Alumnus’ Sock-of-the-Month Club Keeps Customers Guessing
From left to right: Kelly Largent, Bryan DeLuca, Matt Fry, Tom Browning MPA’05, PhD ’09, Matt McClard.
Photo credit: Danny Fulgencio
For $9 a month, Foot Cardigan mails subscribers fabulously bizarre pairs of socks that range from wacky to clever and feature everything from mustaches to gnomes to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The brain-child of Tom Browning MPA’05, PhD’09 and four friends, Foot Cardigan delivers an added twist to subscribers: the company randomly selects the socks that customers receive.
Foot Cardigan was born out of a trip to Europe when founding partner Bryan DeLuca forgot to pack enough socks. In a bind, he stocked up on local, funky socks. Once state-side, DeLuca couldn’t find the kooky socks he had grown to love. So he, Browning and partners Matt Fry, Kelly Largent and Matt McClard created Foot Cardigan, which they run from their headquarters in Lake Highlands.
Browning started Foot Cardigan after seven years with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he worked on fraud, waste and abuse oversight in federal healthcare programs.
“When I left OIG it was like, ‘What is this guy thinking?’" Browning admitted. “But I had reached a point where I realized that my job would be relatively stagnant for the next 15 years or so.” Browning yearned for a new challenge, and he got it.
In fall 2012, Foot Cardigan’s success enjoyed a bump in popularity based on its politics. “Up to that time, we didn't have our own designs,” Browning explained. “We just found cool socks to sell.”
But the company’s first custom design, “Sock the Vote” featuring President Obama and then Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, garnered local and national press coverage. Today, Foot Cardigan designs and manufactures its own socks, has over 1,000 subscribers, and was featured on the popular website BuzzFeed.com, as part of their “22 Unconventional Gifts to Show Someone You Love Them” list.
Browning credits his experience at UT Dallas with giving him the tools to be successful in government and now at Foot Cardigan where he oversees logistics, operations and legal and financial matters. He said the interdisciplinary style of the economics and public policy curriculum encouraged him to explore local government, higher education and business administration.
Browning appreciates UT Dallas’ emphasis on presentation skills and team-based proficiency.
“It doesn't matter if I don’t know anything about selling socks,” he explained. “I can learn about the retail textile business. But if I don’t have the ability to work on a team or decipher good versus bad analysis, I wouldn’t be good at my job.”