Founded in 2010, Boardroom Socks is a small, family-owned business with headquarters in North Carolina.
We recently were able to catch up with the CEO, Nathan James, in a wide-ranging interview to discuss the history, challenges, and what’s to come in the sock industry as a whole.
Here’s what he had to say:
What inspired you to take the reins of the company and not start a new endeavor?
Boardroom Socks is a small, family-owned manufacturer of premium men’s socks. The company started back in 2010 when my dad could no longer find the merino wool over the calf dress socks that he had worn for years. Being in the textile industry for decades, he decided to simply make the socks for himself! While it started as a hobby more than anything, friends and family took an interest in the socks and it began spreading from there. We’re proud to manufacture all of our socks locally with a focus on high quality materials such as merino wool and extra-long staple cotton.
I’ve always been an entrepreneur from a young age, with a keen interest in all things business. As I got a little older and was exposed to manufacturing through previous jobs, I also developed a passion for goods made in America. Boardroom Socks is a perfect combination of these two personal interests, so I thoroughly enjoy the job.
What is the most difficult challenge you have faced as the CEO over the past few years?
There have definitely been a few! Like many small business owners, one of the scariest moments for us was the onset of the pandemic. When events were canceled and offices closed, demand for our products was hit hard virtually overnight. Navigating 2020 was incredibly difficult.
Another major challenge for us has been all of the supply chain issues that resulted from the pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Even though our manufacturing is done locally, some of our yarns come from overseas – particularly eastern Europe. Labor shortages, surging energy costs and shipping difficulties made it virtually impossible to get certain yarns needed to manufacture our socks.
While both of these challenges were major obstacles for Boardroom Socks to overcome, they ultimately forced us to become better managers of our business. We have emerged on the other side of these crises as a stronger organization.
Where do you think the fashion trends will take us in the next five years when it comes to socks? Bolder and brighter or more conservative? Or something else?
Excellent question. For starters, I think we hit the peak of the “crazy sock” phenomenon several years ago. In general, I’m seeing socks move more toward solids and tasteful patterns instead of the wild colors and designs that were all the rage in the aughts.
Apparel in general has undoubtedly been moving toward casual wear, most notably with the rise of athleisure. As we emerge from the pandemic and folks are getting back to the office and attending events, I think consumers are excited to get dressed up again.
Over the next several years, I think we’ll see hosiery continue to move away from the “crazy socks” trends and back toward a focus on higher quality basics. I believe we’ll also see an increased emphasis from consumers on how and where their socks are manufactured. “Ethically-sourced” and “fair trade” are quickly outpacing the “fast fashion” trend of the last decade.
What is your favorite pair of socks that you currently produce?
This is a hard question to answer! My favorite dress socks that we produce are our Burgundy Wool Over the Calf socks. I love the versatility of these as they look fantastic with everything from suits to jeans and will pair well with virtually any color of pants or shoes. I think they really add a subtle sophistication to any outfit.
My other favorite (less formal) socks are our no-show socks. For casual wear on the weekends or during the hot summer months, these are hard to beat!
What’s next for Boardroom Socks?
We have some exciting new products in the pipeline that we’ve been working on for quite some time. I can’t share more quite yet, but they’ll help round out our product line and be a really nice addition to our current socks. And, of course, we’re going to continue our focus on American manufacturing!