Dwayne Wade. Jay-Z. Will Smith. Julio Rodriguez. James Harden.
The list of public figures that have partnered with Stance since its founding in 2009 is expansive beyond belief. The brand began as an e-commerce platform selling its unique performance socks and has now grown to bring in profits of tens of millions of dollars per year.
Jeff Kearl was the head of tech startup Logoworks when he found his first success. Hewlett-Packard, a massive, multinational computer hardware company, acquired Logoworks in 2007, and Kearl was ready for his next challenge.
Kearl described perusing the aisles of Walmart, Target and Nordstrom, trying to decide what product his new company might produce. “I eventually got to the sock category,” Kearl told Women’s Wear Daily.
“It was black and white, navy, blue, gray, really basic and in plastic bags. Even when I went to Nordstrom, which theoretically it would be more premium, it was still multipacks, poorly merchandised, tired design.”
The career self-starter recognized the opportunity for a new product to come in and shake up a market worth $25 billion year in and out. Out of a place of curiosity and a desire to do something new — along with the possibility of profitability, of course — Stance was born.
Kearl served as a co-founder of Stance along with John Wilson, Ryan Kingman, Taylor Shupe and Aaron Hennings. Until 2019 he was the chief executive officer, as well, and oversaw tremendous growth that has led to the “something bigger” he predicted could happen.
Since 2009, Stance has grown to include shirts, underwear, pants, and more. Keep reading for more about the story of Stance and Jeff Kearl.
What Inspired Stance Socks?
Jeff Kearl’s wanderings through department stores proved essential for the design process. He recognized that the sock market was missing a unique, expressive product, and he felt he could provide that. In 2009, Stance launched its first line of socks. Produced in crew cut, high cut and ankle cut, Stance’s socks have always been about both feeling good and looking good.
Stance aims to create products that are “a direct extension of who you are and how you feel.” Their philosophy emphasizes that style and functionality are not mutually exclusive, even though current fashion trends seem to say otherwise.
Kearl’s untraditional grassroots market research (big words for walking through Target) was the factor that brought this to mind. When he saw the drab colors of standard socks and the absurd price points on higher-quality products, it was clear to him what he needed to do.
The decision to venture into the sock market was an easy one due to a number of factors according to Kearl. Socks are easy to ship, even easier to size and relatively easy to produce with extremely high rates of repeat purchase.
If Kearl could put out a high-quality product that got into the hands of consumers, he knew they’d come back to his company and bring friends. Socks are a fickle type of product, and once someone has settled on the type of socks they wear regularly, they’re frequently a loyal customer.
The Values Make the Brand
“I don’t want to know if you went to Stanford or a community college,” Kearl said.
“I don’t care. I want to understand your values.”
The values behind Stance and the people who make it excellent have been more important to Kearl than anything else throughout the process. Even ten years after its founding, Stance still required all potential employees to have a second interview with an original member of the company.
“That second interview is all about values,” Jeff Kearl said of the hiring process. “I’m trying to understand if their values overlap with our values. I never look at their résumés, because it biases me.”
On the About page of Stance’s website, their values are clearly enumerated, and they’re obviously an important part of how the company grew to its size. The brand has created repeat customers by emphasizing these values in customer service, production, and sales.
Stance Continues to Grow and Expand
Stance’s high-quality clothing now includes joggers, face masks, mugs and t-shirts. Its product line has grown over time and seems likely to continue to grow. All of its products are produced with the same high-quality pieces of the puzzle, and of course, Stance’s values are tantamount throughout the process of production, advertisement, and sale.
As Stance added more and more products to its e-commerce site and 20-plus brick-and-mortar locations, it’s also gained important partnerships that have elevated the brand’s identity. In 2016, Stance was named the official sock of Major League Baseball, as baseball’s biggest stars have sported their socks for the Home Run Derby and Major League All-Star Game each year since.
Their list of partners expands beyond baseball, though. NBA star Donovan Mitchell, professional golfer Bubba Watson, and star musicians Rihanna and Jaden Smith are among the names Stance boasts in its list of “Punks and Poets.”
Jeff Kearl found significant success by venturing into an arena he had no experience in. He worked hard and kept his values close to his chest, and Stance has since earned every bit of success it’s found.