In an office on the first floor of a warehouse building in Manhattan, Bram Frankel is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling stacks of socks. This is his inventory. Start-ups often have to make do with limited space, and in Frankel’s case he stores his product in small, neatly labelled boxes in serried piles against the walls.
The ultra-luxurious hosiery – sold under the brand William Abraham – can cost in excess of $100 a pair and attracts discerning gentlemen often in possession of a £5,000 or so Savile Row suit or a £3,000 pair of bespoke shoes. Compared to that level of expenditure, a hundred dollars for a pair of socks doesn’t seem too expensive – and may be just what such shoes deserve.
In a hip hotel bar around the corner from their offices, Frankel explains why he felt there was a hole in the market: “Although there are some great, high-quality socks out there, no one was pushing the envelope in terms of either materials or construction. The luxury market for socks is actually very limited.”
He’s right. Men who care about their suits and shoes may regularly buy full-length socks (finishing just under the knee) by brands such as Bresciani, Gallo or New & Lingwood in the finest cottons and beautiful merino wools (which cost in the region of £20-£30), but there is much more that can be done with materials such as silk and cashmere. Silk is usually avoided because it is too sheer on its own, but mix it with wool and the cool, sleek finish of the former is combined with the hard-wearing, breathable qualities of the latter. Add silk to fine cotton, and the result is a lightweight summer version. Blend it with cashmere, and an everyday sock reaches the heights of luxury.
“There’s a lot you can do with the weaves, too,” Frankel explains, cocktail in hand, Manhattan murmur in the background. “If you want to put wool and silk together, you can interweave them evenly across the sock, or you can have it so the wool is on the inside and the silk on the outside. You get a different look and a different feel against the skin.” Bram uses precisely this technique in his Milky Way design ($78), which has silk on the inside and merino on the outside.
When wearing William Abraham socks, the difference is immediately noticeable – as I can personally attest. And it carries on being noticeable for the rest of the day – a secret pleasure that I imagine is akin to wearing beautiful lingerie under everyday clothes.
As Frankel orders another Martini, he offers me a particularly special pair of socks, made with cervelt – the down of the New Zealand red deer. Retailing at £1,275, they are sensationally soft but perhaps only for the discerning gentlemen for whom money is no object.
Then again, someone has to push the envelope.