When Honesty is the Best Policy
According to a Greek poet named Hesiod, in the 8th century BC, the ancient Greeks wore socks called ‘piloi’, which were made from animal hair!
The first knitted items were invented in Jutland and date from around 1500 BC. The earliest sock like items were found in the graves of the ancient Egyptians and date from around 500 AD.
Socks are, considered to be, one of our oldest forms of clothing and yet today we think of them as nothing more than a simple item that we wear without too much thought.
There was a time when socks were thought of as a status symbol, with only the richest being able to afford a pair of coloured socks! However, that all changed in 1589 when a knitting machine was invented.
In 1882 John Hall set about building a sock making factory. After managing to save £500 out of his meagre £2.00 a week wage and with a mortgage raised on his house John was able to secure the land to build the factory at Stoke Golding in Leicestershire.
He realised that the local farmers around Stoke Golding did not have much warmth for their feet during the winter and the socks they wore were not very long lasting, so set about changing this.
The first socks he produced were pure Scottish wool, grey half-hose. There is a record that shows you could purchase 2 dozen pairs of these socks for a cost of 2s 7d.
John Hall was a fair and honest trader and as his business grew his reputation grew too, leading to him becoming known as Honest John Hall.
Hence the business becoming known as HJ Hall.
Soon the business was up and running with 16 full time staff and a turnover of £32 4s 6d a month. A tidy sum of £2,132.80 in today’s money which would have secured either a horse, 3 cows, 59 sheep, 25 quarters of wheat or the wages of 97 skilled tradesmen.
Throughout the years HJ Hall started to sell more and more. Winning contracts to supply the MoD which lasted 80 years and supplying independent retailers.
In 1958 Honest Johns grandson Peter had an idea to create a sock of endurable strength, which would be made of heavy-duty nylon, unshrinkable and underwritten by a guarantee to prove the honesty and integrity of the product. The Indestructible. So secure in this product HJ Hall now guarantee it for 12 months.
95 years after the factory was first built HJ Hall moved out. Having outgrown the old factory it moved to a purpose-built site that was 66,000 sq. ft. The additional space allowed the company to expand and grow, using its own specific dye-house and effluent facilities.
The factory is now 85,000 sq. ft. and houses more 21st century facilities and modern equipment which keeps the business progressing.
IN 1989 Neville Hall, Johns great grandson and Peter’s son brought his invention to the family table. The Softop. Made of natural fibre and containing no elastic whatsoever this brand beater is the only non-elastic sock endorsed by The Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. They were invented to alleviate the problems caused by a tight elastic sock and over 20 million pairs have been sold worldwide.
In 2001 HJ Hall acquired Pantherella a company who had been producing fine English socks for 70 years. In 2007 they also acquired another British sock company Scott Nichol. Both brands took pride in creating hosiery for the discerning customer.
Using products of quality to create products of quality from the quality of Cashmere to the finest of Chinese silks the provenance of the products has been critical to the finished item.
Acquiring such prestigious brands as that of Pantherella and Scott Nichol gave HJ Hall the largest market share of the sock industry. All three brands now go under the Pantherella International Group header.
In the UK alone an estimated 120 million pairs of socks were bought last year. Before the sock knitting process can begin the raw materials need to be washed and spun into yarn. Coloured socks are made with the yarn previously dyed which is known as in-grain yarn or are dyed after they have been knitted.
The knitting machine has a cylinder with between 84 and 200 knitting needles surrounding it. The yarn is fed into the knitting machine and is knitted around the cylinder. The toe part is not stitched in so when this process is completed the sock comes off like a tube.
Once the sock leaves the knitting machine it goes to the seaming area. Socks should only have a toe seam as any more seams would cause discomfort to the wearer. The toe seams on socks such as bamboo and silk are often finished by hand to maximise comfort.
Once the sock has been sewn it is then taken for washing in plain water – meaning no detergents are used. This process is known as the wet finish process and ensures that all excess knitting oils or residue from the yarn is removed, and that no shrinkage has occurred, and the socks are stabilised.
Once the socks are washed and dried, they go to the board pairing area. This is where they are pulled on flat metal foot forms (this part of the process is called boarding) and formed into the desired shape and size.
Once happy with the shape and size the socks are steam pressed into their final form.
The next step is perhaps the trickiest. Even socks made from the same machine, with the same yarn and the same processes involved may not be an exact match to their partner. Pairing up the socks is a comprehensive process which takes time and skill. If there are any mistakes at this point the process must be checked back to the manufacturing.
The last step is to neatly pack the socks ready for distribution.
In 2007 HJ Halls ProTrek socks were given the ultimate test. They had been designed and proven to give the very best in comfort, durability, and moisture management and when you are about to embark on a challenge to travel 350 miles in conditions that can get to -50 Celsius you do not want to be worrying about what socks your wearing!
The challenge was the Polar Race, a biennial race from Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Northern Canada to the North Magnetic Pole. The team wearing the Protrek socks were the Polar Horizons and were the only team to complete the challenge with no blisters in 15 days, 4 hours 2 minutes and 24 seconds, finishing in second place.
HJ Hall have been leaders in their field for a long time and it is no surprise that they chose two very well-known celebrities to collaborate with, Peter Jones an extremely successful entrepreneur and Ben Fogle a broadcaster, writer, and explorer.
HJ Hall have always had an interest in delivering innovative, durable, and practical products. They have an increasing awareness of medical conditions that surround the feet and know that general foot care can be vital for a sense of wellbeing. They provide a wide range of socks to meet these daily challenges, such as socks for diabetes, swollen ankles, and water retention. As well as socks for travel and ones that give you stamina.
HJ Hall is a brand leader but still retains its ethics and integrity. Offering a 6 month guarantee not only ensures confidence but displays the honesty that John Hall was known for all those years ago.