A few months ago Nick Wilder, a friend of mine connected me to Rich Levine, a former Sun Microsystems engineer who had decided to try his hand at new things after spending a lot of time on the internet. At Sun he did work on customer-facing software and usability work on Sun’s first Intel platform and then for early web and commerce work for sun.com and java.sun.com. Yup, like me Rick is somewhat old — and if you don’t remember, he did co-author the iconic, The Cluetrain Manifesto.
Done with the tubes, he moved to Denver and created an organic chocolate brand, Sun Cups. However, that was not where his heart was. Instead, Rick and his brother Neil (illustrator and graphics designer) decided to start making socks. I mean, why not. Socks are something all of us need and despite all the great pairs of socks in one’s sock drawer, there is room for one more. After spending nearly 18 months leaning how to make them and how to warp the business and tech side of fashion, the Levine brothers launched their sock brand XOAB on Kickstarter. The fit, colors, and patterns proved to be a hit and well, rest is history. XOAB, by the way is shorthand for love and beyond.
They just didn’t design socks, they created the back end infrastructure that allows them to make high-quality stuff in small batches here in the US. As a result, these socks aren’t cheap and evening bulk volume put a nice dent in your pocket. The cheapest you can buy them — $20 a pair if your order 30 of these for $600. A single pair is about $27 a pair. The prices are somewhat in line with high end sock brands like Pantherella. But are XOAB socks worth it?
Rick sent me two of his socks to try out — well knowing I have very exactly standards as Silicon Valley’s sock man. Shape retention, elasticity (around the calf/mid-calf area) and sheen of the fabric (yarn) are what makes a good sock. I also don’t like socks that are too thick or really too thin. The reason I focus on these three qualities — well if you buy a cheap pair of socks for says $5-to-$10 a pair, they only last maybe two dozen washes and start to look tacky. However, a pair of socks that costs say $25 a pair, lasts almost a year or about 40-50 washes. As a result, I focus on a handful of brands that I believe make great socks that are good value for money.
After wearing them a few times, I can say the socks don’t lose their shape, or their elasticity. However, when compared to say a Pantherella or a Marcoliani, they lose some of their sheen after a few washes. That said, I like that the designs are unique and are available in limited editions. I will certainly keep it on my shortlist of brands to consider in the future.