With the arrival of arctic weather on the East Coast my Bean Boots (the Gumshoes) have been in heavy rotation. Actually, I have the habit (bad?) of wearing those Bean Boots nearly round the clock. In my twisted mind they are shoes (not boots) and there doesn’t need to be snow or slush anywhere in sight for these bad boys to see action. The thing about wearing those boots when temperatures are in the teens (and below), socks are the key to comfort. Enter Fox River Mills — my wintertime sock manufacturer of choice. Fox River Mills is the perfect convergence of necessity, function and style. Plus, their prices are reasonable and I will give you one guess where they are made.
The company was founded in the Fox River Valley of Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1900 and eventually move its headquarters and production to Osage, Iowa. Fox River Mills is a large manufacturer of knit socks and other knit goods like gloves (which are also very nice) for civilian and the military customers, and it remains a family owned company. My personal favorite (of their many excellent socks) are the Rockford Red Heel “Monkey Socks,” which were originally invented and made by Nelson Knitting Mills of Rockford, IL. The Rockford Red Heel socks are known as the original work sock, worn by farmers and factory workers throughout America. More info from the Fox River Mills website:
Both Fox River and Nelson Knitting Mills, the original maker of the Rockford Red Heel sock, began business in the Midwest at the turn of the century. Both companies knit socks on innovative machines that allowed for the mass production that the expanding country needed.
In 1932, Nelson Knitting Mills first introduced the red heel on the Rockford sock, to distinguish their product from the many imitators. The making of sock monkeys came about on its own by clever crafters using a humble sock to make a beloved toy. In support of this phenomenon, in 1951 Nelson Knitting started enclosing sock monkey instructions with each pair of socks, a tradition Fox River has carried on to this day. In 1992, Fox River purchased the remaining assets of Nelson Knitting, including the trademark for the Rockford Red Heel® sock, as Nelson Knitting closed their doors.
Sometime in the 1940s or early 1950s mothers would fashion stuffed animals known as “Sock Monkeys” from the red heel socks. This helped to solidify the work socks as an iconic piece of Americana. More info about Sock Monkeys can be found here and they can be purchased here. And remember, keep ’em toasty.