Team Sports
Socks & Jocks
For team dealers, it all starts at the bottom with the sale of team socks.
Selling socks is a small, specific and vital category worth exploring and examining for team dealers. In many respects, socks are a basic commodity for them and sporting goods retailers — after all, they are a necessary part of nearly every team sport’s game-day uniform and practice outfit.

Making things more interesting is that the team sock business can also be considered a fashion category, with color and fashion almost – and we emphasize almost – as important as performance and price.  

Just ask Allen Krebs, owner of Kratz Sporting Goods, about the breadth and depth of his socks business and the vast inventory of socks on display in his retail outlet and stored in his warehouse in Clarksville, IN.

“When it comes to socks, I sell any color under the rainbow,” he tells us.

According to the National Federation of State High Associations (NFHS), one of the uniform rules for high school soccer is actually a boost to sock sales. The NFHS requires that all high school soccer teams wear a pair of white or light colored socks for home games and dark or colored socks for away games. Of course, the sock colors must complement and match the uniform colors.  

Fortunately, for the manufacturers and sellers of socks, there are only a few major sports that don’t require a sock to be worn during practices or games — think beach volleyball, gymnastics, swimming and water polo.

Another point to remember about athletic socks is the role they play in preventing blisters or discomfort. Case in point is the well-known tale that from 1948-1975, then UCLA head basketball coach John Wooden would consistently provide individual instruction to his basketball players about how to properly put their socks on their feet. Why did Wooden stoop to such a low level and oversee such a menial task with intelligent and talented young men already in their teens?  

It was Wooden’s thinking that if any of his players was careless while putting socks on his feet, then it might result in discomfort or a blister in practice or a game that would negatively impact that player’s performance. With 10 national championships for UCLA men’s basketball during his stint as the head coach from 1948-1975, including seven straight national championships between 1967 and 1973, who is going to argue with the Wizard of Westwood?

According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s most recent Manufacturers Sales by Category report, the business of selling socks has shown steady annual growth since 2017, with the exception of 2020 when every industry was negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic. In 2017, the wholesale size of the sock business in the U.S. was $1.29 billion — by the beginning of 2023, it had reached $1.61 billion.

Sock Talk

When reflecting on their sales of socks, team dealers around the country remain bullish about the financial impact and importance of this basic commodity/necessity on their businesses.

Jerry Steuerer, owner of Scotty’s Sports Shop in Royal Palm Beach, FL, is proud of the inventory of socks in his store that caters to local athletes who play football, basketball, soccer and softball.

“I have a nice selection of socks in 16 different colors in my store,” says Steuerer. “I do sell many pairs of custom socks to travel baseball teams,” adding that he stocks socks from Twin City Knitting. “They produce very comfortable socks.”

At Al’s Sporting Goods in Wilmington, DE, owner Bob Hart sells socks to athletes of all ages and ability.

“Most of my socks are sold to baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and softball teams,” says Hart. And in his retail store basketball players are buying the six-packs of either black or white socks. For teams that want a special, custom sock, he buys from Pro Feet. He also says that Wigwam makes a wool sock which is popular with older customers who buy from the retail store.  

At Jack Pearl’s Sports Center in Battle Creek, MI, owner Keith Manning is selling less expensive all-around socks to local young athletes while older players are wearing a more expensive higher-end sock in their practices and games.

Meanwhile, in Clarksville, IN, Krebs and his associates at Kratz Sporting Goods are selling socks to baseball, basketball, soccer and fast-pitch softball players. It’s worth noting that Krebs considers the selling of socks as one of the pillars of his business.

“I always tell people that I make a living selling socks and jocks,” says Krebs.

Krebs says that basketball players are more conservative with the color schemes of their socks. “In basketball, players are tending to wear socks that are either black or white,” says Krebs. “And more and more young basketball players are tending to prefer white socks and that is somewhat due to supply chain issues for black socks.”

According to Krebs, basketball players are also looking for the best deal with their basketball-buying bucks. “Right now, I’m seeing a trend of basketball players buying a three-pack of socks for $12 rather than spend $18 on one higher-end pair of socks,” he points out.

Many of the baseball teams, specifically travel baseball teams that purchase socks from Kratz Sporting Goods, are more likely to be creative with their spending on socks. “Many travel baseball teams are putting their team name or logo on their socks,” says Krebs.

In Glendive, MT, the sock-selling business is vibrant for Squad Sports and co-owner Lara Crighton.

“We have a variety of socks that are sold to area soccer, baseball and basketball teams,” says Crighton. “Everywhere I look in my store, I see socks on display.”

According to Crighton, one of difficulties of selling socks is having the right kind of inventory at the right time. “When it comes to blue socks, there’s electric blue, royal blue and navy blue. And, in green, there’s hunter green, Kelly green and neon green,” she says.  

And, in fast-pitch softball, sock decisions tend to change based on the age group of the girls.

“In girls’ fast-pitch softball, younger girls like custom socks that are tie-dyed or have images of puppies,” she points out. “Slightly older girls tend to choose two-tone socks. And the older girls wear traditional team colors.”

And, in basketball, boys and girls are more conservative in their sock preferences. “In basketball, we are seeing an increase in demand for black or white socks.”


Game Day Socks: “In games, I prefer to wear TCK (Twin City Knitting) socks rather than Nike socks just because Nike socks wear down over time and have less cushion,” says Mila Rossini, a soon-to-be-graduating senior from The Village School in Houston, TX. “I just think they wear down faster than TCK and I feel like the material on the TCK socks is more soft for a longer period of time. In games, I wear mostly white and sometimes black, but I don’t like black as much because the cotton sticks to my feet.”

Practice Socks. “In practice I wear any color of socks that match my outfits because I think it’s really fun and different,” says Rossini, who will play basketball for Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH) beginning next fall. “I don’t mind sock colors as long as it matches my outfit. It’s fun to wear patterned socks if I’m wearing a more basic outfit. For school, I wear low cut over the ankle socks and I don’t really like ankle socks.”

The Power of Brands. “I prefer white just because it matches more and I prefer not to wear big-name brands like Nike or Adidas since it might clash with the shoe brand I’m wearing,” says Rossini. “If I’m wearing Nike shoes, I don’t wear Adidas socks, but Nike on Nike to me can be too much.”


Every Sock Must Match. “When we play as a team, we always have our socks match our uniform. And at a certain time throughout the basketball season we are allowed to wear pink socks for breast cancer awareness, so we get pink socks and pink warm-ups and stuff like that,” says Morgan Brown, assistant coach of the Shady Spring (WV) Middle School girls basketball team.

For Now, White Is Right. “Our school provides each player with one standard pair of long white socks that we want them to wear in the games,” explains Emily May, head coach of the girls’ varsity basketball team at Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay, FL. “That’s a trend that every school team in Miami is doing these days. In practices, they can wear any colored socks.”

Fashion, Functionality and Affordability. “When I make decisions on socks for my travel team, I’m trying to balance what the players want, which is a fashionable sock, with what I know the players need, which is a functional sock, with what the team or the players can afford, from a price perspective,” explainss Matthew Rossini, who lives in the greater Houston, TX, area.