How much thought do you put into your choice of socks every morning? As you stumble to your sock drawer, bleary-eyed, do thoughts of colour-matching and thread-counts even cross your mind? Probably not.
But, according to Arizonan businessman Kevin Wohlman, they should.
Two years ago, when Wohlman moved to Texas to start a corporate job, he began to notice a trend amongst office workers. “In most modern business environments,” the entrepreneur recalls, “it seemed that dress codes were increasingly moving towards the casual end of the style spectrum, and thus jackets and ties were no longer required.”
Step forward socks. In a world where pocket squares, neckties and even particularly stand-out shoes were being benched in favour of casual comfort, Wohlman decided to embrace socks as one of the remaining bastions of individuality and, more importantly, formality, in the workplace.
“Socks became important. They are no longer a casual addition, but rather a key part of every outfit that lend class and sophistication. But, for everything I loved about my sock collection, there were a few things that needed improving.”
Wohlman’s complaints included the quality and fit of his socks. The constant riding up or down of the garments, paired with stretching, shrinking and the appearance of mysterious holes after only a handful – or should that be ‘footful’ – of wears and washes pushed the Arizonan to a harsh realisation. He would have to sock it to the competition.
“And with the importance of socks in the workplace more striking than ever before,” Wohlman says, “I also turned my attention to another of the business sock’s big problems – the designs. Boring blacks, browns and blues pervade the majority of sock selections, and tacky and unprofessional loud patterns make up the rest.
“You can’t walk into a meeting with your boss in pink lightning bolt socks and expect to be taken seriously,” Wohlman acutely observes, “but neither should you be playing it safe.”
So Wohlman pulled up his proverbials, and got to work. The double degree holder out of Arizona State University spent a year researching and experimenting with different material blends, sock cuts and colours to develop the perfect sock – and Southern Scholar (the name a nod to his academic acumen) was born.
The service – an annual subscription that gets you a new pair of socks each month – launched last November, and is not only dedicated to delivering unique, yet professional, dress socks to the modern man – it is also committed to helping him style them correctly with his workwear. And, with the option to pay £11 ($15) monthly, or make a saving by opting for a one-off £125 ($165) annual payment, subscribing couldn’t be easier.
“Every pair of Southern Scholar socks is designed with a specific business casual and business professional outfit in mind,” explains Wohlman, “and is accompanied with a style card that shows and tells you exactly what to wear with each sock to get the most out of your look.”
The style cards are small, glossy and slipped into each box of socks. They tell you the name of your new design – be that the ‘Monday Blues’, ‘Southern Savant’ or ‘Old Timers’ – and what you should ideally be wearing your new threads with.
Your suit, your shoes, your shirt and even your watch band and pocket square are colour-matched in Wohlman’s mission to make the most of new business dress codes. The tie may have seen its last board meeting, but your socks can serve the same function of formality by establishing you as a professional and individual in one fell – and sartorially sound – swoop.
“It is a dress sock subscription service,” says Wohlman, “but my overall goal is not just to provide my customers with a stylish new pair of dress socks each month. My goal is to provide them with a stylish new pair of dress socks and the know-how to get the most out of their look. My hope is that this will get gentlemen excited about getting dressed in the morning and allow them to step out of their comfort zones, getting away from the idea of just throwing on slacks and a shirt and beginning to build their own unique and elegant style.”