Pride Socks teams up with Ruby’s Rainbow to empower adults with Down syndrome.
By Elle Bent
For Rachel Smith, Pride Socks first came about as a challenge. Smith was doing sales for her brother’s company, SkaterSocks, when he finally told her that she should do her own thing. “I was like, ‘You know what? I will,’” says Smith.
Having taught special education for a total of 12 years, Smith knew if she was going to start a brand, it had to be one that made a difference, just as she had while teaching.
“I thought back on what has had the biggest impacts on my life, and the number one is my parents being deaf and us being incredibly poor growing up,” Smith explains. “Sharing toothbrushes, clothes, food, beds—you name it, we shared it. That also came with socks. We all shared socks, and most of them did not match. Most had holes, and if you found a pair that matched you’d hide them. That’s really where the obsession came in.”
Pride Socks sells expressive socks that encourage individual freedom and expression. The designs on the socks are unique and capture a sense of pride. From designs that feature rainbows and artwork from artists, to the Custom for a Cause collection, they have something uplifting for everyone.
Rachel Smith’s Embraces Pride
The name of the company came from pivotal moments in Smith’s life. In high school, she started running cross-country. After only a few weeks of training, and not knowing racing strategy, Smith recounts the story of one of her first races. She didn’t understand what was going on and felt frustrated by the end. She told her coach she was going to quit. But after receiving a card from her coach the next weekend with the words “I’m proud of you” written on it, it changed her viewpoint.
“It was the first time in my life that I heard those words,” says Smith. “It had the greatest impact on me.”
While working as a teacher, Smith took that lesson and did her best to instill a sense of pride in her students. Looking back on these moments in her life, Smith notes that’s where the mission of Pride Socks began.
“Pride Socks has a double meaning in that everyone has something to be proud of,” Smith explains. “Our hope in the mission behind the socks is that people believe in who they are so they can chase and accomplish their dreams.”
Custom for a Cause is a collaboration between an individual and Pride Socks. Together, Pride Socks and that person design a sock featuring those things that are important to them. The proceeds from the specially designed sock go to a nonprofit of the customer’s choice. One of the nonprofits Pride Socks teams up with is Ruby’s Rainbow, based here in Austin.
Ruby’s Rainbow is inspired by Ruby Plachta, a young girl born with Down syndrome. Plachta’s parents knew they wanted her to have the best opportunities for her future, including a college education. When she was only 6 months old, they conceived of the idea for Ruby’s Rainbow.
The Plachtas began the nonprofit with the goal of granting scholarships to students with Down syndrome who were seeking post-secondary education, helping them attain their goals of higher education and independence. Ruby’s Rainbow spreads awareness of the capabilities of those with Down syndrome while supporting that full potential.
“When you meet someone in life, it’s just that instant connection, and that’s how it was for Ruby,” says Smith. “It was like our souls were meant to meet. After we met, we talked about Custom for a Cause and collaborating with Ruby because it just made sense. Pride Socks is about empowering individuals to take pride in who they are so they excel in life. Ruby’s Rainbow is all about empowering adults with Down syndrome to go to college so that they, too, grow and excel in life, especially when the world is set up to not foster that growth.”
The socks that Ruby helped design feature rainbows, goldfish and unicorns—three things that are most important to her. The socks are a beautiful shade of blue, with the words “Dream BIG” written across the soles. For each pair sold, Pride Socks donates $5 to Ruby’s Rainbow. So far, Pride Socks has raised over $23,665 from Ruby’s socks, all of which has been donated directly to Ruby’s Rainbow.
Going beyond socks and apparel that celebrate diversity, Pride Socks collects stories of people’s proudest moments. Sharing those struggles and the journey to get to where you are can be a catalyst for someone else’s inspiration. “It’s not just one moment in particular but how you had to get there,” explains Smith.
Ruby shares her proudest moment: playing her trombone.
“We want to take down that negative connotation and celebrate having pride in yourself,” says Smith. “You should be proud of yourself, and when you celebrate it with others, whether it’s with family, friends or the Pride Socks community, your proud moment could help others.”