Smooth Moves, Real Silk!
Ladies (and gentlemen, too)… imagine an item of clothing so important… so luxurious… that a personal, to-your-door representative would arrive at your home to consult with you on the latest trends, colors, weights and textures for your fitting. What was this all-important, image making-or-breaking accoutrement?
A business suit? A tux, perhaps? A ball gown?
It was socks, basically.
Or that’s what the owners of the Real Silk Hosiery Mills would have you believe, anyway.
Indeed, according to Real Silk advertisements, choosing one’s hosiery should never be left to some artless hack.
Never buy a shade because it looks well on someone else. Check it on your own skin. Check each shade for its becomingness to you. It is better to choose a tone that flatters your ankle than a high-style color — better to harmonize it with skin tones than arbitrarily match a costume’s hue. Every hosiery shade is affected by the skin tone of the wearer… Real Silk’s Shop-at-Home Service brings you an actual summary of the season’s smartest clothing colors (with samples of fabrics and shoe leathers) showing which hosiery shades are correct with each color range.”
According to Indiana Historical Society files, the Real Silk Company was founded in 1922 by brothers J.A. and L.L. Goodman. The company ran knitting mills which manufactured men’s and women’s silk hosiery, lingerie, and underwear. At its peak, the company’s sales volume averaged more than one million pairs of women’s hosiery a year. In fact, at one point, Real Silk Hosiery Mills in Indianapolis was the largest shipper of COD parcel post packages in the country and was considered to be the biggest manufacturing unit in the industry.
The company ran into financial difficulties in the early 1930s as a result of the Great Depression. The stock market collapse depressed Real Silk’s market — and the company suffered an additional loss due to the price of raw silk. Real Silk owed a considerable amount to its lenders. Control was eventually assumed by a bank committee. The company’s financial situation began to improve shortly thereafter and a gentleman named Gustav Efroymson (former president of H.P. Wasson Co.) assumed control in 1932.
Difficulties soon occurred with labor over wage increases which resulted in a strike in April and May, 1934, that included the arrests of sixteen strikers in Indianapolis in what was one of the city’s most famous, and violent, strikes. Street fights, attacks on company workers, and a successful bombing of an employee’s home moved the Mayor, Reginald Sullivan, to invoke police powers. The matter was finally resolved in May leaving neither the workers not Real Silk a clear winner.
Company profits were jeopardized in the early 1940s as the need for silk during World War II dried up supplies. Cleverly, the company became instrumental in the manufacturing of parachutes for bombs as well as hosiery for both male and female military personnel to stem potential ruin. During the war, more than 1,500 employees were dedicated to the manufacture of silk parachutes in the Indianapolis plant. After the war though, the company once again struggled as nylon, an inexpensive material, replaced costly silk in garments.
Gustav Efroymson died in 1946, and control of the company passed to his son, Robert who chose to close manufacturing operations. All the machinery was sold except that which was related to direct-to-consumer selling, and the plant, which was located at 611 N. Park was leased to a printing company. In 1957 Real Silk Inc. became registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as an investment company, although they continued the door to door selling of hosiery, lingerie, and other clothing products on a national scale.
Certainly, the Real Silk Hosiery Mill left its indelible imprint upon Hoosier history. It remains with us today in the form of Real Silk Lofts (The former plant converted into apartments in the late 1980s) and in a wide array of vintage print advertising and promotional items.
Check those old drawers and cupboards! You might just find some… Real Silk Hoosiery!
Tell us in the comment box below:
What are your memories of Real Silk?
Did any of your relatives work there?