smartwool employees riding bikes

25 Lessons in 25 Years of Smartwool

The Smartwool story started 25 years ago with the belief that you should be comfortable no matter the adventure. A lot of who we are today comes from lessons inspired by that belief. So in celebration of our ‘quarter of a century’ birthday, we wanted to share 25 lessons that we feel help define who we are, how we make products, and where we want to go for the next 25 years.


1. Merino matters

Obvious? Perhaps. But in 1994, Merino wool socks were unheard of and the importance of well-made socks was underestimated. Our first pair of Merino wool ski socks revolutionized the category and helped enthusiasts stay out even longer. There’s a reason we still use it as our base fiber today. Because it works really really well.

2. You’ll never know what’s possible until you try

When we found out how well Merino worked as a performance fiber, we started experimenting with base layers and sweaters. Since then we’ve been pushing the boundaries of Merino to make gear designed to help keep you comfortable and confident outdoors. We’re glad we didn’t just stop at socks.

3. Change is only scary if you don’t do it

When we weren’t happy with our own sustainability efforts, we decided that we needed to change something. So we created employee-led teams that were in charge of organizing volunteer days and helping lessen our environmental impacts. Now, these teams are a core part of the brand and help guide our decision making. We don’t know where we’d be without them.

4. Those who you depend on should also be able to depend on you

We were one of the first companies to create long-term contracts with our Merino wool growers to ensure environmental, social, and economic sustainability. While this takes work and effort, we find that it is ultimately rewarding to support growers and help develop practices to watch out for the environment and Merino sheep.

5. Socks make the best gifts

It’s a proven fact. And that’s why we keep making socks for everyone. From the most hardcore mountaineers to people who just want to be comfortable as they bike into work.

 6. Limits aren’t set in stone (or snow) (or dirt)

Year after year, our athlete team has pushed the limits of their sports—forcing us to re-think designs and come up with new innovations. We are lucky to have a team that inspires us to keep finding new solutions while constantly raising the bar in their respective sports. Our work is never done (and that’s a good thing).

7. Nothing brings people together like a little type 2 fun

Our annual Ride to Outdoor Retailer is so much more than just a sufferfest. Sure it’s kinda pure sweat and charlie horses, but when you ride a bike next to a co-worker for several hundred miles, you talk about all kinds of things from hopes and dreams to sweet cravings and bad jokes. Things get real, and we can’t wait to tackle our 13th Ride to OR this June.

8. We have to stand up for the things we care about

If we don’t take the initiative to protect what we love, who will? We believe in doing everything we can to sustain and preserve our environment. In 2018 alone, we donated a total of $168,890 to our Advocacy partners—Protect Our Winters, The Conservation Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Big City Mountaineers, and SOS Outreach. We’re excited to continue supporting these partners and other conservation-focused organizations so that everyone has the opportunity to experience the joy of the outdoors.

9. Giving back gives hope

Each and every Smartwool employee receives 40 hours of paid community service time. Taking action inspires us, inspires the community, and actually helps. Last year, we volunteered a total of 3,254 hours with 40 different organizations. This year, our goals are even higher.

10. Women are badasses

But let’s be honest, we already knew that 25 years ago. We are honored to have an amazing group of female athletes on our team. From working with pro freeskier Angel Collinson to design what might be our best ski sock yet to cheering on Mikaela Shiffrin as she crushes world records, the women throughout the Smartwool community constantly inspire us.

11. We are most inspired when we are outdoors

7:00 am: Wake up & check the powder cam. 7:03 am: Receive a text from the boss saying the 9:00 am meeting has been moved to the gondola. Ski days and powder mornings are a huge part of who we are and we find that they center us and help us work together even better.

12. There’s more than one way to make a sock

We’ve been knitting American-made socks since the begining, using Merino wool from around the world. Our multi-generational sock makers know what it takes to make the best socks. But we’re always trying to get better. Recently, we figured out a new way to build socks in order to make them more durable. Our Indestructawool™ technology is proof that refining and pushing ourselves can produce results. We want to make our socks even better year after year.

13. Gravity doesn’t apply to everyone

Clarity and precision have propelled Smartwool athlete Conrad Anker to the top of his sport. He’s the leader of a movement and a major inspiration to generations of climbers. Conrad’s point of view has helped us broaden our socks and create new innovations for mountaineers and climbers. It’s good to have a different perspective.  

14. Adventure comes in layers

Besides being comfortable when you layer Merino properly, true adventures are multifaceted. We are always on the lookout for opportunities to be spontaneous and change the plan (and it helps when you’re wearing the right gear).

15. Life is better outside

You know, where you can use your outdoor voice. Bike commuting, eating local food on patios, going out for a group hike and cleaning up the trail are a few ways we help take care of the world around us. We’re passionate about finding everyday ways to live better and help preserve our planet.         

16. Sometimes less is way more

Smartwool athlete Austin Smith spent most of his winter living in a remodeled fire truck. His tiny home even has a drawer just for his Smartwool. This way he can be nimble and spontaneous—seeing and doing more in a season than he could with more stuff.

17. The environment is our future

Now, more than ever, we realize the importance of helping protect the future of the places we love. One way that we’re doing this is by partnering with organizations like Big City Mountaineers and SOS Outreach to help instill a wonder for wild places in today’s youth so they can help preserve it in the future.

18. You can look good and feel good too

We are inspired by incredible artists like Bryan Iguchi and Jonas Claesson. They combine the vibe and spirit of the outdoors through brush strokes and unique stylings. We are honored to infuse our products with their artwork. Hopefully, when you look at their work, you are transported to a memory or a feeling that is tied to your time outdoors.

19. Coffee is a human necessity

Our in-house espresso maker probably sees more lattes than our local coffee shop’s. With all of this work and play, rest seems optional and caffeine is required.

20. The classics are classics for a reason

Some things stand the test of time—our Classic Hike sock has been one the best sellers in the outdoor industry for almost two decades. And for good reason. Its tried-and-true design has carried thousands of happy hikers to their destinations and back.

21. There’s nothing more valuable than gear you can depend on

No matter the adventure, we’ve learned that reliable gear is a must to feel confident and safe in the elements. So not only do we offer a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee on all of our products, we test them relentlessly. We use employees and fans to help hone and refine our products before they go out to you.

22. Working hard is easier when you’re playing hard too

Fun is what we do, what we make, and who we are. From weekly lunch rides to after-work hikes to happy hour ‘meetings,’ we know that when we make time for fun together, it makes the challenging days much more enjoyable.

23. Joy starts with your feet

When you take care of your feet, your main mode of transportation, anything can happen. From fun patterns to technical socks, comfort is important because your feet literally connect you to the adventure you’re on. When there are no discomforts or distractions, you can be totally immersed in your surroundings. So yeah, in our opinion, joy does kind of start with your feet.  

24. A brand is only as powerful as the people within it

From our employees and partners to our incredible retailers to our amazing fans, we are made up of unique and caring individuals. Smartwool just wouldn’t be the same without the people who surround us. We are so grateful to have you as a part of our community.

25. The future is bright

And we plan to try and make it brighter every day. Here’s to the next 25 years.






group photo of smartwool employees