Stance Socks: Embracing The Uncommon Thread

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4th of July MLB On Field Sock (Photo by Stance).

Stance has turned socks into one of the world’s most exciting accessories in less than five years. Their founders saw an apparel category that had been ignored, looked over, and dismissed. They ignited a movement of art and self-expression that has drawn athletes, performers, and cultural influencers to the brand. With a focus on technical innovation, the Southern California based company can now be found in over 40 countries.

Surfing champion John John Florence, musicians Rihanna and Willow Smith, professional golfer Bubba Watson, and NBA champion Klay Thompson are just a few who endorse the global brand.

Helping to spearhead the Stance initiative to bridge performance apparel with athletes is Tzvi Twersky. As the Director of Licensed Sports, he’s tasked with leading programs for the NBA, MLB, and NFL. While Twersky’s career began in journalism as an editor for Slam Magazine, his passion for storytelling led to this new role.

“It’s interesting to learn the sneaker and apparel industry from the inside before going to work in it. I feel like it gave me a different perspective on how to approach it on the inner workings, on how to pitch, work with media and athletes, a whole different worldview,” said Twersky.

Stance’s Hoops category made waves when it became the official NBA on-court sock for the 2015-16 season. “We’re just this little sock company that’s the first brand to have its logo on every player on the NBA court,” said Clarke Miyasaki, Stance EVP of Business Development in a 2015 interview.

Nike took over this past year as the outfitter, but Stance’s retained its license and continues to make NBA socks.

“Nike makes the on-court performance stuff. If you want a Cavs sock, a LeBron or Steph Curry sock, we make it. We’re in the lifestyle angle now,” explained Twersky.

Stance’s background is in the skateboarding and surf worlds. Founders Jeff Kearl and Ryan Kingman come from in Orange County, where the company resides. Located in San Clemente, CA, Stance HQ is a stones throw from the Pacific Ocean. Their offices include an NBA regulation-sized basketball court, a gym, open workspace and a new skate bowl is in the works.

Gradually as the brand grew it embraced and expanded into the stick and ball sports.

“Basketball was kind of the first foray into that side of the game,” said Twersky informed. “We came out with the legend’s socks, like Dennis Rodman and Dr. J about five or six years ago. It was a small limited edition run, only for the top sneaker boutiques and those blew out and did so well. It kind of opened everyone’s eyes.”

“I think it’s funny to me now, in 2018. It’s not surprising that socks are such a big deal. In 2010 it was a novel concept to have a picture on your sock or have one that said Cavs or Warriors, that didn’t really exist then. Now everything sock-wise is branded and it’s like just a whole new avenue or element that wasn’t as pronounced,” he continued.

Presently, a large part of Stance’s offerings are brand collaborations. The outfitter has made products focusing on new film releases this year, such as Star Wars and The Black Panther. How did these concepts formulate and come to be?

The director has a clear vision and understanding of how the brand wants to be perceived by the public. “We like to keep a delicate balance of our online product, own designs, our own ID, it’s very important to us. We love thinking that we have great designers. We put effort into building out and the non-licensed portion of the brand.”

“Every season we want to take this over the top and compliment that with something that’s culturally relevant and timely. Whether that’s a Black Panther sock (led by the lifestyle team) with Marvel, or the Star Wars collection we’ve been doing with Disney for a few years, the MLB and NBA, there always needs to be a good reason behind it,” details Twersky.

While big-name athlete endorsements and partnerships make headlines, not every pitch gets the green light. Deciding whom to embrace is a job within itself.

“For every deal we do embrace, there are 50 we turn down. Honestly, it’s amazing to see these projects come to life. The notoriety and amount of consumerism, the new eyeballs it helps us reach is great.”

This year marks the second full season for Stance as the official on-field sock of Major League Baseball, which debuted at the 2016 Home Run Derby in San Diego.

From performance and technology aspects, players are given the chance to offer feedback of what they like and dislike while wearing Stance product. The athletes are the first line of defense, trying out new materials and designs.

“With both the NBA and MLB, we wear-tested them with multiple players while we were materializing and ideating on what the socks should look and feel like. We spent multiple seasons developing our sock and getting it from point A to the point where we felt comfortable offering it to hundreds of the best players in the world at that sport.”

“We found breathability and stretch to be very important, along with durability and wearability,” Twersky continued. “When you slide into second base, you don’t want your sock to get a huge hole in it. Or when you’re putting your sock on, you want it to be fairly easy to put on.”

For Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, and other national holidays, Stance has gone the extra mile to work with MLB teams on custom designs representing these hallmark dates.

“We pride ourselves on the design. Prior to us coming into the MLB, teams always wore their basic socks whether it was solids or stripes, everyone had their own identity. We’ve worked with each team individually to add a couple to their rotation.”

The newest brand collaboration set to launch this month is for Uncle Drew, a film starring Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving. Projects like these can be daunting, so how long do they need to satisfy production rollouts?

“Usually our timeline is much more drawn out,” Twersky said. “Our process can take anywhere from six months to a year. The Uncle Drew project came together super quickly this year from Lionsgate, who produced the film. For me, it was a no-brainer in the hoops space, my bread and butter. I just felt like Uncle Drew is ubiquitous with basketball right now. To me, it’s one of the most successful and funniest commercials of this decade.”

With every season comes new designs and Stance is certainly looking ahead to new projects. In the fall you can expect a slew of collaborations to hit retail shelves as the director suggests.

“On the basketball side, our performance hoops product is key. While we don’t make the NBA on court sock anymore, but we still make a performance sock that we think is the best basketball sock out there. We have a line coming out around back to school time, which we’re really stoked on. It’s probably our best design to date, whether you’re playing on a high school team, pickup games, or a personal workout, it’s something you’ll want to wear.”

For fans of yesteryear, Stance knows how nostalgic consumers are with sports teams. With new expansion franchises and teams relocating, past uniform colors and logos are an identifiable object. Old is the new trend in branding, and recreating a look that people grew up admiring can bring families closer together. The sock provider has keyed in on its core audience and plans to deliver in Q4.

“This coming holiday season we have some designs that no one’s ever seen before or thought of. Some are a nod to the (NBA) heritage and hardwood classic uniforms. I feel like it’s really a throwback to the 90’s now and early 2000’s. We looked at those uniforms and incorporated some of that stuff, revisiting iconic looks.”

Currently, Stance Socks can be found online, in retail stores across the country, and inside ballparks such as Angel Stadium (Anaheim) and Petco Park (San Diego). A flagship store resides in New York City, with plans to open more brick and mortar locations nationwide later this year.