Recently I wrote an article about William Abraham socks (williamabraham.com), owned by New York based Bram Frankel. In the article, I mentioned that I’d ordered a pair of cashmere/mink boot socks to help get me through Winter in Europe.
I had the chance to put them through their paces across France, Switzerland, Scotland, Italy and Wales, most of which involved plenty of snow and all of which were in temperatures well below zero.
The socks are a 70%/30% cashmere/mink blend respectively and retail for $160USD, meaning they’re no small investment for most men. The question then, is what differentiates a sock like this from other options? The 2 key differences are softness and warmth.
Both cashmere and mink are softer and warmer than almost any other fleece. Naturally, the likes of Vicuna or Cervelt are able to offer another level of warmth and softness altogether, but the cost difference is enormous. 100% Cervelt socks from Bram retail at $1,275USD, that’s not to say that there may not be value there, but the price makes them attainable only for the very wealthy.
What was noticeable in terms of practical benefits when wearing the cashmere/mink blend is that whilst I couldn’t determine a noticeable difference in warmth (i.e. they weren’t necessarily warmer than other winter-weight socks I’ve worn before), they were significantly warmer than anything else I’ve worn when comparing thicknesses. To get the same level of warmth from, say, a 100% merino wool sock, requires a much thicker gauge be used, meaning the sock itself becomes much thicker, whereas the cashmere/mink blend allows the socks to remain lighter (though still having a nice amount of body) and adding minimal extra bulk. For many, buying boots usually means buying a half size up from their standard shoe size to accommodate significantly thicker socks, but this isn’t necessary with this blend from Bram.
To the other point, on softness, they are slightly softer than anything else I’ve worn. I couldn’t find much of a difference between these and a quality 100% cashmere sock, but as the majority of the sock is cashmere, the difference in how it feels in the hand (or on the foot), compared to 100% cashmere isn’t huge. Here, again, the benefit is subtle and the addition of mink adds a mostly imperceptible amount of softness, but, once again, it increases the warmth and allows the sock to remain lighter than it would otherwise need to be.
For those who would find the cost of a sock like this to be beyond their reach, or for whom durability is a greater priority, then baby Alpaca is a good compromise, retailing for less than half of the cashmere/mink blend and offering better durability (alpaca is harder wearing than many other wools).
The only thing I’d suggest changing is the suppression at the cuff. The socks have had a tendency to slide down my calf after a few minutes of walking, and better compression at the cuff would stop this occurring.
Again, as I mentioned in the earlier article, what I like most about what Bram has created with William Abraham socks is his pursuit of creating something unique, comprised of rarely used blends and a focus on quality, letting the product stand out, rather than relying on over the top marketing or spin. In a market where there are a million manufacturers doing almost exactly the same thing, Bram has managed to create something different and that is enormously difficult to do.
edit: In late 2016 Bram sold William Abraham to Mes Chaussettes Rouges.