Johnston County

Clayton family’s invention aims to keep socks in pairs

The Bunn family, from left, Theresa, EllaBlue, Kanaan and Kevin, pose with the “Sockdocks,” an invention Kevin Bunn created to try to cure mismatched socks.
The Bunn family, from left, Theresa, EllaBlue, Kanaan and Kevin, pose with the “Sockdocks,” an invention Kevin Bunn created to try to cure mismatched socks. jdjackson@newsobserver.com

Socks seem to come and go as they please, abandoning monogamy – and feet – by stowing away stealthily under couches and beds or seeming to evaporate altogether.

Tired of starting each day with one sock on and one sock who knows where, Clayton’s Kevin Bunn thinks he’s found a better way. Too many days, he said, got off on the wrong foot simply because he couldn’t find a matching pair of socks.

“Every morning, I could never find two socks that would match,” Bunn said. “Whenever I did laundry, I didn’t match the socks; I just put them in the drawer. I was getting frustrated in the morning, and I was running late, and it would put me in a bad mood. Eventually, I figured out what it was – the socks.”

Bunn said the plague of mismatched socks was bad enough when it was just him, but now he and his wife have two young children.

“My 3-year-old daughter, she doesn’t have two pairs of socks that are the same,” Bunn said. “Matching up her socks just about drove me crazy.”

For the past five years Bunn has been working on his invention, and this month, at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, he’s bringing it to market. There he will unveil the “Sockdock,” an elastic string and plastic caddy meant for holding on to socks, with a hanger shaped like a foot. At the show he’s hoping to catch the eye of retailers like Walmart and Bed Bath and Beyond.

“Basically it eliminates the need for a sock drawer,” Bunn said. “You keep it by your hamper and clip in the pairs of socks and throw it in the wash. We say ‘from dirty feet to clean and neat.’ 

Born and bred in Clayton, Bunn earned a degree in mechanical engineering from N.C. State University, but has spent his career in real estate and business, having run and sold gyms in Clayton and Apex. The light bulb from Bunn’s sock dilemma is his first major foray into using his degree, and he said the experience has been a whole new kind of education.

“It was basically trial and error,” Bunn said. “There’s not really a book that says these are the steps to get a product made. There’s no map on how to do it, and I had to learn to do a lot of the things myself, like learning drawing programs. Everything’s been a bump on on the head, but I guess that’s how you learn best.”

With his home as his workshop, Bunn said, he went through a number of prototypes, which before the dawn of 3D printing could have cost as much as $10,000 to be cast in molds, he said. He still keeps the first one upstairs, a flat, white plastic thing that mostly looks like it could be the packaging for something else.

“After that first prototype, I really didn’t know about this; I had some doubts that this would be something people would buy,” Theresa Bunn said. “I was supportive, but now it’s a lot simpler and has a better design; my belief has been strengthened.”

Kevin Bunn said the first models had a lot more plastic and were hard on the ears and the washing machines. He said he’s been through 15 prototypes altogether.

“They were all plastic and had too many moving parts,” Bunn said. “I about destroyed a couple washers on prototypes.”

But he still believed he had something, that he wasn’t the only one driven mad by a sock here and a sock there and nothing matching up. For the past year, he said, he’s focused on nothing but his invention.

“No matter how much research you do, I don’t know if we’ll figure out where the socks go,” Bunn said. “Maybe the infamous sock monster steals them, or aliens take them. They just seem to disappear. It seems like a timeless problem everyone seems to have.”

Bunn started selling Sockdocks locally before Christmas, and so far, he’s sold 500. They’re at the Country Connection in Garner and Unique Gifts by Jacquelynn in Clayton. For more information, visit www.sockdock.com.

Drew Jackson; 919-603-4943; @jdrewjackson

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