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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9238
JPY
USD
119.51
GBP
USD
0.6614
CAD
USD
1.2119
INR
USD
63.562

Rates may not be current.