Everyday Items That Have Been Changed Beyond Recognition


Have you ever wondered what everyday items used to look like years ago? Some things we use every day are so common that it’s hard to imagine what they looked like when they were first invented.

Take sunglasses, for example, which are used to block the sun and protect our eyes from harmful UV rays. Tinted lenses were first experimented with in the mid-18th century. What we recognize as “modern sunglasses,” became popular in the early 1900s. However, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, has on display sunglasses from hundreds of years earlier!

Inuit snow goggles (left)

The sunglasses on the left, or snow goggles, were created by the Inuit who lived on Alaska’s west coast. The goggles reportedly came to Canada with the Inuit some 800 years ago. Hand-carved from bone or wood, they had slits to protect their eyes from sunlight reflected off snow and ice.

Here are some other everyday items that have evolved beyond recognition over the years!


First known socks (left), on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK) Photo Credit: David Jackson

Today, we have many different types of socks. There are fuzzy socks for the winter, low-cut socks, knee-highs, and even toe socks for when we want to stand out. The first socks appeared in Egypt between 300-500 AD. Their strange appearance with split toes is because the Egyptians wore them with sandals. Excavated from Oxyrhynchus on the Nile, they are now displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK.

Toilet Paper:

Toilet paper is an everyday staple we can’t live without. The use of toilet paper for sanitary purposes was first recorded in China in 589 CE. It was only mass-produced for sales in the 14th century. Modern toilet paper was manufactured in 1857 and sold in packages of paper squares. The first roll dispensers, similar to what dispensers look like today, appeared in the 1880s in Britain.

Washing Machine: 

The first washing machine appeared in the 1850s, but it was far different than today’s machines. It was a rotary washing machine, patented by Hamilton Smith. Other machines could wash 10-15 garments at the same time but, to use them, you needed to harness the power of 10 mules!

An early washing machine (left)

Development continued and in 1874, William Blackstone (Indiana, USA) built another version of the washing machine as a birthday present for his wife. It removed and washed away dirt from clothes, and was the first washing machine designed for home use.


Although the first mention of the drill has been linked to the ancient Roman Empire, the first drill was invented in the mid-19th century.

Drill from the mid-19th century (left)

Life Jacket:

The life jacket is one of the most used life-saving devices in the world, but this was not always the case. In the early 20th century, life jackets were not popular because they were so uncomfortable to wear.

Early 20th-century life jacket (left)

Roller Skates: 

The first mention of roller skates was in 1743, but they were quite different than those used today.

The earliest version of roller skates (left)

The old ones were extremely cumbersome to wear and difficult to control. The model we are familiar with appeared in the late 1970s to train hockey players indoors.

Thank you to MyHeritage user, Olga Mantzur, for researching this fascinating topic.

Which early invention do you think is most similar to today’s version? Let us know in the comments below.

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