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Darn Tough: The Story Behind the Best Socks in the Business

Cabot Hosiery Mills was founded by Marc Cabot in 1978. He purchased a vacant mill and started to make socks for other brands in the textile industry, who would, in turn, relabel his socks and sell them under their brand names. Because he was making socks for larger companies like Gap, the company was able to grow under this business model. That is until these retailers started to look for lower prices overseas.

These companies found their lower prices, but ultimately ended up with a lower quality product, and by the early 2000s Cabot Hosiery Mills had lost 40 employees and started to default on loans to lenders.

In 2004 Marc Cabot’s son Ric decided to change direction and started manufacturing the Darn Tough brand in-house. In a move that seems crazy for a company on its last leg, Marc gave away 3,500 merino wool socks at the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. Word of the socks’ durability quickly spread, and outdoor enthusiasts couldn’t stop talking about the lifetime guarantee. As a result, distribution soon went nationwide, and sales rose about 60% every year in the first part of the 2010s.

Ric Cabot’s gamble had paid off. He was uncompromising in the construction and warranty of Darn Tough socks, and hikers beat a path to his door. Today Cabot Hosiery Mills employs more than 200 people and has announced plans for a 100,000 sq ft expansion to meet demand. They’ve grown to become the second largest employer in Northfield, and refuse to make their socks anywhere other than their beloved state of Vermont.

Good on them.

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