Washburn grads launch custom sock business

Credit: Alta Apparel founders Shane Totall, Brien Johnson, Leo Hanneman, Tyler Larson and Cam Tipping (l to r). Submitted image

As soon as finals finished this winter, five college freshmen started cranking out holiday orders for custom socks in a Lynnhurst basement.

Alta Apparel is a business that Washburn High School alumni dreamed up their junior year.

“We wanted to have cool socks while playing basketball,” said Brien Johnson.

The students spent a year saving money from part-time jobs, and they chipped in about $1,000 to buy a printer and heat press. Johnson, Leo Hanneman, Shane Totall, Tyler Larson and Cam Tipping held company meetings with lots of snacks and Xbox breaks to create the logo, sock designs and company name.

They recently launched a new website with a gallery of their designs — including the Downtown skyline and Calvin & Hobbes — and a commercial they filmed in Minneapolis last summer.

They offer two kinds of socks: Elites, which are thicker Dri-Fit Nike socks made for sports; and thinner Vapors made with moisture-wicking polyester. Brightly-colored ink binds to the polyester in the socks.

“It’s photograph quality on socks,” Hanneman said.

They’re now providing apparel and socks for the Washburn basketball team with the school logo. They have also filled custom orders ranging from pet images to friends’ faces.

“Anything you can put on a piece of paper you can put on socks,” Johnson said.