these windsocks were primitive by modern standards. The Japanese made these windsocks out of paper or, where a family’s affluence allowed, cotton.

From the Roman period to the modern day

As early as the year 150 A.D., the Romans also used windsocks – in their case, as military banners. Given the vivid hues that the Japanese were thought to give their windsocks, it’s obvious why the Romans would have seen an appeal in using windsocks to help in distinguishing various military groups. The Romans are indeed believed to have put windsocks to this purpose.

However, it could be argued that the modern history of windsocks really sprung from the nineteenth-century naval use of “wind-sails”. At sea, these sails were used to allow oxygen to be funnelled down to the ship’s lower compartments.

Each wind-sail resembled a broad tube or funnel made from canvas. It is thought that this design inspired the Western world’s first “proper” windsock, which was later revamped to allow its usage by aeroplanes. These planes could now benefit from help in determining wind direction and speed, as these refined windsocks could provide a rough approximation of both.

Today, windsocks are available in many different types for a wide range of sectors. At Windsocks Direct, we serve the aviation, energy, military and meteorology sectors, to mention just a few – and high-profile clients that have trusted us with supplying windsocks include BAE Systems and DHL.

Here is a detailed overview of many types of British-made windsock that we can supply. If you want more information, we would welcome you phoning us on 020 8798 3131.

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