All in the family: Elon alum Nathan James talks about carrying on North Carolina’s textile tradition

Nathan James ’14 is president of Boardroom Socks, a North Carolina-based premium men’s dress socks manufacturer his family started in 2010.

Even before he became a businessman, Nathan James ’14 had an entrepreneurial spirit. At 8 years old, he was growing tomatoes in his backyard and selling them door-to-door to his neighbors. While at Elon, he launched a business buying and selling textbooks. Now, he is the president of the family business, Boardroom Socks, which manufactures premium men’s dress socks.

Located in Charlotte, the small business was co-founded by James’ parents. While the family has been involved in the textile industry since 1837, when their first fabric mill opened in North Carolina, the idea for Boardroom Socks came about by happenstance. After the closure of a knitting mill that produced some of James’ father’s favorite socks, Mike James decided to start manufacturing socks for family and friends. The venture eventually became a business in 2010. What started out as a pastime eventually became a business in 2010 when the Jameses officially launched Boardroom Socks. Their products are now sold on the company website and at independent retailers.

Some of the most rewarding parts about what we do are working with local people and knowing that we’re helping to carry on North Carolina’s textile tradition.

“Growing up watching my dad working in textiles — and the more I learned about how far back that tradition went in our family — it felt like something I should do,” Nathan James says. “Once the business continued to grow, it seemed like a great manifestation of all those things in one. I could work for myself and carry on some of these traditions, so it was a natural fit.”

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After graduating from Elon with degrees in marketing and finance in 2014, James helped his parents on the side while working full time at UPS. After four years, he decided it was time to commit entirely to the family business, taking the helm in May 2018. As president of a small business, James has many roles, which range from coming up with a marketing strategy to forming partnerships or ordering more labels. “You kind of wake up in the morning and never really know what the day is going to throw at you,” he says. “It’s what keeps it fun and interesting.”

James says one of Boardroom Socks’ main goals is to stay local, since outsourcing has heavily impacted textile manufacturers in the state. “Every pair of our socks is made in North Carolina and that’s really what we’re all about — supporting the local economy and local jobs here,” he adds. “So much textile and hosiery manufacturing has moved to Southeast Asia, and we’re just passionate about doing what we can to carry on local traditions.” As president, he wants to continue growing the business while staying true to this core goal. “I think some of the most rewarding parts about what we do are working with local people and knowing that we’re helping to carry on North Carolina’s textile tradition.”