In 2004, as a Hail Mary attempt to save their company, Ric Cabot of Darn Tough Socks handed out 3,500 pairs of Darn Tough Vermont socks at the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. As a last resort to rescue their company, he had decided to hand out free socks, and to let the socks talk for themselves.
What makes Darn Tough Vermont socks different from all other socks on the market is the unusually dense weave that makes them stronger and more comfortable, all while being odor resistant. The name “Darn Tough Vermont Socks” was specifically picked to reflect the resilience of both the company who makes the socks and the socks themselves. “Vermont” was thrown into the name to add to the state’s artisan, outdoorsy image.
Cabot had been raised in the sock industry when his father, Marc Cabot, founded Cabot Hosiery Mills in 1978. At the start, Cabot Hosiery Mills manufactured socks that were sold as a private label to retail chains, which would then resell the socks under various store brands. Then, in the 1990s, that all changed. Retail chains started outsourcing overseas at a cheaper cost of manufacturing than Cabot Hosiery Mills could match.
It was during this downfall that the idea was born to create a new brand that could be sold directly to consumers. This was a new concept, which the company had very little experience in doing. Luckily for Darn Tough, the idea of giving away free socks and letting the socks speak for themselves was the best idea that they could have come up with, at exactly the right time.
Around the time that Darn Tough socks started to take off in popularity, consumer demand for authentic, locally-made products was growing parallel with the organic food craze. The socks, made from a small-town factory in Vermont, quickly became a hit to those in the outdoor sports community. Distribution deals were soon established with REI, L.L. Bean, and other similar specialty retailers, which resulted in sales soaring!
Now the company has expanded to 217 employees, and is growing to accommodate their unusually devoted customers who spend a lot of time on their feet. According to Cabot, Darn Tough “started out as just a name. We were very lucky it turned into a brand.” Darn Tough is an inspiration to any small company with big dreams. Ric Cabot has taught us that with the right amount of marketing know-how and hard work, anything is possible.