Advertising Feature - with Bridgedale
Ever wondered what goes into making a great walking sock? We followed the journey of a Bridgedale sock from its initial design concept to the end of the production line to find out.
When you think of quality walking socks, you think of Bridgedale. But what you probably don’t know is the history and heritage behind this special brand, based at the tip of Strangford Lough on the doorstep of Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains.
The first thing that strikes you when you walk through the door of Bridgedale HQ is that everyone loves their job. From the people blending yarn and operating knitting machines to the quality checkers and sock packers, passion and pride oozes from every corner of the building. Trail recently travelled to Bridgedale’s factory in Newtownards, a small town with a rural feel just a short journey from Belfast, for a sneak peek behind the curtains to find out what makes the Bridgedale machine tick. And we left with a very clear answer: the people.
The Newtownards factory has been knitting socks since WWI, when the first army socks were made. The Bridgedale brand was launched in the early 1980s, and a handful of the staff still lovingly creating the modern incarnations have worked there since long before that. We thought we had a fair idea about what went into making a high-performance walking sock before this trip; but every second we spent walking the factory floor, chatting with staff and watching the process unfold before us was a huge eye-opener.
For a start, we learned your average pair of hiking socks contain over 3 kilometres of yarn (yep, you read that right!). And not just one type of yarn either – some have over 20 different types packed in there. Before a sock even reaches the production line, it’s been through years of research, development, design tweaks and rigorous testing by a team who live and breathe Bridgedale’s three main principles of fit, FusionTech (a unique blend of yarn and knitting technology) and guarantee. Bridgedale socks are now available in 46 countries around the world, with over 500 products in an ever-expanding range covering hiking, mountaineering, trail running and skiing; but this is a brand that’s never forgotten its roots. Bridgedales have been worn everywhere from Everest to Antarctica, but the wild and beautiful landscape of Northern Ireland will always be home.
RESEARCH, DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
In a small room off the factory floor, a team of self-confessed sock geeks are surrounded by coloured cardboard boxes they refer to as ‘bibles’. Each box is dedicated to a specific Bridgedale product, with every previous model stored safely inside. This is where every sock is analysed, tested and tweaked, resulting in an endless cycle of innovation.
Fusion Tech is the unique blend of yarn and knitting technology that sets Bridgedale apart from competitors, and to witness it in action is seriously impressive. Huge spools of individual yarn are hooked up to high-tech machines, then mixed together to create the individual blends of yarn and nylon that go into each sock.
production line is powered by dozens of cutting-edge machines that knit, stretch and seal each sock, bringing to life years of hard work and designs from the Bridgedale team.
BULKING & PRESSING
After being spun in a giant steam drier to heat-set the nylon to shrink the socks to their final size, they’re then stretched onto foot forms and pressed to their final shape.
Quality is at the heart of everything Bridgedale do. Every sock is passed through a series of inspections during the production process, before being hand-checked at the packing stage. Any sock that is found to contain a fault is either recycled or donated, so nothing goes to waste.