Possibly the next company to join the ‘Footsie 100’? We caught up with Oli Brookes of The London Sock Exchange, who, along with business partner, Dan Zell, set up this handy (or footy) subscription service which tackles the age old problem of men’s sometimes slightly worrying attachment with their socks.
As chubby 8 year olds, Oli and Dan met back at school in 1994. Oli later pursued his career in investment banking and Dan marketing. After slimming down and working on a couple of other commercial ventures together, they set out to improve the sock drawers of men across the nation.
Oli, what inspired you to set up The London Sock Exchange?
The initial idea came from some basic things about men we knew to be true:
- Most men have too many socks in their sock drawer
- Most of those socks are odd, holey, or just a bit old
- Men never replace the socks or throw out the old ones
- No-one, but no-one, doesn’t love wearing a new pair socks.
- But no-one loves going out to buy them.
So we designed a service which could solve these challenges: a service which designs and curates stylish socks for men, delivers them on a regular basis and takes care of the old socks too.
What makes your socks special?
Our socks are exclusively designed and curated by our team of British designers for the The London Sock Exchange with the modern British gentleman in mind.
Many of our socks subtly draw their inspiration from the British way-of-life. Recent examples include the ‘Abbey’, a humble tribute to the St John’s Wood pedestrian crossing made famous by the Beatles, or the ‘Trafalgar’, which draws inspiration from the pigeons of London town.
Each pair is then crafted using high quality materials for maximum comfort and a superior fit. We weave our socks with an extremely high needle count meaning the socks are finer and stronger than your average high-street pair. And, unlike a lot of high street pairs, we hand link our socks’ toe seams to give them a near-seamless, smooth finish.
Beyond that, each pair arrives through the letterbox in our custom-built packaging, complete with styling notes – so our subscribers know the ideal shoe-and-trouser with which to combine their new favourite socks.
Which is more important to you, design, the material or how they are crafted and why?
That’s like asking a loving parent to choose which of their three children they love the most! But unlike most parents, I’m happy to answer…
For me, it’s the design. Having worked in the city for a number of years, I know that socks are one of the few items of clothing that men can use to express themselves (it’s all too rare to find someone in a pink shirt with blue spots and matching trim).
We believe that there’s no more valuable real estate on a man than his ankle – which is why we take great pride in the design of our socks above all else.
The London Sock Exchange was set up to stop men continually wearing the same socks, so how old is the oldest pair of socks that you personally own?
I must admit I’m pretty ruthless about throwing out my old socks and running a socks business means I’m not often in short supply of shiny new ones to wear.
Having said that, I do have one SLIGHTLY embarrassing pair of socks which my fiance bought me on Valentine’s Day around 5 years ago – bearing the heartwarming message ‘you make my toes wiggle’ on them. I would LOVE to chuck them out but I’m scared to in case she notices. I might just have to blame their mysterious ‘disappearance’ on the infamous sock monster.
Why are socks an important part of a man’s outfit?
A stylish pair of socks aren’t just the perfect accessory to that day’s ensemble or a conversation starter – they can give a real insight into someone’s character.
And it’s not just us saying it – recent Havard University research suggests deliberate wearing of non-conforming socks allows the individual to project a higher status and sense of competency. And the New York Times even credit the tech entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley for wearing socks to signal they’re part of the ‘in crowd’, a secret handshake to signify that you’re a man worth knowing. A sentiment with which we wholeheartedly concur!
Tell us about your sock recycling?
We love the idea of sustainable consumption and believe that just because a sock might be a little old, a little smelly or have a little hole in it doesn’t mean it deserves to be banished to the rubbish bin for good.
So each of our subscribers has the option of sending back their old, unwanted socks back to us, free of charge.
Upon arrival, we sort the socks into two piles.
We pass those that are in decent condition and still in pairs (the ‘good’ pile) to charities, who’ll distribute them to those in need. Socks are actually the most sort after item for our homeless population, so they’re always welcomed with open arms.
Meanwhile we pass those socks which have seen better days (odd, holey, or worn through – the ‘bad’ pile) to a textile recycling partner. They then deconstruct the socks before resurrecting them for industrial use in insulation, mattress-stuffing and the like.
We’re still a young company, and so for now are focussed on continuously optimising how our subscribers can receive the most stylish socks, straight through their letterbox, every quarter.
Beyond that, we do have half an eye on taking the brand abroad – though it’s remarkably hard to find a way of riffing on the subject of socks and the Deutsche Börse.
That aside, we joked that one day we’d like Google to ask someone searching for The London Stock Exchange whether they were actually looking for us.
Something to aim for, eh?