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Socks for good causes
Since I started this blog a few months ago, I’ve had my eyes wide-opened to the heartwarming discovery of how many sock brands have woven giving back into their business model and their identity. Somehow, this footwear philanthropy had completely escaped my notice.
We can support these socially responsible sockpreneurs by choosing their socks, for ourselves or as gifts, and at the same time make a difference to the homeless, to disadvantaged communities and to threatened species.
This blog’s dual aim is to showcase fabulous socks and also to explore how we can be our best selves. I see one aspect of being my best self as striving to make a difference in all of my thoughts and deeds. As consumers, we can make a small, but significant difference through our purchasing actions, by being selective about the products we buy and being mindful of their provenance. And socks are a simple item to start with.
While some might snigger at the putative cliché of socks as gifts (any time but especially at Christmas), I think they’re a fantastic option, for many reasons:
- They’re lightweight, especially relevant if you’re sending your gift in the mail, and they’re also easy to wrap.
- Every time I slip on socks that were a gift (probably 95% of my sock drawer), my heart is warmed by thoughts of the person who gave them to me.
- In terms of size, you’ve got quite a bit of leeway so it’s relatively hard to go wrong.
- These days, there’s a pattern for everything, which means there’s bound to be a pair of socks with any crazy theme you can think of. From Star Wars to Harry Potter. Glazed Doughnuts to Sushi. However, for my own taste, I’d steer clear of gimmicky, novelty socks. They’re a wasteful no-no and the planet’s resources really could be put to better use.
- There’s also a specialist athletic sock for nearly every activity. With a simple pair of socks, you can really show a person that you “get” that they’re completely nuts about their cycling, running, horse riding, favourite sports team, pilates, yoga, bushwalking/hiking/rambling…. There are even specialty socks for skateboarding and gaming.
- Socks are relatively inexpensive, so without breaking the bank, you can evoke the sense of a more luxury gift by treating someone to a higher quality of sock that they would never splurge on for themselves.
- They’re useful and practical. Nearly all of us wears socks and for most of our waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours at that.
- And now, the clincher. By giving a pair of socks from one of these brands, your purchase will have ripple effects of positivity that will most certainly give you and their new wearer the good feels. Since they’re based on values of giving back, many of these brands also seek to ensure that their socks are ethically and sustainably manufactured.
Now that you’re convinced that socks make the perfect gift, you just have to decide which of these socially-driven brands you’re going to support. Easier said than done when their socks are so appealing and their causes so worthy! Perhaps the largest category is those brands who help the homeless, so I’ll start with them.
Socks that help the homeless
While clean socks are a basic comfort that most of us take for granted, they’re among the most requested items at shelters for the homeless. To my shame, this is a fact that I only learned quite recently. It’s easy for us to overlook how important clean socks are to our general health and well-being, but as Angelina Chapin wrote in a thought-provoking article in Huffington Post back in 2015:
When the shelters close, many homeless people walk all day just to eat… Socks are a lifeline. Without them, feet become infected and blistered to the point where people limp or can no longer walk. Shelters have a constant shortage.
Angela Chapin, Huffington Post. 20/01/2015. How Socks can Help save Homelessness.
The following brands are actively working to address this problem.
For every pair of Bombas socks you purchase, this innovative American brand donates a pair to someone in need. And not just any socks, but a pair that’s been specifically designed to cope with the challenges of life on the street: reinforced seams make them more durable and an anti-microbial treatment means they don’t need to be washed as often. Learn more on their giving back page. Their name is derived from the Latin word for bumblebee and references the bee-like behaviour of working together for the greater good.
Their range is quite extensive, with dress, casual, athletic, ski & snowboard socks in their collection, in lengths from no-show through to knee-highs. I’m particularly partial to the classic design of their Men’s Houndstooth Dress Socks.
They will ship internationally. See their FAQ on international shipping rates.
As it happens, they’re having a Holiday Favourites sale. Use code FAVORITES20 at checkout.
Jollie Socks is a UK brand with a strong social focus and an admirable three-fold mission: to make exceptional socks, to generate sock donations for local shelters and to create work opportunities for those affected by homelessness. Their motto is “wear a pair, share a pair” and for every pair of socks bought, they give a pair of socks to a homeless charity in the UK. They’ve also recently introduced an Apprenticeship Scheme, which gives those affected by homelessness the chance to transition back into working life.
Their colourful, classy socks are made in the UK and can be bought as pairs, in 4-pair boxes or even as a monthly sockscription. Their Orange Twisters combed cotton socks are my stand-out favourite.
Currently, they offer free shipping in the UK on orders over 2 pairs. If you require shipment outside of the UK, they ask that you get in touch for a specific quote. See their Shipping and Returns page for more info.
Bonfolk is another US company, started in 2015, whose mission is to donate a pair of socks to a person in need for every pair of socks sold. Their point of difference is sock designs that are representative of each US state. So far they have 20 designs, with their goal being to have a sock symbolic of each state by 2019. I’m particularly drawn to their Magnolia and Dots & Stripes designs.
From their shopping cart, it appears that they only ship to the US.
Socks with a strong social conscience
Conscious Step makes “socks that solve social problems“. They’ve partnered with charities across eight categories aligned with the United Nations Millenium Development Goals including: disaster relief, educating kids, ending poverty, fighting hunger, planting trees, protecting oceans, providing water and treating HIV. So you’re sure to find a cause close to your heart.
The company seeks to make a difference not only through donations to charity, but through their ethical manufacturing and supply chain, with social responsibility being a primary motivator in all of their operations. I don’t think they’ve explained it all that well on their website, but I found an Indiegogo campaign page that gives an excellent overview of who they are and what they’re about.
Made from organic cotton, their socks are stylish and contemporary takes on stripes, argyle, spots and geometric patterns. I like this gift box collection of 3 pairs of socks “for the man who has everything”.
Conscious Step ships internationally. US and most international orders ship from their warehouse in Florida while Australian orders ship from their warehouse in New South Wales. If you’re in the US, at present they’re offering free shipping for US orders over $50.
This quote from their About page really resonated with me:
Every person has the ability to inspire change.
When we all make conscious decisions about our products and their impact on our planet, we can collectively move towards a brighter, poverty-free world.
Conscious Step https://consciousstep.com/pages/about-us
Along similar lines to Conscious Step is UK-based social enterprise, Stand4 Socks. Each pair of Stand4 socks supports a different cause (Homelessness, Landmine & Safe Land, Water, Maternal Health & Vaccination, Gender Equality, Education, Micro Loans, Solar Energy and the Environment).
You can choose from bamboo, cotton or twisted cotton (for additional warmth). Their designs are bold, bright and colourful and all socks feature a reinforced heel and toe for extra durability and a seamless toe closure for increased comfort. In addition to their standard fashion range, their office combo socks are a clever concept: plain black above the shoeline, and a brightly coloured pattern below, so you can still look formal with your shoes on! They also have a comfy looking active/sports collection.
They ship internationally. Shipping charges are calculated as you progress through checkout.
Sexy Socks is a South African company whose mission is to provide every child in South Africa with a pair of socks to wear to school. For every pair of Sexy Socks bought, they’ll give a pair of school socks to a child in one of South Africa’s township schools. I like their slogan “where your ankles meet your social conscience“. Their socks are designed and manufactured in Cape Town and made from super-soft, breathable and anti-bacterial (which also means anti-odour) bamboo.
If you’re in South Africa, they offer free shipping on orders over R400.
John is an extremely enterprising young man with Down syndrome. He and his father founded John’s Crazy Socks out of John’s own love of colourful, fun socks. As well as being an industrious sockpreneur who seeks to raise awareness about Down syndrome, John is also a Special Olympics athlete, so the company has chosen to give back by donating 5% of their profits to the Special Olympics. In addition, they have a collection of Charity Awareness Socks, such as these socks for breast cancer awareness, or their autism awareness crew socks, for which they make charitable donations to organisations related to each cause, on top of the 5 percent that they give to the Special Olympics.
They source their socks from all over the world so check each sock’s description for the country of origin. I love these One Giant Leap Astronaut Socks, made in Korea. You can buy their socks in single pairs, sets or gift boxes, and you can also sign up to their Sock of their Month Club to get a pair of socks each month, personally selected by John.
They’re an American company, based on Long Island, New York, but they do ship internationally to quite a few destinations. Check their shipping page to see if they ship to your country. At present, they’re offering free shipping in the US on orders over $40.
Fazl Socks seeks to respond to the crisis of poverty and suffering in India by supporting children’s homes that care for orphaned and destitute children. The company is driven by a strong belief that every act of consumerism counts, and they ensure that dignified work opportunities and fair wages are afforded to the women who knit their beautiful socks. I discovered a wonderful adaptation of the well-known Mahatma Gandhi quote on their site “Wear the change you want to see in the world.”, and found the story of their production and social impact extremely moving.
Their gorgeous, colourful socks are hand-knitted in the Himalayas, so each pair may include subtle variations in colour and pattern details from the pictures shown on their site. I love the amusing descriptions they’ve written for each design. Be sure to check out their Vasant (Spring) socks, in which they assert that “frolicking is a seriously underrated activity“! And check out their logo, it’s very clever.
Sock Panda is a sock subscription service offering fun, creative socks for men, women, tweens and kids. They’re located in the US, but you can also subscribe if you’re outside the US at a very reasonable rate of an extra $3 per month for international shipping. Their high quality socks are made in Peru from 85% Peruvian cotton and feature unique designs not available in stores. Choose from different types of designs socks for every personality type such as “stylish and suave” or “daring and bold”.
Giving back is an important part of the Sock Panda philosophy. For every subscription purchased, Sock Panda donates a pair of socks to organisations ranging from homeless shelters, hospitals, low income senior centers and under-privileged classrooms throughout America. As of September 2017 they’ve donated nearly 100,000 socks.
At present, they’re offering 15% off their monthly subscriptions. Use coupon code BESTGIFT15 at checkout, valid until 30 December 2017.
Socks that help threatened species
As I mentioned in my previous post about Cyber Week sock deals, I’m a huge fan of this socially-driven company. Gorilla Socks have partnered with the highly respected Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International to help save gorillas. At least 10% of every pair of their eco-friendly bamboo socks you buy goes toward the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats. And what’s more, their socks are gorgeous! My favourited designs are Mr Pink and Polka Loca.
If you’re on Instagram, I highly recommend following their profile, @gorillasocks for some wonderful images and footage of gorillas in the wild.
Based in New York, they currently offer free shipping on all USA orders, and free shipping on worldwide orders over US $60.
Shongolulu is a Californian brand committed to preventing species extinction, and protecting endangered animals and their habitats. 10% of every dollar they make goes toward global wildlife conservation. They assist organizations committed to combatting poaching and deforestation, and rehabilitating injured wildlife for release back into the wild. They also aim to raise awareness to the threat of species extinction by featuring endangered animals on their products.
Their collection includes brightly coloured and patterned socks, scarves, hats and boxers, sold seperately or in a variety sets and bundles. I absolutely love their women’s pink, black and grey rhino argyle socks and the men’s purple and grey cheetah dots socks.
Sadly they don’t ship outside the US yet. I hope that’ll soon change! But if you are in the US, check their website at shongolulu.com for current shipping rates and promotions. They also have a Shongolulu store on Amazon.
As an aside, their name is derived from Shongololo, the wonderfully onomatopoeic South African name for a millipede, which in turn is derived from the Xhosa i-songololo and Zulu i-shongololo words for “roll up”. Shongolulu have chosen this name to symbolise strength in numbers: many feet marching together with the common goal of “securing a future where mankind and wildlife can coexist harmoniously“.
I hope you’ve found socks and a cause you’d love to support. Do you have any other big-hearted sock brands you feel should be in this list? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.