A Brief History of HUF’s Iconic Plantlife Socks
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HUF makes many products. The apparel section on its website directs you to hats, fleece, jackets, bottoms, boxers, beanies, accessories, and bags, and none of this is to mention the brand’s footwear offerings. However, there’s nothing more synonymous with the brand than its marijuana-leaf-print Plantlife socks. HUF has released countless iterations of these socks, including special-edition versions for Valentine’s day, Halloween, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Christmas, and, of course, 4/20.
It all started pretty simply, though. The brand’s founder, Keith Hufnagel, tells Complex that the design first cropped up a few years after the brand was launched in 2002. He pegs it somewhere around 2005 or 2006. “We were back in SF,” Hufnagel recalls. “It was Hanni [El Khatib], the designer, and we were just sitting around—and the line was so small at that time—he basically came up with the concept of doing weed leaves on socks.”
Hufnagel says that HUF wasn’t even making socks at the time, but they liked the idea so much they decided to go with it. “The thought of putting the weed leaves on socks was just so funny,” he says. “It was kind of like a conversation piece if you take off your shoes at someone’s house and you have weed leaves on them then someone might be like, ‘Dude, fucking cool ass socks.'”
The socks didn’t sell all that well to begin with, though, Hufnagel says. They got a bit of pick-up when Paper magazine included it in a holiday gift guide when they were first released, but it would still be years before the design really took off.
The brand persevered with the socks simply because the people who worked there liked the design. “It was cool for us,” Hufnagel says. “You know, we’re skaters, we drink beers, smoke weed, and we thought it was cool.” The rebellious symbolism the weed plant carries was also a good fit for HUF’s brand. “We’re a skateboard company that has always been edgy, so marijuana leaves, at that point when we were doing it, were very edgy because weed was not legalized anywhere. So putting it on socks was cool.”
Luckily, HUF kept making the socks because of these reasons and it eventually turned into a huge hit for the brand sometime around 2011 or 2012. “It just so happened that we made this trend,” Hufnagel says. ” My phone was ringing every day with people showing me others knocking it off or bootlegs at Santee Alley or weird markets.”
At this point, the socks are a tried-and-true item, and the item’s popularity is almost universally positive to the brand. Hufnagel says it turns people onto the brand—”the socks are a gateway drug,” he says—while others may only think of HUF as that brand that makes those socks.
Even what some may consider bad press, Hufnagel is happy with. The brand’s founder talks about the socks getting banned from high schools, but he says that’s ultimately a net gain for brand. “That actually goes to our advantage,” he says. “If a high school says you’re not allowed to wear HUF, well, I feel that only makes the kid want to wear the brand more.”
HUF’s Plantlife socks have lasted this long not only because 4/20-friendly people continue to exist, but also because of the message the socks deliver. “It wasn’t designed thinking these stoners are going to wear these socks, it was more an attitude thing,” Hufnagel says. It’s an attitude that high-fashion has been picking up on recently and one that the streetwear community, and HUF in particular, has been leveraging for over a decade now.Celebrating the socks synonomous with the weed plant.
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