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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8769
    JPY
    USD
    107.28
    GBP
    USD
    0.6842
    CAD
    USD
    1.2528
    INR
    USD
    66.384

    Rates may not be current.