When Randy Goldberg and David Heath learned that socks were the most requested clothing item in homeless shelters back in 2011, they knew they could help. Two years later, when the duo officially launched their clothing company, Bombas, they did so with a goal: for each pair of socks that the company sold, a pair would be donated to people experiencing homelessness across the U.S. The brand has even expanded that campaign to also include T-shirts in 2019 and underwear in early 2021.
“We knew that in order to donate a lot of socks, we'd have to sell a lot of socks, and to do that, we'd have to create something better than anything else on the market,” Goldberg, Bombas's co-founder and chief brand officer, tells Mental Floss in an email. Eight years later, the company has been able to donate over 45 million items to homeless shelters through their network of over 3000 Giving Partners that include shelters and community organizations across all 50 states. “It's incredibly humbling to know that the simple gesture of giving someone a clean pair of socks, underwear, or a T-shirt can create a meaningful connection and sense of dignity for that individual,” Goldberg says.
The socks given to homeless shelters are what the company calls “the greatest sock never sold.” This is because Goldberg and Heath spent over two and a half years researching and developing their first sock before launching Bombas. They tested them for durability and comfort while redesigning annoying details like pesky toe seams and figuring out a way to prevent them from slipping down your ankle. Their Giving Partners also work closely with the team to create specific products for different people in need.
“Our donation socks and T-shirts feature an antimicrobial treatment to help with the growth of fungus, reinforced seams, and darker color for less visible wear,” Goldberg says. He also mentions that the company is developing donation-specific underwear that will feature darker colors and will be available in different silhouettes.
When the Black Live Matter movement gained even more momentum during the pandemic, Bombas released the Black Hive Collection. “The Black Hive Collection and campaign was inspired by and created with the company's Black Hive—a self-formed and -titled collective of our Black employees and [was] easily supported by the entire company,” Goldberg says. The socks in this collection feature bright colors and bold patterns that celebrate Black history.
According to the Bombas site, Black Americans disproportionally make up 40 percent of the people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. To combat this, Bombas donated $50,000 in June 2020 and an additional $25,000 in February 2021 to four organizations that were chosen by the company's Black employees. Each pair of socks sold from the Black Hive Collection results in a pair being donated to one of the four charities chosen.
During the pandemic, Bombas has also been donating PPE, hand sanitizer, and additional socks to essential workers. On their website, they have a timeline showing their creative giving efforts throughout the past year of COVID-19. The company started many new programs during the pandemic that they want to continue, such as Giving Partner office hours and monthly educational webinars the public can join to discuss the intersection of homelessness with issues like racial discrimination. “Bringing attention to these topics is important to us not only for our customers to reframe how they think about homelessness, but also to feel encouraged to start conversations with friends and family to consider connecting with their local homeless communities,” Goldberg says.
Bombas also wants to ensure that every customer, paying and non-paying, is happy with their new product. Sadly the reality of life is that socks, T-shirts, and underwear can go missing, get chewed up by your dog, or no longer fit. This is why the company implemented its 100% Happiness Guarantee campaign where Bombas will replace the item no matter what.
Through these efforts, transparency is a crucial point Bombas has maintained and encouraged, especially over the past year. “We wanted to transparently communicate with our customers not only about specific actions Bombas has taken to support those in need during an incredibly difficult time, but also to provide resources on how they can help and get involved within their local communities,” Goldberg says.
Now that the new underwear giving campaign launched in January 2021, Goldberg is excited to keep expanding Bombas's offerings beyond socks and create comfortable, quality products for all their customers and wearers.
To learn more about Bombas and all their charitable efforts, make sure to head over to their website here.