College freshmen turn socks into eye-popping works of art in Minneapolis

The young founders of Alta Apparel are diving into the business world feet first. And in the process, they’re turning eye-popping socks into works of art in a basement of a house in south Minneapolis.

"It’s going really well. We had a lot of holiday sales. Really busy. But it’s been strong all summer,” Brien Johnson said.

College freshmen Johnson and his buddies came up with the idea to make custom socks when they were juniors at Washburn high school. So they saved money from their summer jobs to buy a printer and a heat press.

"There’s special ink that binds to the sock with high heat and pressure. Put it in the heater for a couple of minutes -- have to do both sides separately, press it with special transfer paper, and it comes out,” Johnson said.

Since they started last May, they've sold hundreds of pairs of socks with everything from their former high school mascot to city skylines to family photos.  But the most popular are the ones with people's pets on them, as well as some faces.

"We try to put a lot of colors in them so people do notice them. Really bright. If they weren't, people would think they are regular socks but if we put a lot of color in them they are like ‘wow I want those,’” Tyler Larson said.

They launched their website for "Alta Apparel" back in October, featuring a commercial they shot with a friend last summer.

"We only have a couple of pairs for ourselves because we don't have a lot of time. When we are back here we're filling orders but when we do wear them, it draws attention. They ask, 'what are those?'" Leo Hanneman said.

One day, they hope it will be big enough to stand on its own two feet.

"If nothing comes of it, at least it was a good experience. But we want to see how far it can go. If it’s big that would be great -- something we'd enjoy doing,” Larson said.

They sell for $10 to $20 dollars, plus there is a $2 fee if you want a custom design. But they will definitely get noticed. To check them out, visit