One in eight pairs of socks around the world were once made in Fort Payne, Alabama, a teeny tiny town nestled in Alabama’s Mountain Country. According to the New York Times, at the town’s mid-1990s peak, there were around 125 sock mills employing 7,500 workers in the 14,000-person town. That’s over half the population. Two decades of outsourcing sock production overseas and the mills tally is at a disappointing 14 mills and unemployment hovers around 10%. And the future doesn’t look too bright for the town that invented the cushioned sock—a mighty invention for anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet.
But Gina Locklear hasn’t let her hometown’s bleak forecast stop her mission. In fact, it was the bleakness that motivated her to reinvent her parents’ sock mill, Emi G (named for Gina and her sister) for the future. She opted to manufacture high-end, colorful, and organic socks in 2008 before the organic movement became as mainstream as it is today. Locklear produces two lines out of the Emi-G factory: Zkano, a bright line filled with modern patterns for men, women, and children; and Little River, a vintage-inspired line filled with winsome, nostalgic patterns for both men and women. Eight years in business and Locklear has brought an uplifting national spotlight to Fort Payne with pieces about Zkano and Little River running in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Even Tony Hale’s character on the HBO show Veep wears Zkano socks in every episode. Follow along and help keep Fort Payne up and running one-socked foot after another.