Wisconsin’s other champion


The Green Bay Packers are the reigning champions of the NFL and cruising (8-0) through this season.  The Packers first began playing professional football in 1919.  Green Bay is the last of the “small market” cities that still has an NFL franchise; the 2010 population of the Green Bay metropolitan area was only 306,241.  What Green Bay lacks in numbers, it makes up for in fervor.  Green Bay fans brave sub-zero temperatures in storied Lambeau Field to cheer on their beloved Packers.  The Packers have repaid that devotion with an NFL record 13 league championships including Super Bowl wins in 1967, 1968, 1997 and of course last year.  But the Packers are not the only champions operating in the Badger State.  Wigwam Mills also executes a fabulous game plan and has been doing so since 1905 in the storied manufacturing town of Sheboygan.

The town of Sheboygan and Wigwam Mills have been intertwined for over a century.  What is now Wigwam Mills began in Sheboygan in 1905 as the Hand Knit Hosiery Company.  In 1906, Herbert Chesebro was elected President of the firm.  A Chesebro has been at the helm of the firm ever since.  The most popular sock the Hand Knit Hosiery Company produced in the early years were wool lumbermen’s socks.  But by 1920s, the firm had branched out into the production of athletic socks.  From that time until today, Wigwam has been synonymous with athletics.  In addition to producing socks, Hand Knit also began knitting wool sweaters during this period.  They even began knitting stylish sweaters for dogs!

In 1956, the Hand Knit Hosiery Company changed its name to Wigwam Mills.  The Wigwam logo had been in use since by the firm from the beginning of its existence.  Wigwam has produced most of the innovations in the sock department.  They introduced the color toe seam which helped countless Americans match up their socks.  Wigwam Mills also introduced stretch socks in 1955 which were made of 60% wool and 40% nylon; prior to that socks were sized by numbers just like shoes.

Wigwam Mills has always realized that its greatest resource is its workers.  In 1967, Robert Chesebro Sr. founded the 25 Year Club to honor the Wigwam workers who had worked for Wigwam for over a quarter of a century.  Current membership in the 25-Year Club is 131; 70 members of the 25-Year Club are still working at Wigwam today.  Each new member of the 25 Year Club gets an engraved watch.  The average tenure of Wigwam workers is seventeen years.

Today, Wigwam Mills produces a myriad of socks.  Wigwam socks fall into five categories: Outdoor, Sport, Snowsport, Health and Work.  If you can believe it, Wigwam Mills offers over 140 varieties of socks!  They have socks for running, skiing, football, soccer, biking, snowboarding, and lawn bowling.  Ok, they don’t really have a specific lawn bowling sock, but probably about ten styles of Wigwam socks could be used for lawn bowling.  Wigwam also has socks specifically designed to aid people with diabetes.  Finally, Wigwam makes great work socks.

Wigwam Mill’s motto is “Simply the Best…From Sheboygan Wisconsin.”  It is a motto the Chesebro family has embraced for over one hundred years.  I recently interviewed Wigwam Mill’s President Gerald Vogel to prepare for writing a chapter on Wigwam Mills for my book Simply American.  During the interview, I asked Mr. Vogel if he could ever imagine Wigwam making socks anywhere other than Sheboygan.  He said he couldn’t, though he did admit that Wigwam had outsourced the production of some of their knit hats…. to New Jersey.

The Chesebro family has maintained two core commitments during their hundred and six years of business.  Produce the highest quality socks on the market at a reasonable price.  And produce those socks in Sheboygan Wisconsin in order to provide jobs for four generations of American workers.  I urge you to check out Wigwam’s website, and then purchase their amazing socks.  Like the Packers, Wigwam Mills is a true champion.  Go Wigwam!!!!!

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About tapirking

I live in Seattle and love telling stories about Americans, the places where they work and the things that they make.
This entry was posted in american made, Made in America, socks and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Wisconsin’s other champion

  1. Jeff Frank says:

    John, great timing on your post for people like me who are always looking for gift ideas, particularly those made in the U.S. I remember getting Wigwam socks as a kid and am pleased to hear they are still thriving, just like the Packers!

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