Why Smartwool + Outdoor Afro are a model partnership pair

Written By Candace Dantes

Published on Oct 31, 2022

Network partner Smartwool designs and produces Merino wool socks and accessories to help fuel a life lived outside. But its mission doesn’t stop there. From inclusivity and diversity to sustainability and advocacy, Smartwool uses its brand values to navigate the outdoor industry, curating products and a community to create a more accessible outdoors for everyone. 

Recently, Outdoor Afro collaborated with Smartwool on a second hiking sock for the network’s 2022 Juneteenth commemoration — designed by volunteer leader and artist Leandra Taylor to represent Black joy, healing, and unity in nature. The Outdoor Afro Hike Light Cushion Print Crew Socks became a colorful option for outdoor enthusiasts to fashion and wear while exploring their backyard versions of land, water, and wildlife. “I wanted to be intentional about what this sock represents,” said Taylor. “It’s universal. Different versions of Blackness to identify with because we’re not a monolith – even in our outdoor experiences.” 

BUY THE PRINT CREW SOCKS HERE

Taylor also created Outdoor Afro’s 2020 “Slice of Nature” socks to illustrate the network’s love for the outdoors despite entering COVID times. That Smartwool performance hike sock emphasized joy and community in the outdoors while standing together to protect local areas and wild places – even while quarantining. “The new print crew sock involved more than the patterns I typically create,” Taylor said. “The faces flow and wrap around the foot, showing every angle of our Black beauty.” 

To get more people outside, Smartwool has focused on creating new fit blocks so communities can experience the comfort and natural performance of Merino wool. Fall 2022, it’s proud to release the new unisex collection for everyday wear and women’s plus sizes in fan-favorite classic thermal base layer. Just the start to the brand’s journey, offering more sizes and fit options. Natural fiber Merinio wool dominates Smartwool’s catalogue because of the inherent temperature control, sweat management, and odor resistance.

When additional materials are needed for durability and quicker dry times, Smartwool uses recycled materials whenever possible. And that’s not the only way our partner is putting the planet first. Smartwool launched the Second Cut™ Project on Earth Day 2021 — the outdoor industry’s first sock recycling platform. To date, Smartwool has collected 525,000-plus socks and diverted more than 42,000 pounds of usable materials from landfills to use in future products.

The Second Cut™ Project is a major step toward Smartwool’s goal of 100 percent of its products designed for circularity. With its “go far. feel good.™” motto, the sock expert doesn’t care who you are. As long as you’re getting out that door. And Outdoor Afro knows personally the brand is dedicated to supporting communities every step of the way. For years now, Smartwool has helped Outdoor Afro amplify and celebrate Black voices in nature.

SHOP SMARTWOOL BASE LAYERS

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and @outdoorafro today.

ABOUT SMARTWOOL: Based in Denver, Colorado, Smartwool® is a sock and apparel brand whose products are designed to get the most out of the inherent benefits of Merino wool to bring comfort, confidence, and community to a life lived outside. For information on the full range of Smartwool® products or to find a dealer near you, please visit Smartwool.com. Smartwool, a division of VF Outdoor, LLC, is a brand of VF Corporation.

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Candace Dantes

Candace Dantes

Candace Dantes serves as Outdoor Afro's inaugural marketing and communications manager. The fourth-generation cowgirl and award-winning journalist and marketer is based in the Georgia Black Belt Region. For more than a decade, the rural Georgia storyteller has given agency to Black farming and cowhand culture in traditional and new media. From Smalltown USA, she has collaborated with global brands like London's Black Beauty & Hair Magazine and M&C Saatchi. Back home with U.S. Department of Agriculture research grant Black Farmers' Network, Wrangler, Justin Boots and Visit Fort Worth.