News about socks? News about the deep south of the USA? Both seemed unlikely to show up on these pages until just a few minutes ago. And then we read this, and it fits the news we can use test:
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — Nine years ago, when she was 27 and unhappily selling real estate, Gina Locklear went to her parents with a proposition. She wanted to make socks. Not the basic white socks the family had specialized in, but fashionable socks, with organic cotton and dyes.
“I want to get into the sock business,” she told them. “I want to make a sustainable sock.”
Ms. Locklear, now 36, grew up in the business. Her parents, Terry and Regina Locklear, started a mill in Fort Payne, Ala., in 1991. They made white sport socks for Russell Athletic, millions of them, destined for big-box stores and your own feet if you took gym class.
Gina’s younger sister, Emily, recalled the girls going to the mill after school, where they helped their parents sort socks into dozens or played in the bins. Named after the two daughters, Emi-G Knitting bought the Locklears a house, bought Terry a vintage Corvette and paid for the girls’ college educations.
Still, the idea of Gina and her parents making organic fashion socks, or any socks at all, seemed totally crazy, given the time and place.
The mid-2000s was a devastating period for Fort Payne. Nestled in the state’s mountainous northeast, the town of 14,000 had for decades billed itself as “the Sock Capital of the World.” The cushioned sock was invented here, and one in every eight pairs of socks sold globally was said to be knitted in Fort Payne.
At the industry’s peak in the 1990s, more than 120 mills employed roughly 7,500 workers. But cheap foreign labor and free-trade agreements made the town a loser in the game of global economics. Seemingly overnight, the mills closed, and the new Fort Payne became a town in China called Datang. The 2008 financial crisis finished off those who were still hanging on…
Read the whole article here.