In 1947, Heathmont in Victoria was a small rustic hamlet comprising many bush blocks and orchards. Engineer Albert Law bought one of those orchards and moved to it with his wife. At the same time, Englishman Sidney Humphrey was looking to make his future in Australia. He offered some financial backing which allowed Albert Law to buy two second-hand knitting machines, on which he started making socks in his house before building a small factory at the front of his block on Armstrong Road. The Humphrey Law factory is still on the same site today!
Right from the beginning, Humphrey and Law were determined to make their socks wholly in Australia. At the time, gentlemen’s top-quality socks were imported, mainly from England, with it taking over four weeks to ship them to Australia. So the convenience of buying Australian-made socks was obvious. But those socks had to be of excellent quality to compete with the imported socks, and Humphrey Law worked hard to ensure that their socks were top quality.
Early days at Humphrey Law’s factory in Heathmont, VIC
Even so, in the 1950s and 60s, some believed locally Australian-made products were somehow inferior to imported products – especially those from the Mother Country! But gradually, consumers found that Humphrey Law socks were comfortable and long-wearing. Thick wool socks were particularly appreciated in country areas, and Humphrey Law’s customer base in rural Australia is still solid. Bush folk know a good sock when they find one!
Slowly, the business prospered, and Albert Law’s children joined their father in the business in the 1970s. Mechanical engineer Richard, chemical engineer Robert, and computer analyst Elizabeth provided the skills necessary to keep Humphrey Law advancing.
“Humphrey Law is a true Australian family business,” says Robert Law. “From the beginning, our business aimed to provide quality and value for money, which has not changed. Today’s Humphrey Law socks are carefully made with the finest natural yarns - predominantly wool and cotton - and sold at realistic and competitive prices.”
Humphrey Law’s Australian Made socks
Before leaving the factory, every pair of Humphrey Law socks is manually examined in the grading room to ensure no defects and labelled with the Australian Made logo.
Robert explains, “Yarns and other raw materials come in the back door of our factory, and quality socks – with their green and gold Australian Made stickers - come out the front door! Between those doors, there’s a lot of Australian labour and ingenuity.
“We have had a very long association with the Australian Made organisation. It was helpful in the early days to establish that our socks were genuinely made in Australia. In more recent ‘Covid’ times when the realisation that Australia was importing almost everything hit home, Australian Made’s social media campaigns helped us score a direct hit with consumers and were a big help with sales over a difficult time.”
Since 2013, Humphrey Law has also held the contract to provide combat socks to the Australian Defence Forces (ADF). While the unit cost of a pair of Humphrey Law’s locally made socks was greater than that of imported socks, ADF saw that the quality of the local product was much higher and represented greater value for money.
New knitting machines at Humphrey Law’s factory in Heathmont, VIC
Value and sustainability are at the heart of everything Humphrey Law does. From creating long-lasting quality socks to recycling its cardboard and plastic waste and installing new state-of-the-art dyeing machines that use less water, energy and chemicals, Humphrey Law is constantly evolving to minimise its environmental impact.
As Robert Law points out, “A company does not survive seventy-five years in business by standing still. Sustainability is important to us, and we continually refine designs to increase the life of our socks. Doing so reduces the environmental impact of yarn and dye production, electricity, water, and waste to landfill.
“In fact, every process that leads to the finished sock has been looked at and improved to minimise our impact. For example, we’ve installed new machines, replaced fluorescent lighting tubes with LED tubes, recycled and repaired existing fluorescent fittings and installed a low-energy climate control system in our knitting room that works without refrigerated air-conditioning.
Our electricity use has also decreased since we installed 357 solar panels on the roof of our factory. They provide half of our power, so we now claim, ‘Every second sock is solar powered’.”