Pals Socks: Where Differences are Beautiful

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Childhood offers heaps of magic -- imagination and adventure usually run rampant, and children are just at the brink of discovering the beauty that our world has to offer. It has it's challenges, though. As parents, it's a critical season where we are encouraging Elleanor to see the differences in herself and others as the real magic that makes the world beautiful. I remember one day when I dropped Elleanor off at pre-school -- I looked around and realized that every child and their family make-up was so different. Her teacher was Romanian, and many of the children in the school were learning English as a second language. There were different religious beliefs, family traditions and more -- and I loved it so much. If she takes away anything as she enters Kindergarten, I hope she carries with her the value of differences.

A few weeks ago we were introduced to the sweetest company with the most amazing, world-changing mission: Pals Socks. A simple concept of the most adorable mismatched socks is teaching children and adults alike that the pieces of us that are different are actually our greatest attributes. Owner and founder Hannah Lavon designs sock friends that come in so many adorable pairs, to include dragons and unicorns, bears and bees, polar bears and penguins and so many more. From baby all the way up to adult sizes, the sweet socks are singing a manifesto that we don't all have to match -- in fact, that's what makes us great! 

What's even more inspiring is that these socks are ethically made, have a powerful giveback business model, and offer children an opportunity to connect with other Pals through a PenPals group. Elleanor was thrilled to try the Dragon an Unicorn socks. In fact, as soon as she put the socks on, she decided that she wanted to sit in her room and read Wizard of Oz with her witch hat on...she's an adventurer at heart!

Read on with us as we chat with Hannah about her business, her mission and how the socks are changing the world!

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How did Pals Socks come to be?

It's a long story, but to sum it up kinda quick - my background is in advertising design. I worked as an ad agency Art Director and worked on various consumer kid oriented product accounts like PlayDoh, Nintendo, etc. I had an idea to make fun mittens for adults that came mismatched as predator and prey so your hands could fight, like hand puppets. In one set, one hand was a lion, other was a gazelle. Frog vs. fly. Wolf vs. sheep. I had found a lady from craigslist to crochet prototypes for me, found a factory online, got them manufactured, imported them and sold to gift stores across the USA. This was funded by profits I made from selling posters, cards, mugs I designed and sold at local markets. After years of doing this on the side while freelancing, I decided I wanted to make it a full-time career. I needed to make something I could sell for more than 2 months out of the year. Mittens pivoted into a less seasonal socks, but I changed the concept to be one of friendship, something I felt was a very important message today. 

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We love how Pals encourages kids and adults alike to see "differences" as actually what makes each of us amazing. Why is this message of inclusiveness in your products so important?
As you are aware, there are a lot of bad vibes going around these days. Lots of people are vocal about no longer being “politically correct”, be free in declaring their hate of certain kinds of people without judgement. Hate crimes are up. Nazi-ism is on the rise. Attacks against all kinds of minorities are a daily news occurrence. This is why the concept of Pals is so important today. We need to inspire kids, our youth and future, appreciate and even think differences are fun so we can live in a more harmonious world. Even if their parents unknowingly buy these socks because they are cute, they are an incognito way of showing a kid that it is super fun to have a friend that does not match, and it is a concept that translates into everyday life.

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Not only do you have a powerful mission through your socks, you also have an incredible give-back aspect to your business model. Can you tell us briefly about this and some of the organizations you have partnered with? 
It is important to me to spread the love, give what I can. Since we moved to Philadelphia this year from Brooklyn, I wanted to give back to the local community with the Pals buy 1 give 1 program through Cradles to Crayons. They supply low income children with clothing/books/binders/pencils etc necessities to promote normalcy and be better prepared for school. I had the opportunity to tour the facility and their passion for helping others was just amazing. In the past we had quarterly partnerships with different nonprofits, all had missions I support. We had a buy 1 give 1 program with That Lucky Bracelet (free cheer-up gift boxes for children in hospitals), Facing History (% of profits donated, educational programs in schools that discuss and inspire students to stop future horrors like the Holocaust), and the PACER center (% of profits donated, an organization that creates anti-bullying campaigns and workshops). 

Since launching Pals, how have you seen the message of acceptance positively impact others through your products and vision?
Many parents have told me Pals are a wonderful way to introduce the concept of different friends to a young child. (Apparently kids really start to notice our differences around 2,3 years of age, even a 6 month old baby can tell the difference, based on studies.) I have also seen videos of kids who love their Pals, and tell the camera the reason is because they are friends that don’t match. It’s more fun when they don’t match because you can create stories and make them have conversations, something is indicative of real life when you are curious about someone who is not just like you! Sidenote- Let’s say the whole different friends message goes over a kid’s head. Even if a kid prefers a more traditional style outfit with matching socks, the notion of trying out these mismatching socks and warming up to them has a whole bunch of life implications. How it’s fun to keep an open mind, how fun it is to try new things. This is something our brand is all about.

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How do you come up with your designs (what inspires the various Pals you’ve created)? Have you gotten any recommendations from customers for a Pals duo that you’ve produced?
It really comes down to research and brainstorming - what colors look good together, what animals make sense together. For example it would be really hard to make a spider because it would look like a black blob, the legs of a spider really define what it looks like. You are restricted by the shape of a foot.  I always take take customer’s suggestions into account, we are releasing more adult styles this Fall because of so many requests! We are small and can’t make everything in every size but the more people know about us and support us, the more styles we can release!

Pals is such a fun way to illustrate beautiful differences in something as fun and simple as mismatched socks! With so many fun pairs, can you tell us a few of your favorite designs so far?
It is really hard to pick! My new artist series Hedgehog and Snail is a new favorite of mine, last season my favorite was the Lion and Zebra! They are super funky.

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As another way for kids to learn about others and connect with new friends, Pals has a PenPals group! How does this work for those interested in joining?
Yes! We connect parents who want to learn how someone else lives in our group and make a new pal. The best way to be exposed to other ways of life is get to know someone different! We have around 60 members in our group and growing. You can request to join, and after approval you can connect with a parent of your choice and off you go. We also have created printable letter templates to for kids to jump start the letter writing.

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We noticed that Pals also have a fundraising option for those looking to raise money for a specific cause – how does this work?
We do indeed. We have a very easy fundraising program where a school, PTA, PTO, organization or club etc can sell Pals. We create a special code on our web store so when their supporters purchase Pals, we are able track it and they get to keep 50% of the sale. There is no cash up front.