Hero | 20 Jahre Blacksocks
The History of BLACKSOCKS
Find out all about BLACKSOCKS, from the birth of the sockscription to test-winning socks to awards. Choose a year or scroll back through our history.
2019 - 20 Years of BLACKSOCKS
Millions of Socks
When we first started selling socks online in June 1999, we could never have dreamed that one day we would have sold millions of socks. Our best-selling classic calf socks made a career for themselves by selling millions all on their own. Other models have also now broken the million barrier.
Hundreds of Thousands of Colorful Socks
In 1999, the name said it all: BLACKSOCKS sold nothing but black socks until 2008. Now things are different. Our plain, patterned, and brightly colored socks are becoming more popular every year. This is not likely to change any time soon, even if everyday business outfits have become drastically different over the past 20 years. Take a look at our shop.
More Than 100 Countries
We now ship our socks to over 100 countries. Although our native land of Switzerland is still our top market, we are increasingly operating outside of the country. The USA and Germany regularly vie for position as our second largest market. We of course have lots of more exotic locations like the Maldives where we have four customers, even if it is not really a sock country!
Highlight of the Year
The tenth volume of Funky Socks was launched.
New Additions to the Family
New pairs of socks are added to the BLACKSOCKS family. All four are related to existing products. These include the Classy calf socks: they are based on the Classic calf socks but show off their individuality with their micro-pattern.
The underwear range also gained some new arrivals: Delphine boxers are now available in summery sailor stripes and marine blue.
The Sockscription Is All Grown Up
There has been a solution for all your sock sorrows since 1999: the original sockscription. We are celebrating 18 years of the sockscription, 18 years of BLACKSOCKS and 18 years of online shopping, and are taking a look back over these 18 exciting, turbulent and interesting years. We look forward to another 18 years free of sock sorrows.
Just a Click Away
When it comes to fine undergarments, men just want more and more of the same. The ‘More’ button makes this easier than ever: all it takes is a thought and a double-click for your favourite product to be ordered.
In 2016, we shipped our socks to a total of 104 different countries – a record since we were founded in 1999.
Reserved and Discreet
Our striped socks now also include a version with blue stripes – a new design which has already proved popular and become an integral part of our sock range.
The same goes for our short invisible socks: We are offering the barefoot look with Invisible Socks. These short socks can’t be seen in your shoes, but still protect your feet, absorb sweat and prevent rubbing.
Redesign number five
We dedicate the sixteenth BLACKSOCKS year 100% to a better customer experience. That's why we invest a lot of time and money in a new website and a new shop.
The Return of Polo Shirts
To celebrate the beginning of spring, our range is welcoming back the Pierrette polo shirt without any animal logo on the chest.
We look back over 15 turbulent years and celebrate 15 years of:
- E-commerce and Subscription
- Calf socks and Knee socks
In the anniversary month of June, our sales are up by 50% on the previous year, making this the best month in the company's history.
A new product line brings music to your feet thanks to Philipp Fankhauser. These colorful socks set the tone and ensure that a good mood reigns supreme in your wardrobe. They are also increasingly becoming the eye-catchers of many men’s outfits. Fun T-shirts are all grown up.
Over 2/3 of traffic now comes from outside Switzerland. USA and Germany are head to head in the race for the top spot. International sales have increased by over 35%.
Following underwear, shirts are also launched, first in white and later in light blue. BLACKSOCKS hits the spot on launching the colourful, stripy socks. The striped Business light socks are now an integral part of the range.
We Passed the Test
Whilst Digitec was taken over by Migros, we have remained independent. The consumer magazine K-Tipp tests the 14 bestselling black socks for men, including socks from BLACKSOCKS. The BLACKSOCKS calf socks receive the overall score of 5, placing them among the best socks in Switzerland.
BLACKSOCKS achieves an overall test result of 'good' for the third time (previously in 2003 and 2008) – a clear sign of the socks' quality.
Brand New for the Sock World!
BLACKSOCKS launches an iPhone app, socks with RFID, and a reader: Smarter Socks. The system allows the socks to communicate with the internet and sends the number of website visits skyrocketing.
Digital Lifetime Award
Samy Liechti, founder of BLACKSOCKS, is the first to receive the inaugural 'Digital Lifetime Award' from the Interactive Advertising Bureau Switzerland (IAB). The IAB is a non-profit organisation that represents the interests of the online advertising market.
The reasoning given for choosing Samy to receive an award for his lifetime's work is that in creating BLACKSOCKS, he was able to make a real breakthrough with the idea of the sockscription. According to the IAB, the company, which was founded in 1999, is one of the original players in the Swiss online sector.
A New Type of Comfort
We start to offer socks made of fairtrade organic cotton. 'Urban Comfort' are sporty business socks with a soft terry sole. This makes them kind on your feet but also good for the environment and your conscience, thanks to our cooperation with respected Swiss cotton producer Remei.
Simply the best
In 2010, Best of Swiss Web awarded prizes to the best Swiss websites since the invention of the internet in the special category 'Simply the best'. BLACKSOCKS was on the shortlist of the best sites and thus the excellent, trendsetting internet projects. The e-commerce pioneer is therefore part of the exclusive circle of the five best Swiss websites 'ever'. The website’s fourth redesign pays off.
Bringing Color to the Dark
One small step for mankind, one giant leap for BLACKSOCKS. After over 11 years of just black, you have convinced us to paint a brighter picture. The time has come: the classic calf sock, our bestseller, is now available in anthracite, navy and red. The only thing different about the socks is the colour.
Explore the USA
In March 2009, BLACKSOCKS signs a partnership agreement with the USA. In September, BLACKSOCKS is launched in the USA.
10 years BLACKSOCKS
You cannot receive awards every year and so we are celebrating our 10th anniversary ourselves. The previous year, BLACKSOCKS was named the dinosaur of the internet by the economics magazine Bilanz. We are not extinct yet though!
Business Light Socks
After 10 years of ribbed socks, BLACKSOCKS launches the Business light collection as smooth, light socks for everyday wear made from mercerised cotton. The new socks are becoming among our bestsellers.
Barefoot on subscription
Customers' places of residence are allocated to a region based on the first two digits of their postcode. BLACKSOCKS keeps track of the regional temperatures with the help of the data generated by wetter.com. As soon as the mercury crosses 27 degrees Celsius at their place of residence, subscribers receive a text message from the inventor of the sockscription giving them official permission to take off their socks and spend the rest of the day barefoot. Decisions are taken three times a day as to which regions receive a text message.
K-Tipp and Kassensturz have 14 of the best-selling black men's socks tested by the Hohenstein Institute in Germany. The socks undergo several tests to assess their abrasion resistance, shape after washing, pilling, colour fastness and workmanship quality.
The result: the test winner with a score of 5.2 out of 6 is BLACKSOCKS. And the BLACKSOCKS calf socks prove to be particularly durable. The first hole only appears on the sole after being rubbed 30,000 times; the heels survive even longer – 50,000 rubs.
1 million socks sold
While Zalando is just getting started, our oldest product, the calf sock, is being sold for the millionth time.
Say it with pants
At the 'Ars Electronica 2007' in Linz (Austria), an exhibit by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) causes quite a stir. Our Delphine boxer shorts are strung across the street as a matrix display. Visitors can use wooden letters to write a message that is then digitalised and communicated across the street by means of the underwear.
Undergarments for men
When the company was established, a small agreement was signed on a serviette stating that BLACKSOCKS would not launch any non-sock products before reaching 10,000 subscribers. In 2007, this number was reached and many subscribers felt that the time had come for underwear, and so customers' desires won through.
Following a turbulent 2005, BLACKSOCKS is re-organised, expands its infrastructure and its workforce and prepares itself for further growth. Product Nothing new from the land of socks
An Original and 180 Copycats
The first copycats appear in spring 2000. In 2006, there are over 120 sockscription providers in German-speaking countries and around 180 on a global level. Most of these disappear as quickly as they appeared. More than half of the people in Switzerland are now familiar with the concept of a sockscription.
Shorty Sneaker Socks
Complete your collection: calf socks, knee socks... and short socks! Shorty sneaker socks joined our range back in 2005 and have remained there ever since.
The Founding Partner Marcel Roth transfers his shares to Samy Liechti, who becomes the sole shareholder Product A further new product: shorty, also known as sneaker socks.
Marketing Trophy Gold & Copernican Award
BLACKSOCKS was the only European company to be nominated for the Copernican Award. The nomination was in the category 'Small enterprise with a turnover of up to 100 million dollars'. Even before the well-known photo service Flickr, we were able to proudly receive the award on 27 April 2005 in the Rainbow Room of the Rockefeller Center in New York. The Customer Experience Council (leading US company) presents the Copernican Award to companies that place customers at the heart of their commercial activities and their business model and therefore achieve an above-average performance.
A customer had a good experience. It just happened that he was on the Customer Experience Council and nominated us for an award. We won and the resultant hype enabled us to grow by 70%. The three-person BLACKSOCKS team is totally swamped.
A new website is launched to mark the 5th anniversary – with images and a grey design instead of a black one. To make the transition, members can 'remove' parts of the old website pixel by pixel and keep them as souvenirs. This is BLACKSOCKS's second re-design. With two full-time roles and significant outsourcing, this year we served over 25,000 customers from 30 countries.
Just as Facebook was being founded, BLACKSOCKS expanded its range for the first time: cashmere silk socks make perfect Christmas presents and begin attracting quality-conscious customers. Successful men indulge in cashmere pullovers. Truly successful men go a step further.
In October 2003, we launched a sock recycling service, a first for Swiss customers. Every delivery comes with a return label to ship used socks to TexAid. 80% of the socks collected enjoy a second career in the second or third world.
The Recognition Factor
After less than four years, we took the plunge and asked who was aware of us on the Swiss market: 26.9% of adults. This number is now more than half of adults. K-Tipp and Kassensturz also know about us, and gave our classic calf socks the top score of Good.
Symbolic. BLACKSOCKS orders letterhead paper from the same little printing company every year. Whereas in 1999, we had to explain what e-commerce meant, in 2000, we are told that we can pay for the paper in shares. In 2002, the printer requests payment when we place the order due to concerns that we would go bust and he would never see his money.
Best of Swiss Web
In May 2002, the judges stated: "With its sockscription, BLACKSOCKS aims to make tiresome sock purchases a thing of the past. The seemingly absurd pairing of e-commerce and socks turns out to be a clever idea: the market is huge, the goods are simple and the shipping is easy. The subscription format leads to regular customer contact." The high-calibre judging panel further went on to say: "BLACKSOCKS has used an excellent business idea to make a name for itself out of nothing."
Really getting going now!
For the first 18 months, BLACKSOCKS was managed part-time as a project. At the start of 2001, the collective partnership becomes an Aktiengesellchaft (public limited company) and the sideline becomes a career. The building blocks for further growth are laid. By the end of the year, BLACKSOCKS has 5,000 customers. The first international orders are received. There are still a few problems with processing international payments.
Design Prize Switzerland
Recognition in the Service Design category The judges stated: "With its sockscription, BLACKSOCKS elegantly resolves a non-serious but frequent everyday problem with a pleasant dose of self-irony." designpreis.ch
Classic calf socks are one of our two most senior citizens. We would have gotten rid of them from our range ages ago, but you wouldn’t let us. The classics are still bestsellers today.
In the black with black socks
A year in and BLACKSOCKS starts to earn money for the first time. We naturally reinvested this immediately. The concept of e-commerce was still very new and many customers made their first e-commerce transaction with us. We therefore succeeded in acquiring 1,800 customers in the first 12 months.
Finalist of the GDI E-shop Award
The renowned Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) presented its inaugural E_SHOP AWARD in 1999. Initially devised for Swiss online shops, shops from other countries were also considered due to a lack of Swiss ones. BLACKSOCKS receives the title 'Site to Watch'.
From One Color in 1999 to Four Today
Our knee-length socks have also been with us since 1999. Made in Italy and now available in four colors. They are reliable and guaranteed to fit your company’s dress code.
Off We Go!
As we built the company using our own savings, we are very careful with money. We made the same mistakes as other start-ups, just with much less of a cost. Initial sales had to cover costs. The range still consisted of just two products: black calf socks and knee socks, available either as a sockscription or in a multipack.
No customers, no sales, no profile and no loyalty – that’s how we began.
In June 1999, a few months before Netflix’s first subscription model, BLACKSOCKS went online and launched the sockscription. By the end of the year, we had over 1000 customers.
Google went online in the same year, and the internet was still very sparsely populated. The internet’s inner user group (including email) – meaning repeated use within a week – was 11%. Just 10% of these had conducted a transaction online.
Let's do it!
No venture capital, no public limited company and no binding shareholder agreements, just a simple handshake and a collective partnership – and BLACKSOCKS was ready for its launch. The priorities were clear: to find a supplier for quality socks and build a website to act as an online shop.
We actually wanted to sell branded socks but the brand providers did not believe in the sockscription idea and we instead launched our own brand.
The birth of the idea
In 1994, when newly graduated economist Samy Liechti was asked by his then boss to attend a last-minute meeting with Japanese customers, he would not have imagined that this day would change his life. After the meeting, the Japanese invited him to a tea ceremony.
Tradition dictates that you take your shoes off for such occasions. It was then that it happened: a mistake so blatant it could not go unnoticed. Samy's socks were odd. One was deep black and smooth while the other was ribbed and faded, with a hole in the big toe.
The embarrassing situation made Samy Liechti think about how to manage his personal sock problem and avoid such situations in the future. And that is how the idea of a sockscription came about.