News / Economy

'Made in America' Socks Get a Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Marketi
X
Julie Taboh
August 27, 2014 10:14 PM
Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.

America has lost 3.8 million manufacturing jobs since 2000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The apparel industry was especially hard hit, as more and more U.S. clothing companies turned to low wage workers in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Yet many of those brands advertised themselves as being ‘all-American.’ That didn’t sit well with Joshua Steinman, Turner Swicegood and Jay Gaul. The three friends wanted to create something that was actually what it purports to be; an all-American product that is made entirely in the USA by American workers.

From Left to Right, Jay Gaul, Joshua Steinman, Turner Swicegood (J. Taboh - VOA)From Left to Right, Jay Gaul, Joshua Steinman, Turner Swicegood (J. Taboh - VOA)
x
From Left to Right, Jay Gaul, Joshua Steinman, Turner Swicegood (J. Taboh - VOA)
From Left to Right, Jay Gaul, Joshua Steinman, Turner Swicegood (J. Taboh - VOA)

“We don’t really make a lot of things in this country anymore," Swicegood said. "It’s a service-based economy; it’s a financial-based economy. There’s not a lot of things that you can touch and feel that are being made by American hands and so we wanted to reach back to that tradition and be a part of reviving that.”

So three years ago the young entrepreneurs formed a small company to make luxury American dress socks with the finest quality materials available in the U.S., in vibrant, eye-catching colors and simple designs for the modern man - and woman.

Today, their one-of-a-kind creations are being manufactured at an American knitting mill in North Carolina, which is just one of a seven-step manufacturing process that has been integral to the making of their socks, and the fulfillment of their collective dreams.

Steinman, an active duty U.S. naval officer, came up with the idea of luxury socks during a tour of duty overseas.

“For a while I had to work wearing a suit and tie every day and I wanted to wear something that was going to make me stand out, so I made sure to always wear flashy socks to work,” he said.

So he got the reputation as the person who always wore exciting socks and came to be known as “the sock guy.”

But he didn’t actually like any of the socks that he wore because he said, they kept falling down.

“I felt they weren’t made especially well,” he said, “so after that assignment was over, I started thinking about what would it mean for me to get socks that I really did like, and that was the genesis of Penance Hall.”
 
Two guiding principles drive the company’s philosophy.
 
Their socks have to be made with the finest quality materials and, although they could be produced more cheaply overseas, have to be made in America.

So every component that goes into their product - from the sheep that provide the ultra-fine wool, to the custom-formulated dyes, to the factories that weave them into socks - is all American.

Even the boxes that the socks are packaged in are made in the U.S.A., in a factory in Pennsylvania.

“So we paired the best machines in the world with the best fibers in the world and it just so happens that we were able to do both of those things in America,” said Steinman.

The partners financed the bulk of their enterprise through an Internet site called Kickstarter, which allows people to crowd-fund businesses.
 
“On Kickstarter we said, ‘This is what we’re trying to make,’” Steinman said.  “We told the story of the socks and then gave people the opportunity to pledge a small amount of money in exchange for socks in the future.”
 
Their message resonated with the global online audience and - with help from a slick promotional video - they raised over $50,000 in a single month; about $13,000 more than their stated goal, making it one of the most successful fashion projects in Kickstarter history, according to the partners.

The funds allowed them to produce 5,000 pairs of socks.

That first run of Penance Hall dress socks is ready to be shipped to about 1,000 customers worldwide who pledged during the Kickstarter campaign and new customer orders will be filled in the coming weeks.

“We wanted to maintain a strong brand identity that was centered in American production,” said Swicegood, “and we wanted to maintain control of the company by not taking outside investment…instead by doing crowd funding via Kickstarter, we were allowed to do that.”

“It was really exciting to see that we had customers from all across the U.S. but then also all across the world who are going to get these socks in the next couple of months,” he added.
 
If their pricey socks sell well online, the partners hope to expand their clothing line and make them available in stores in the U.S. within the next 10 years.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8957
JPY
USD
120.93
GBP
USD
0.6393
CAD
USD
1.2199
INR
USD
63.470

Rates may not be current.