A little more life. That’s all Stance Socks was wanting when it launched in 2010. The NBA has brought that life to its official uniform, partnering with the California-based sock company for a variety of life-filled, color-heavy, design-centric socks teams will now wear throughout the season.
The NBA has had official team socks a mandatory part of the uniform in the past, but those white and black options haven’t changed much—if at all—in the past 15 years. Now, though, along with the traditional white and black still offered by Stance, each team has wildly different options—with plenty more coming.
“When we approached the NBA, we said ‘You guys are missing out on a huge opportunity,’” Clarke Miyasaki, Stance vice president of business development and the man behind the NBA deal, tells SI.com. “And it looks great. They kit up with uniforms really well and kit up with sneakers really well.
“An opportunity was neglected.” Neglect no more.
Every team has access to five different solid colors with stripes and a logo, enough to match up colors exactly with 20 of the 30 teams (the NBA will allow more colors for next season). And even that serves as a vast change from previous years. But now every team has its own “core design.”
The core look is where the design shines. And that’s just the start.
Every team went a bit of a different direction with the core look. “If you look at the T-Wolves, the design on the back is like a pair of wide receiver gloves (where the entire image comes together when placed together), the Lakers design kits up with the trim on the shorts and others might just be black with a silver stripe, like the Spurs,” Miyasaki says. “The core design is more freeform.”
Stance worked with the teams to ensure they stayed in line with branding. Beyond the initial core design, expect to see plenty of “special-event socks” coming, including socks on opening day for one team that may fall in line with the basketball style Stance was previously known for with its Larry Bird and Dr. J images.
“The Christmas designs, the Hoops for Troops, Black History Month, the NBA will allow us to do as many designs with kits and uniforms as we can crank out,” Miyasaki says. “They trust our eye for design. I think they are going to be pretty open as we do as many alternates and special events as we want to do.”
The design starts with merging the socks with the team uniform, but Stance was also aware of having the socks work with shoes. “We are all sneakerheads around here and are cognizant of how these will look with the shoes,” Miyasaki says. “When we got the samples back and started kiting them up with shoes, we said, ‘Man, those look good.’”
In the preseason, all teams have gone with the solid white or black socks. And while the designs won’t come out to play until the regular season, fans can already see a bit of the new technology. Stance uses graduated compression—far different from the previous NBA sock—to help blood flow and foot fatigue. Moisture management includes fabric to wick moisture from the foot onto the sock and mesh for added breathability. And Stance, instead of heavy cushioning everywhere, has targeted cushioning, including with ankle padding, which can often be seen rising above the sneaker.
The NBA has allowed Stance to bring life to the sock.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.