Bombas socks playboy

Who Says a Foot Fetish Is a Bad Kink?

With the help of Bombas, your next indulgence could be for a good cause

Courtesy Bombas

You probably didn’t think too much about the socks you’re wearing right now when you put them on this morning. Maybe you reached for a pair and you noticed that one of them had a mysterious, so you had to pick a different one. Maybe you’re a more detail-oriented type and spent a few seconds weighing which sock in your drawer sets off your outfit the best. But if you’re like most people, odds are you just blindly grabbed a pair and hope they match. Either way, you'll get on with your day. And unless you stepped in a puddle or somebody complimented them, I’m sure you haven’t thought about them at all since.

And then there is Randy Goldberg. Since 2013, Goldberg has made it his job to think about socks on a level far deeper. It was then that he and David Heath left their jobs at a media company to launch the brand Bombas, with the idea of improving on the common sock. Since neither of them had ever worked in apparel before, they had to learn literally from the ground up. “I think it helped us see things from a nice perspective,” says Goldberg, whose tendency towards understatement sets him apart from the typical apparel startup founder in the Internet era, where missions like creating the perfect sock sometimes take on an almost messianic, Steve Jobs-ian bent.

Starting from a blank slate meant that it took Goldberg and Heath longer than they might have to get Bombas up and running. “It took a year and a half to make one pair of socks,” explains Goldberg. On the other hand, the “long, iterative process” of designing it also gave them the opportunity to rethink some of the most basic ideas of sock construction, and in the process eliminate some of their most common annoyances. They eliminated seams from the toes for better comfort, changed the shape of the stitching in the heel so the sock cups it more closely without stretching, and a list of other innovations, resulting in a sock that feels precision-tuned for maximum coziness.

The long gestation period paid off in massive success in almost no time, as techie types got wind of a company that had engineered away everything that sucks about socks. Bombas launched with an Indiegogo campaign that ended up raising $145,000, or 949 percent of their original goal, followed by an appearance on Shark Tank that ended with an investment from FUBU founder Daymond John. In 2017 the company sold $47.2 million worth of socks. Stop the next young tech entrepreneur you see on the street and ask them to take off their Allbirds and you’ll most likely find a pair of Bombas.
But in a sense, that’s really only their secondary audience. Goldberg and Heath’s inspiration behind leaving their jobs to start Bombas wasn’t simply a dream to build a better sock, it was a Facebook campaign that Heath shared with Goldberg about how socks are the most requested clothing item in homeless shelters. Most shelters don’t accept used socks for hygiene reasons, and besides, most of us wear our socks until they’re no longer in condition to give to anyone else. Heath and Goldberg saw an opportunity to make a difference.

“We got obsessed with the idea of helping out with this very specific problem,” Goldberg says. Following the lead of buy-one-give-one brands like Toms and Warby Parker, they decided that the best way to solve homeless shelters’ sock problem was to start a sock company. Essentially, as Goldberg describes it, Bombas is in the business of making socks to give away to homeless people, with a highly successful consumer-facing side hustle covering the costs.

Coming from a branding expert like Goldberg, that claim might seem like a self-serving publicity spiel except for the fact that he and Heath clearly take it seriously. Bombas recently donated its 10 millionth pair of socks, a milestone that Goldberg seems genuinely taken aback by. “Honestly we thought it would take 10 years to donate our millionth pair of socks, and we did that in two and a half years” he says. “Hitting 10 million so soon after...these numbers start to add up and start to feel so big.”
We got obsessed with the idea of helping out with this very specific problem.
On top of that, Bombas has actually gone out of its way to design a special sock for their donation program to suit the specific needs of homeless people. When you’re homeless, Goldberg explains, “You have fewer opportunities to change your clothes, and you're walking a lot because you don't have as much access to transportation. And maybe you're not taking your shoes off at night because you're afraid that somebody might steal them. All of the sudden, the socks that you're wearing and how they're constructed really starts to matter.”

Having already gone through the lengthy development process for their consumer sock, the brand’s founders dove into even more research, talking to both shelters and the people they serve. “The more that we talked with them and worked with them and listened, we learned that there was an opportunity to create something that was a little more thoughtful in design for the homeless community.”

“In the beginning we were donating the same socks that we were selling,” Goldberg says. “Lots of bright colors. What we found out was that if you're living on the street you probably want something that's a darker color to show less visible wear. You want to make sure that it's durable.”

The socks also come with an antimicrobial treatment to prolong wear without washing, and after all the time and effort they spent getting rid of that annoying toe seam, they ended up adding a seam back in to the donation sock to make them last longer. Far from being factory second castoffs, Bombas’s donation socks are just as nice as consumer Bombas, and on par with any of the pricey small-brand athletic-style socks in my drawer. In fact I have a feeling the trial pair I’ve been wearing around might outlast them all.
Bombas’s donation socks fill in a very real gap in our country’s support system for homeless people at a time when it’s needed the most. Thanks to stagnant wages and the disappearance of affordable housing, homelessness is on the rise. The NYC-based Coalition for the Homeless noted a “grim new milestone” at the end of 2017 as the number of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness on an average night reached a record 63,495 men, women, and children. At the same time, the nation’s social safety net is under constant assault and towns from coast to coast are passing laws that make it effectively illegal to be homeless.

In the face of such bleak existential problems, there’s something comfortably tangible about giving socks to somebody who needs them. Socks are real. They’re comforting. Putting on fresh socks is one of the simplest and most satisfying pleasures of modern life. It’s nice to be able to share that with someone.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been carrying a couple pairs of Bombas’ donation socks in my bag when I leave the house and offering them to people who seem like they need them. The other night I got off the subway near my house and a guy who looked like he was homeless was sitting on a bench peeling off a pair of socks that were probably towards the end of their lifespan even before they’d been soaked in the downpour outside. Handing him a pair of fresh socks instead of a dollar–or more likely just walking past and thinking to myself how awful it must be to be in his situation–made me feel momentarily useful in a world that can often seem impossibly chaotic.

“Handing out a pair of socks to somebody also creates a moment to have a connection,” says Goldberg, “to hear somebody's story, to provide a little bit of dignity to a day where maybe a lot of people pass you by on the streets. If you take that experience and multiply it by the 10 million pairs of socks that we've donated in the US, those small moments of human kindness really start to add up to something meaningful. That's the whole reason this company exists.”

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