It’s difficult to do something unique in menswear. Most new brands, or brands which are trying to differentiate themselves are typically only capable of slight changes to what we already know. It’s often enough to create sufficient interest from consumers and improve or build a brand.
The rare thing to see is someone doing something unexpected and creating daylight between themselves and any of their peers in their chosen market. With his still relatively fledgling business (2 years in February) Bram Frankel has managed to do this with William Abraham socks.
To have built a business with such a clear sense of its own identity is a difficult thing to do, particularly when you come from outside of the industry to begin with. Before starting William Abraham, Bram, based in New York, ran a marina (obviously), though he always had a strong interest in style and aesthetics. A growing frustration with the offerings from most makers on the market placed the thought in his mind that this could be his opportunity to turn his energies toward a new pursuit which he had a real interest in.
The frustration was spread evenly between two camps. On one side, the recent craze for brightly coloured and loudly patterned cotton socks which are fashion focused, but lack style. On the other side, established makers of quality socks (think Bresciani and Gammarelli etc) which make great socks, but typically in very safe styles (block colours, predictable patterns, little variation in the type of weave or fibre blends etc). It wasn’t a criticism of either option, simply that neither option were the socks Bram felt at home in. So, as is so often the case, he decided to make his own.
Key points of difference are the weaves, fibres and designs, which encompasses the entire sock, when you think about it. To sum up Bram’s socks in a sentence it’s that they’re clearly different, but in subtle ways. When worn, they are enough to be slightly noticeable for their elegance and unique weaves, with well balanced colours, whilst still not specifically calling attention to themselves. To me that suits a customer who has an intrinsic appreciation for quality and subtle style, with an interest in the socks for what they are, not for the attention they hope to gain from wearing them.
The blends Bram has used across the range have a pleasingly “mad scientist” feel to them. There are no “standard” socks throughout the collection, if they’re cotton then they’re Sea-Island or Belize cotton (longer and thinner fibres, making for finer and softer socks), if merino wool, then they’re superfine merino, often blended with silk or cotton. Things really start to get interesting once yak wool makes an appearance, along with baby alpaca, cashmere, mink, vicuna and cervelt (a rare New Zealand deer) at $1,275USD per pair.
I’ve just ordered a pair of cashmere-mink boot socks ($160USD) which arrived today and will be put through their paces in Switzerland, Chamonix and Italy from next week and I’ll write a separate review for those. Entry level socks start at $52USD (90% merino wool blend) with the majority of the range sitting between $70 and $120.
My only disappointment with the range so far has been that, other than Bram’s boot socks, every other option is over the calf (OTC), which is ideal for most men (as I’ve written about before on choosing and wearing socks, here) and stays true to the classic principles of hosiery for men, but as I have larger calves (from years spent cycling) and most of my trousers are only lined to the knee, OTC socks are wasted on me. I raised this with Bram and was pleased to hear that he’ll be bringing out some mid-calf socks next year. Problem solved.
Bram’s and his socks possess the attributes I look for and admire in a company, chief among which is a desire to produce something unique, to the highest possible standard, because it is simply within these individuals to do so (I’d include Marco Finardi in that list, along with companies like Cedes Milano). It changes perceptions of what’s possible, elevates the entire segment of the market and is inspiring to see. For these people, to give anything less would be pointless.
edit: In late 2016 Bram sold William Abraham to Mes Chaussettes Rouges.