How Nike Elites Changed the Athletic Sock Game

Tracking the rise of Nike's share of national sock stock

By Sarah Ostaszewski December 1, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Nomad

2007 The Nike Elite is born: a new-model sports sock made from synthetic fibers, designed, like shoes, to have separate left and right, and featuring special cushioning. 

2008–2009 Nike markets Elites to top high school and college basketball teams, and then to the general public, starting at $14 per pair.

2009 In part because of Elites’ use of synthetics, the share of athletic socks made from cotton falls from 46 percent in 2007 to 34 percent.

2011 Overall market for athletic socks reaches $1 billion. Nike’s share of sock industry revenue is just under 28 percent.

2011–2012 Adidas releases the Team Speed Traxion Shockwave Crew Sock, a clear competitor to the Elite, which retails at $15. 

2012 Under Armour, based in Baltimore, introduces a sock called the Zagger, very similar to the Elite but priced at $9 a pair.

July 2012 Nike releases the Nike Elite 2.0, featuring a streamlined design and specialized fabric designed to keep feet dry.

2012–2013 Independent online operations begin customizing Elites, dyeing them for variety and to match local team colors, and selling the remade socks for up to $40.

2013 Sales of athletic socks reach $2.8 billion, a 14 percent increase from 2012. Nike’s percentage of sock industry revenue increases to nearly 37 percent.

2013 “Customized socks just make the shoe pop,” Jake Lefferts, a 13-year-old basketball player from New Jersey, tells the New York Times. “All the good basketball teams have the cool socks. It’s like we know who’s good, but the socks reinforce that they are.”

2014 Nike’s share of the athletic sock market rises to 43 percent.

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