How would you classify your socks? Are they natural or synthetic?
Our socks are a HYBRID sock. They are not limited to all natural, or all synthetic fibers. Dahlgren also does not blend the natural yarns with the synthetic as that can create "fiber confusion"—they are literaly working at cross purposes—the natural wanting to absorb yet surrounded by the synthetic which can't absorb—nothing is accomplished. Our patented Dri-Stride® Technology uses natural and synthetic yarns in separate, specific zones of the foot to do what those yarns are best at. Natural fibers are kings at absorbing and synthetic fibers are the best at transferring moister to a drier environment. We use each in specific zones to the best of their own ability, making our sock a true hybrid.
Why do you use natural and synthetic fibers in zones?
Our patented Dri-Stride® Technology is designed to be the most effective means of keeping your feet drier and more comfortable than any other sock on the market. To accomplish this, we use natural fibers in the zones where your foot produces the most moisture, the toe and heel. We use synthetic fibers to transfer the moisture from those absorption zones to where it can more easily be evaporated outside of your shoe. We use wicking rings and channels (alternating patterns of natural and synthetic) to speed the transfer away from the foot.
Why do you call your socks Alpaca Plus™ when you also use synthetic fibers?
Alpaca Plus™ means that we use Alpaca, plus our patented Dri-Stride® Technology to provide not only the comfort but also the moisture removal benefits that no other sock maker can give. At one time we made our socks using only Merino Wool in the Absorption Zones but found that by blending Alpaca with Merino Wool we could offer not only a softer feeling, less itchy fiber, but one that was stronger, more durable and more absorbent than Merino Wool used alone. Our goal is to offer our customer a superior sock using superior fibers. We aren’t married to alpaca/merino however—we are always searching for the best yarns available. Should we discover another natural fiber that can offer a great benefit to our customer, we will incorporate it into our line as well. We’re about performance, not a specific fiber.
Why don't you make your socks just using synthetic fibers?
Synthetic fibers are awesome when it comes to transferring moisture. Since moisture moves toward dryness—that’s capillary action—synthetic fibers work well in next-to-skin fabrics that are exposed to more air (such as a shirt) as the fiber has moisture on one side and dryness on the other. Under those conditions, it can wick the moisture to the outside of the fabric, then immediately evaporate it to the surrounding relatively drier environment. However, the inside of a shoe is hot and humid. The synthetic fibers do not have exposure to that drier environment which serves as a wick for that moisture. Instead, there’s a layer of moisture on both sides—on one side is damp skin, on the other is the humid air within the shoe. When you have a balance of humidity on both sides of the fiber, there is no movement. You effectively have a dead end for that moisture. That's why the first step has to be absorption, which can only start with a natural fiber.
Why don't you make your socks just using natural fibers?
We absolutely believe in the benefits of natural fibers. They absorb moisture, keep you warm, and they’ve been a proven fiber in clothing for a very, very long time. Even when used in a shoe they absorb moisture well. But for anyone who has had experience with cotton socks, you know that in very short time your socks become... well, very wet. Wool has been continually used in socks because while not as soft as cotton, it’s more durable, warmer and takes a bit longer to saturate. In fact, until recently, wool socks were also very itchy due to the scaly nature of wool. Overtime, techniques where developed to "de-scale" wool (Superwash) to make the fibers softer, but that in turn also made the fibers less durable and more prone to failure. This of course is not a problem when wool is used in a sweater, but inside of an abusive shoe, it is certain to create problems with durability. To counteract this problem, some sock manufacturers will blend a synthetic fiber to strengthen the wool, but that synthetic fiber that is hydrophobic and working at cross purposes with the absorptive-by-nature natural fibers. This creates what we call "fiber confusion" and results in a yarn that does not belong in a sock.
At Dahlgren, we combine natural yarns in a way that makes them stronger, eliminating the need to blend in synthetic fiber for strength and durability. We insist on using Alpaca fiber, a superior fiber known throughout the world for its thermal and absorption properties as well as its luxurious softness and durability, to boost the durability, softness, absorption and ease of care of Merino wool, creating a luxurious, soft, performance fiber.
If Alpaca is so great, why even bother blending it with Merino wool?
Alpaca is a fantastic fiber to use in a sock using our patented Dri-Stride® Technology. We have experimented using it with different blends of Merino wool and other natural fibers. An all Alpaca sock can be too warm, causing excessive persperation without means to effectively remove it, and the low friction coefficient can make an all Alpaca sock feel slippery. We have found that a 70/30 blend of Merino wool to Alpaca fiber results in the optimal yarn for use in most of our socks. We believe we have found the right balance for ideal thermal regulation and maximum comfort.
Since you use synthetic fiber in your sock, isn't that like wearing a "plastic bag" on your foot?
No. When synthetic yarns are used in the toe and heel, where the majority of heat and moisture are produced and also where you have the greatest concentration of nerve endings, synthetics definitely do magnify heat, increase sweat production, and aren’t able to properly handle the moisture produced. That’s exactly why we do not use synthetics in those areas. Our goal is to keep you comfortable across a range of temperatures, absorb the moisture your foot produces, and provide comfy softness while doing it. Natural fiber does that best and that’s why we use it in those areas and also why it’s completely inaccurate to compare our socks to plastic bags on your feet.
Some sock makers claim to use higher needle counts per square inch to improve durability. Does Dahlgren?
Yes we do. We use the most advanced knitting machines available from around the world. What Dahlgren offers in addition to our socks being knit on world class machines is our patented Dri-Stride® Technology that creates a greater experience for each of our customers by providing a sock that is constructed in a way that allows fibers in each zone to work for you, not against you. And with the added benefit of Alpacas excellent fiber strength in each of our socks, durability is greatly improved over our competition.
Can the Dahlgren Dri-Stride® Technology be used with other fibers?
Yes! The beauty of our Dri-Stride® Technology is that it takes any natural fiber and makes it a “Plus”. We insist on using our current Alpaca and Merino wool blend as our natural fiber of choice because we feel it is the most superior natural yarn and our customers deserve only the very best!
What are the major fibers that you use in your socks?
We us a blend of 70/30 Merino wool and Alpaca in the toe, heel, Wicking Rings™, and Wicking Channels™ of our socks. We use ThermaDri™, which is our proprietary polyester made for softness, durability, and performance, in what we call the "body" of the sock.
Do you use spandex or elastane?
No. The elasticity in our socks comes from lycra. People who experience allergic reactions to latex should be able to wear our socks without irritation.
Do you use nylon?
Yes. All of our socks use nylon—it is the infrastructure of the socks that literally holds the socks together. The socks are made with a technique called "sandwich plaiting": the ThermaDri™ and Merino/Alpaca are essentially the bread, the fibers you see and feel on the inside and outside of the sock, while the nylon is the lunchmeat. We also use nylon on the outside of the toe and the outside of the heel as reinforcement to enhance the durability of the sock, helping to protect against the abrasion and wear caused by shoes. So even though our sock uses nylon throughout, what you're feeling against your skin is the Merino wool / Alpaca blend in the absorption zones and the Therma-Dri™ in the transfer and evaporation zones.