Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Manufactured in Vermont, the socks come with a lifetime guarantee.

There is a sign at Cabot Hosiery Mills in Northfield, Vermont that reads: “Nobody ever outsourced anything for quality.”

In recent decades, most of America’s apparel and textile manufacturing has been outsourced to factories in countries like China, Vietnam and Bangladesh, where labor comes cheap (and quality is questionable). But Cabot Hosiery Mills persevered in the United States because of the success of its Vermont-made Darn Tough line of socks.

Like many American apparel manufacturers, Cabot Hosiery faced tough times in the early part of the 21st century. Although it had been in business since 1978, the mill was struggling, as production was falling off and employee pay and benefits had decreased.

That's when president and CEO Ric Cabot and his father Marc, the company's founder, decided to make a bold business choice.

They believed that a premium sock manufactured with new standards of comfort, fit and durability could thrive in a highly competitive market. No other American sock maker was selling a premium sock at that time, and the companies certainly weren’t making the socks themselves, Ric Cabot recalled to the Rutland Herald. So the Cabots risked the future of the family company on a new line of top quality socks, convinced Americans would buy a unique footwear product manufactured exclusively in Vermont.

In fact, the Cabots believed so strongly in Darn Tough Socks, they decided to offer a lifetime guarantee.

The risk paid off. Today, Cabot Hosiery is in the midst of an expansion, with plans to add 100,000 square-feet to their 56,000 square-foot plant. Revenue has grown by 60 percent or more in the past few years. The company may even reach a staff of 500 people by 2020.

Cabot told the Herald that one reason he refuses to outsource his sock production is that it ensures quality will always be the top priority. “You can’t turn your back on people who have trusted you,” he said.


The Socks are the Secret to Success

Darning socks is a lost art, but you need not worry about putting a hole in your pair of Darn Tough Socks. 

Most of us eventually wear out a hole in our socks — especially the heel — and throw them away. But it is a rare occasion when a pair of Darn Tough Socks are returned with a hole in them, regardless of how often and many years they’ve been worn.

If it does happen, however, the “lifetime guarantee” kicks in — and Cabot will send you another free pair of the durable socks or your money back.

Darn Tough Socks contain more stitches per square inch than any other sock on the market. The knitting machines create complex patterns and each machine can produce approximately 120 pairs during an eight-hour shift.

The socks are made of resilient Merino wool, which is spun to different parts of a unique knitting machine. Then the socks are turned inside-out and the machine closes the toe. The socks are collected and taken to various locations at the mill to be wetted, shrunk to proper size, washed, partially dried and flat-boarded for shape.

After that, the socks are then folded and packaged for shipping.

Because wool is not for everyone, Darn Tough Socks can also be knitted with an exclusive blend of fabric known as Coolmax, a blend of fabric creates a sock with exceptional softness, durability and superior moisture management.

The ribbed knit of the Darn Tough Socks is form fitting to the contours of your calf, shin and ankle, and has a ribbed ankle support which helps prevent blisters because there is no slipping or bunching. For added endurance, an elastic arch support is knitted into the arch of the socks and Terry loops surrounding the toe create a comfortable, invisible seam.

While Vermont’s sports, hiking and ski markets were the backbone during the early years of Cabot Hosiery Mills, the rapid expansion of work and casual footwear led the company to create socks in a large selection of styles, colors and designs. The mill now produces nearly 1,600 different socks.

Santa will likely be carrying a few pairs with him on Christmas Eve — Darn Tough Socks are stocking stuffers made with long-lasting love.