Accessories 2011: Socks

Happy Feet: The colorful world of socks.

by John Jones

The latest NPD figures indicate that most men’s socks are bought at mass merchants—nearly 56 percent (in units) in the year ending May 2011. National chain and specialty stores come in next with about ten percent each. Seven percent were bought at off-price retailers. In fact, both chains and specialty stores appear to have taken sales away from mass merchants, whose share of the market was nearly 58 percent in 2010. Given mass’s focus on bundled athletic or neutral dress socks, upscale stores have a great opportunity to build business in color, fashion and performance.

Gold Toe Moretz’s PowerSox brand continued its sponsorship of extreme athletes, this time working with mountain climber Dave Hahn on his 13th Mt. Everest summit. Hahn holds the record for number of summits by a non-Sherpa climber, and wore performance-engineered merino wool heavy cushion boot socks for the climb, which he actually helped design. The company also entered into a licensing agreement for “The Debris Inhibitor”—a kind of sports spat. Soccer moms rejoice! The product helps minimize turf crumb rubber, etc., from getting into the back of the S.U.V. (Editor’s note: Gold Toe Moretz was acquired by Gildan Activewear earlier this year.)

The Sockwell collection, made by Goodhew, is a therapeutic line debuting this fall with two styles, graduated compression and relaxed fit, in six colors, including stripes. “Our goal with Sockwell is to craft therapeutic socks that combine natural, high performance yarns, cutting- edge knitting techniques, and a fresh eye for design and color,” according to Goodhew’s Mercedes Marchand. The graduated compression socks are designed for all-day wear, standing or sitting for prolonged periods or traveling: the socks minimize tired feet and legs and maximize circulation. A “Cashmerino”/bamboo blend keeps feet dry and at the perfect temperature.

Newcomer to the scene, Richer-Poorer socks offers bright styling and fun packaging for $12 retail and will be partnering with e-commerce trouser sensation Bonobos on a “Tame the Roll” campaign later this year.

Given this predilection for art and design, it’s no surprise that fashion sock makers like VK Nagrani, Pantherella, Punto, and Per Pedes are selling so well in upscale stores. In fact, Per Pedes has opened its first shop-in-shop…in a museum store in the Museo di Antioquia in Medellin, Columbia.

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