Dyed In The Wool Page 2 - GRIP6

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Dyed in the Wool

March 04, 2020 7 min read 126 Comments

Why Socks

As an upstart American Made brand, our purpose has always been to make high-quality, long-lasting products and to reinforce domestic manufacturing. We have been able to do that by shouldering the responsibility of making our own products.

In a few months, we’ll be introducing new GRIP6 Merino wool socks. Whenever we tell that to people we get the same question.  

“Why socks?” 

First, socks are important. Like belts, they’re one of the unsung heroes of what we wear. If you stop to think about it, we ask a lot from our socks. We require them to be durable, comfortable, breathable, stylish, and hopefully not break the bank.

Second, when our feet feel good, we feel good. We tend to give shoes too much credit. The truth is, a great pair of wool socks make your feet comfortable regardless of the shoe you wear, and make standing, running, walking, etc, rather enjoyable. Conversely, a bad pair of socks will quickly make your feet feel terrible.

BJ in his basement, melting straps in his homemade, version 1.0 cardboard melting station.
Taking delivery of the new sock knitting machines 

Perhaps the most important reason we dove in was simply because we could. That may sound odd, but America’s textile manufacturing capability has withered to the point where many products cannot be made in the USA. We’ve been able to pull sock production entirely in-house, almost immediately, without relying on a manufacturer in another country that will hamstring our ability to innovate. We’ve already made in-roads to sourcing wool within the Rocky Mountains (which is harder than you think!), and we’ve been able to domestically source all the other fibers, dyes, and packaging. For us, that’s a big deal.

Different Product - Same Recipe

We’ve been looking for opportunities to offer more to our customers. We wanted to apply the GRIP6 secret sauce to a new product line to see if our recipe of in-house manufacturing, high quality construction, and lifetime guarantee, would result in another product that people love.

We wanted to develop something we knew we could improve over time, that would significantly increase our manufacturing ability. Selfishly, we wanted to make something that we love to use ourselves. After narrowing down the options, we decided on socks. We have an exceptional engineering department and an innovative design team (and, honestly, we love wool socks) so making socks made sense.

We’ve been making great belts for five years now. We pride ourselves on their quality and how long they last. From the very beginning we have offered a lifetime guarantee. We’ve designed them to be incredibly comfortable, made from domestically sourced materials, and we manufacture them right here in Utah.

Our socks will be exactly the same: Comfortable, high quality, look great and we’ll guarantee them for life.

Our Journey Into The Sock Industry

Months before purchasing our own machines, our plan was to dip our toes into the water a bit and partner with another sock manufacturer. We wanted to offer some quality socks to our customers without the capital hit required to outfit our own sock manufacturing facility. This would have allowed us to test the market and prove to ourselves we could be successful before going full bore. To that end, we contacted several American sock manufacturers to get pricing, tour their facilities, and see what it would take to get started. We quickly learned it wasn’t a great solution. Larger companies with good operations were slow, entrenched in layers of corporate structure that made them unwilling to consider alternative solutions to supply chain problems. In addition to that, the wool colors were limited, the costs were excessive, and the justification for those costs was pretty flimsy.

The most depressing part was when we presented what we thought were great designs and styles to the manufacturers, we kept getting the answers, “we can’t make that” or “that’s going to be too expensive.” We believe that in order for American Manufacturing to progress and reinvent itself (and, by extension, all manufacturing), we need to take a hard look at innovation and be willing to break processes that are keeping us in the past. 

New sock knitting machines being assembled

This “soft launch” approach was steering us toward an alliance with an industry that seemed ripe for disruption, something we didn’t want to do. In fact, over a three year period it would cost us less to simply purchase our own sock knitting machines, software, raw materials and all other supporting machinery, than it would to purchase the socks from another company.

So that’s exactly what we did. We doubled down and went full GRIP6 on the sock project. 

Once we began diving into the sock industry, we discovered an enormous amount of information we needed to gather, process and understand. We pulled our sleeves up and got to work, learning the technical construction of socks, the various raw materials, the supply chains and processes of those materials, the costs, the knitting machines, the software, the washing and drying, the sizing, the testing, the boarding machines, the designing, etc.  

To be honest, I completely love this part of the process. For me it’s exciting to start with a clean slate and build a new foundation from nothing. We aren’t hindered by anything except our imaginations. But this is also the most challenging part. It can be slow, difficult, and filled with delays, obstacles and problems; it’s rewarding! There’s something deeply satisfying about slowly, steadily increasing in knowledge, expertise and capability. It’s knowing that you are in control of your future and the only thing between you and success is a lot of hard work. 

Our Challenge

It would be arrogant to say that our first line of socks will be the best socks ever made. We can’t fake a century of knowledge in six months. We know we’re new to this and our competitors have been making socks for a long time, but we have a solid plan. By purchasing the best machines available, receiving training from industry veterans and sourcing a high quality wool/nylon blend, we’re about 80% of the way there. We are putting our reputation on the line by offering the same Lifetime Guaran-damn-tee on our socks. That’s our way of telling our customers that we’re in this together, and while we can’t become experts overnight, we can guarantee that we’re working harder than any other company to get there. We promise to be relentlessly innovative in construction, design, and style.

Learning operation and repair of the new sock knitting machines

The Game Plan

Every lofty dream needs a good plan and here is ours: First, we have to fully understand sock construction. This is a critical step to making high quality socks that look great, feel great, and fit with the GRIP6 brand. We will be pushing ourselves to master the machines and software. Second, we’ll thoroughly test our prototypes both in the lab and in the field. Third, we’ll design some great looking patterns and styles for a limited release this summer. We’re very close to accomplishing this, and we expect a release by June (mark the calendars for a Father’s Day gift). Finally, we plan to expand our sock line over the next six months, both in style and quality, so that by Christmas, we can introduce a full line of socks. As always, we’ll test, test, test, analyze, and innovate! The sock you buy this year is going to facilitate an even greater sock next year, and so on. As part of our GRIP6 promise to you, we will not rest on laurels, and you can expect better and more innovative socks, belts, and wallets in the years to come.

Our Current Progress

Right now, we’re in the thick of learning the limitations of the knitting machines. From an engineering perspective, they’re impressive. They’re basically high-tech robots with their own custom software, similar to a CNC mill. This combination of hardware and software produces a wide range of customized sock possibilities. Socks can be both highly customized and mass produced. They are built upon decades of experience utilizing the highest quality materials and last millions of cycles.

Prototype designs abound

A few months ago we created our very first sock! While that was awesome, it was not how we planned to enter the market.  We have sourced our initial materials and dissected many socks, (think Junior High frog dissection!). Since then we have moved on to creating new designs and styles.We are giving our prototype socks away to customers who stop by our shop so they can test them and give us their feedback. We are in the middle of a series of tests where we are producing every single type of sock and every feature our machine can do. It has helped us better understand what is possible and what is useful.

The software is complex and has been challenging, but we are beginning to develop a process for sock creation, from concept to finished product. It has taken a team of talented people working closely together to make it all happen. We’re learning like crazy and making some solid prototypes. We’re dedicating thousands of hours to get these socks as close to perfect as possible. As anyone who has ever owned a great pair of socks will tell you, the difference they make is worth the extra effort it takes to make one.  

The Past and the Future

As we continue our journey learning to manufacture socks, we realize that we are standing on the shoulders of the giants that went before us. We’ve benefited from centuries of machine innovations, supply chains, and design tools. We recognize that they have smoothed the road before us. We appreciate and thank them.

The hosiery industry in the United States is a shadow of what it once was. Many of the industry veterans we have worked with and learned from feel like the industry is at the edge of extinction. The past several decades have seen a steady decline in domestic sock manufacturing companies. Only a few are left. It would be a tragedy to let all that knowledge, expertise and infrastructure go away. While there is reason for concern, we believe there is also reason for hope. Much has changed in the world of commerce in the last 30 years and GRIP6 was built on a modern platform that gives us more options to connect with customers all over the world. We are hopeful that some of the technology available today will help us succeed where others struggled. Using these tools, We hope to do some small part to not only sustain, but to grow sock manufacturing expertise in this country. 

So get excited for GRIP6 socks!!!

26 Responses

Glen Sikorski
Glen Sikorski

August 25, 2020

Thanks for sharing GRIP6 vision,interesting and now I’m questioning my choice of sock material looking forward to my first purchase now of ur belts just cant decide on which it’s a nice problem.and I hope u receive what that hard work usually gives back

Glen Sikorski
Glen Sikorski

August 25, 2020

Thanks for sharing GRIP6 vision,interesting and now I’m questioning my choice of sock material looking forward to my first purchase now of ur belts just cant decide on which it’s a nice problem.and I hope u receive what that hard work usually gives back

Shaun
Shaun

August 25, 2020

I’m ridiculously excited for this. I only wear my Grip6 belts now, casual, work, and when I need to wear a suit, having Grip6 socks to go with it would be awesome. I’m newly into wearing socks with fun and different designs and if the socks are anything like the belts I’m going to be a fan for life.

Gena
Gena

August 25, 2020

I’ve asked Darn Tough Socks before whether they will ever make toe socks and they said they wouldn’t, so I hope GRIP6 considers it! (and if not, please make socks that are for wide feet and allows for maximum toe splay). Cheers

Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson

August 25, 2020

I wear your belts exclusively. They are wonderful. Sorry for multiple posts. I think of more that should be said and you are not culling the posts.

Jim Greer
Jim Greer

August 25, 2020

I’m ready to “step into” this opportunity! Let’s see what you got.

Jeff
Jeff

August 25, 2020

Missed the wallet and am looking forward to seeing the new socks on my feet

Steve Cecil
Steve Cecil

August 25, 2020

Can’t wait until these are available. Love your belts and sure I will love the socks just as much!!

Michael Coble
Michael Coble

August 25, 2020

I love your belts, own 3 of them and 6 different buckles. If the socks are anything like the quality of the belts, I’ll be a lifelong customer and replacing my entire sock inventory with them. Happy to field test as a long time customer

Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson

August 25, 2020

I will be a sock fan. Right now all my socks I wear daily are Hanes made in Costa Rica.

Jerry
Jerry

August 25, 2020

If these are like your belts they will be great. I am willing to real-world test these socks when you are ready. Keep up the good work.

Lance Aldridge
Lance Aldridge

August 25, 2020

I am super excited to hear this! I currently have 5 Grip6 belts and wear them ever single day, it has been like this for the past 2 years. I have also been looking into socks for a few months now wanting to get away from the same old Nike/Adidas/UA socks that everyone has and get into something that is a little more “custom”. Getting this news has me super intrigued and cannot wait to see what this product will look like. If it anything like the belts, consider me sold!

JDS
JDS

August 25, 2020

I appreciate the desire to produce new designs or colors, but hope you also realize some color basics will also be desirable. For example, I work in an environment were simply black, is a staple.

Bruce Blommel
Bruce Blommel

August 25, 2020

Hey,
I bought one of your belts a couple weeks ago and really like it.

More importantly, I really like what you are doing: your whole approach to “locally” manufactured, sourced, etc.

Best wishes with your endeavors; I look forward to purchasing your socks when available, as I spend 17 hours a day on my feet, about 10 of those in work boots.

Regards,
Bruce

John Wittry
John Wittry

August 25, 2020

Love my belts so sure to be a sock customer. Make sure you build in to the design an ability for them to find each other in the dryer. ;-)

Dan B
Dan B

August 25, 2020

Hi BJ, I love your belts and supported the wallets on kickstarter. I ordered one of the “scrap” wallets and have been using it for a few months with absolutely no issues. I love it and can’t wait for the finished product. I firmly believe in what you guys are doing and the products you are producing. I recommend to everyone. I’m a walking, talking, demonstrating Grip6 one man marketing machine. I’m very active outdoors and would like to know how I get my hands on a pair of these socks to be part of the feedback process.

John
John

August 25, 2020

Awesome! I am looking forward to purchase new socks! I am sure other will do the same!

Bill
Bill

August 25, 2020

Congratulations! I hope you do well. I’m pleased to learn of another company manufacturing in the US.
Suggestion: many socks now have a tight elastic band at the top, which digs in like a rubber band. Good socks don’t need that, if the elastic is spread more evenly through the upper part. I hope you will take this into account.
Best to you.

Zip
Zip

August 25, 2020

Got that last 4 years I have only worn your belts. Have gifted them and also converted a few of my industry friends across the country. Love your products and hereby volunteer to be a sock beta tester wink.

Christine R. Lopez
Christine R. Lopez

August 25, 2020

AWESOME! Always look for American made…allergic to wool…hope you plan on branching out to a cotton based sock. Will be patient…send your first dozen to our President.

Gizmo
Gizmo

August 25, 2020

Looking forward to see your designs

Joy Pickles
Joy Pickles

August 25, 2020

GOOD FOR YOU… and US!! So excited to have American made socks available!! We know we will have to pay more for non-Chinese made products, but quality is worth paying for!! Thank you for investing in the U.S.A.!

Jesse Newman
Jesse Newman

August 25, 2020

EXCITING!!!

Stuart Chase
Stuart Chase

August 25, 2020

Not Kickstarter-ing this one?

Rochell
Rochell

August 25, 2020

USA!!! I will be a sock customer! :)

Paul Voorhees
Paul Voorhees

August 25, 2020

Can y’all do private label socks 🙏🏼

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