In 1895, Franz Falke-Rohen founded the sock company Falke in Schmallenberg, Germany. Today, the fourth generation, Paul Falke and his cousin Franz-Peter Falke, are at the helm. They have put the family business on the world map with their ergonomic socks and N°1 Finest Vicuña Gentleman, socks made from the most expensive, legal wool in the world.
Text by Anja Van Der Borght
At the end of the 19th century, Franz Falke-Rohen, a roofer, was looking for a side income to withstand the cold, snowy winters in the ski area of Schmallenberg – a 1.5-hour drive east of Cologne. He wanted to create a product that everyone needed and thus turned to socks. “Today, Falke is the only company in the world that manufactures truly ergonomic sports socks,” CEO Paul Falke tells us. At a knitting machine, we see how individual left and right socks come out of the machine and how they look different. “A truly ergonomic sports sock is asymmetrical at the toe and has an arch that is somewhat angled, while ‘false’ ergonomic socks are symmetrically round at the toe,” Paul explains. At Falke, they hold quality in high esteem. We see this as we pass one quality control after another in workshops with centuries-old oak parquet flooring. No wonder Falke has produced knitwear (sweaters, dresses, etc.) for major fashion houses like Armani, Christian Dior, Kenzo, Yves Saint Laurent, over the past decades…
The Bentley of… We walk through the long workshops, and even though it’s vacation time, there’s a certain bustle and a cozy atmosphere. While the ergonomic sports socks drip out of the machine one by one, in this room the machines knit long strands of regular socks. Using a cross-thread, the seamstresses can later manually separate the socks and stitch them closed. Our eyes fall on a machine named ‘Bentley’. “These are quality machines that have nothing to do with the namesake premium car brand,” laughs Paul, “but we are car enthusiasts. Falke was a sponsor of the Porsche Super Cup in 1994 and of Formula 1 between 1997 and 1999. With Jacques Villeneuve, who then drove for the Williams Formula 1 team, we even won the world championship title in 1997.”
We are impressed by the extensive range of (ergonomic) clothing that Falke makes, from knitted dresses and skirts to t-shirts, trousers, and thermoregulating sportswear. We are equally surprised that all nylon pantyhose are spun in white yarn and only colored afterward. A little further on, we see them on metal supports shaped like women’s legs going into a steam cabinet to take shape. A bit further, we are intrigued by the word ‘vicuña’ on a worksheet at a machine. “In its Luxury Line, Falke also sells socks made from exclusive and super soft ‘vicuña’, wool from the eponymous smallest camel-like animal that lives in the Andes,” Falke explains. The thinner the wool fiber, the softer the wool. Vicuñas are the finest with 8 microns. “These socks only go into production after the customer has deposited the entire sum of 960 euros (for knee socks, 660 euros for a pair of regular socks) and are delivered in a walnut wood box with washing instructions on a metal plate. These socks are so precious that we don’t want to make holes in them by sewing on a washing label,” says Falke. In short, for socks made of the most precious wool with the most expensive washing label in the world, you can turn to Falke.