Pair of Thieves co-founders are changing the fashion game for men
By Kamala Kirk
Pair of Thieves has come a long way since its humble beginnings a decade ago.
The sock brand evolved into a multimillion-dollar line of affordable basics for men that is sold in thousands of stores across the country, including Nordstrom and Target.
Headquartered in Culver City, the company was founded by three friends – David Ehrenberg, Alan Stuart and Cash Warren – who discovered a gap in the apparel industry and decided to do something about it.
“Pair of Thieves was founded in 2012, after years of feeling underwhelmed by the offerings in men’s basics,” Warren said. “I couldn’t figure out why you had to sacrifice comfort if you wanted to be fashionable or why you had to spend $40 to buy a pair of breathable underwear. We saw white space in the market and we went for it. Our brand resides at the intersection of quality, style, performance and affordability.”
Stuart and Warren met in middle school, then Ehrenberg entered the equation in college. The trio started Pair of Thieves when they were all living in different places. In 2016, they opened their office on the Westside.
“When we started, I was in Chile, Cash was in Los Angeles and Alan was in Portland,” Ehrenberg said. “When I moved back to LA, we wanted a location central to Cash and me, but also convenient for the team. Culver City has a rich artistic history and throughout the years has become a hot spot of food and culture for the team to enjoy.”
As longtime friends, Ehrenberg, Stuart and Warren share a special camaraderie that contributes to their successful dynamic in the workplace.
“Cash and I met in eighth grade and I was lucky enough to latch on tight,” Stuart said. “Cash had, and still has, an incredible ability to make even the most mundane task magical. David and I met in college and he’s definitely the jam in this sandwich…his natural talents include operations, finance, and ruining all group pictures with a special ‘face’ he makes. We love him for all of it. And work? Oh right, well it sure doesn’t feel like that.”
Since its founding with just a few SKUs, the brand has gained a devoted following as a result of its high-quality products and materials.
“Pair of Thieves has emerged as a favorite in men’s basics departments because of our great design, performance and value,” Warren said.
“The fabrics are amazing, providing the most comfortable basics you can find in the market. I dare you to try one pair…you will seriously want to replace your whole drawer.
“Today, underwear is the largest revenue driver. With men, there’s a loyalty with underwear that’s different from socks.
“Guys will often buy socks from any brand, but when they fall in love with a pair of underwear, it’s a marriage in holy matrimony. Our SuperFit boxer briefs are our best-selling product, but loungewear, which launched late last year, is flying off the shelves.”
Stuart added, “I love that we can have fun with it. With commodities, they are inherently boring. That means it’s on us to make buying socks and underwear an experience.”
Last year, the company launched inclusive sizing for its best-selling products, giving customers even more access to the brand.
“This has been a long time in the making and I can’t begin to tell you how exciting it is to see the products come to market,” Warren said.
Despite their success, the co-founders pride themselves on continuing to operate a midsize and nimble company, something that sets them apart from other businesses.
“We play in mass market, but we run a very lean operation,” Stuart said. “A big part of this is not taking on investors. Another element is our very talented 60-person team. This equals less red tape, more communication and quicker reaction time. Don’t share our secrets with the other guys.”
As for their decision not to raise money and take on investors?
“Cash and I raised money to fund our prior businesses, raising money is time-consuming,” Ehrenberg said. “It can be distracting and all-consuming. It can pull you away from building a great idea into a successful business. We have seen so many entrepreneurs fail because they are more focused on raising money rather than successfully running their business.
“We also didn’t want the pressure of having to report to investors. We were confident in our concept, the broader opportunity and our ability to build a successful brand and business on our own terms.
“Ultimately, we started the business with a small self-funded investment of a couple of thousand dollars each. That, a little ingenuity, plenty of hard work and some luck has gotten us to where we are today.”
When asked about the inspiration for the brand name, Stuart said it holds many meanings for them.
“We all give different answers to this question, but they’re all good,” Stuart said. “We consider ourselves the Robin Hood of basics…taking technologies and quality from the high-end and giving it to everybody. That’s what we’re here to do, and if we have to sneak up on the old, crusty incumbents, then so be it.”
In 2016, Pair of Thieves created National Sock Day, which falls on Dec. 4.
Giving back is also an important part of the company ethos, and every year it shuts down for the day so the team can volunteer.
“We created National Sock Day as a way to celebrate socks and all that they bring to the world,” Warren said. “However, the holiday has since evolved into a celebration of giving back. Pair of Thieves is proud to donate millions of pairs of socks every year, but we are just scratching the surface. We can, and will, do so much more.”
Last month, they partnered with Baby2Baby, a national organization that provides essential items to families in need, to pack duffels containing essential items for people in need during the holiday season.
“In our first year working with Baby2Baby, Pair of Thieves was able to donate more than 380,000 pairs of socks to the children that B2B serves,” Warren said.
“In addition, we assembled over 1,000 warm weather kits for families in need, which included a pair of gloves, a blanket, hygiene items and socks from Pair of Thieves. We also wrapped holiday gifts for the beautiful children at the Dream Center.”
Pair of Thieves and its co-founders are passionate about a lot of different causes, and continue to dedicate their time and partner with various nonprofits throughout the years.
“With our Blackout Whiteout Sock Collection, we have been able to donate 3 million socks to those in need,” Stuart said.
“Socks are the most requested and least donated item at shelters. When we learned that, we knew we had to do something about it. We’ve worked with The Trevor Project for a few years now, giving valuable resources to the LGBTQ youth community. With our Good Fits ‘Never Alone’ socks, we give to Bring Change to Mind, a great organization focused on mental health. This project holds a special place in my heart as it all started when a friend’s 17-year-old son took his own life. Since then, we’ve been able to spark thousands of conversations around mental health and raise even more dollars.”
Looking ahead at the next decade and beyond, Ehrenberg, Stuart and Warren have many programs launching this year. They’re excited to expand and innovate while staying true to their company’s mission.
“Building a brand is the most rewarding professional experience I’ve ever had,” Warren said. “I’ve always loved the process of turning ideas into tangible products, and with Pair of Thieves, I get to do that every single day.”
Ehrenberg added, “Our goal is to build Pair of Thieves into the next legacy brand in basics. So while you won’t see us launching designer jeans any time soon, rest assured we will continue to innovate and develop products that meet the needs of our fellow comfort-seeking humans. Making Pair of Thieves a reality does not happen without the involvement and support of so many great people. Our team, suppliers, retailers and customers are all comprised of individuals that play a different yet equally important role. We love every single one of them.”
Pair of Thieves