Twins Tower Above 9/11 Loss

How socks became a symbol of hope for Tall Order founders Dan and Mike Friedman

| 20 Sep 2021 | 09:33

On September 10, 2001, the Friedman family was engrossed in Monday Night Football. 11-year-old twins Dan and Mike were camped out in front of the TV with their father, Andrew, watching the Giants duke it out against the Denver Broncos. When the boys couldn’t stay up long enough to see the end of the game, Andrew wrote a note that the Giants had lost 31-20 and left it at their bedside. They did not know that this late night game would be the last memory of their dad; a memory that would blend into the horror of the days that followed.

The next morning, Dan was pulled out of his second period English class, the principal telling him that a plane had hit the building his dad was working in. “I just went about my day and assumed my dad would be fine,” he recalls. Later that night, the brothers got home to find a long line of cars on the driveway, with a lot of people around, and found out exactly what had happened.

“Outside I was thinking ok, no big deal,” Mike reminisces. “But inside I thought something wasn’t right.” Dan says he steadfastly held onto hope that their dad was all right, until the following day when their mom, Lisa, told them that their father wasn’t coming home. Mike calls it “one of the most painful conversations we’ve ever had as a family,” adding, “It just was very difficult to process all the emotions of that day being an 11 year-old kid.”

Dan and Mike also had no idea that these traumatic events would become a formative experience, 16 years later serving as the foundation of Tall Order, an online store selling fashionable socks made for the big and tall gang. Mike says they saw donating profits from their business as a way of giving back: “It’s just our way to help those who helped us.”

Dry Socks Save The Day

Just three days after 9/11, the Friedmans did something remarkably selfless. After receiving advice from a grief counselor to focus outwards on the community rather than looking inwards and grieving at home, Lisa and the boys made their way to Manhattan, distributing supplies like water, snacks and food to fire houses and hospitals they visited. Dan describes how “a lot of first responders were asking for clean and dry socks,” and that distributing socks to embattled rescuers is one of the most vivid memories of 9/11 that really stuck with him.

Towering at 6’9 and 6’11 respectively, wearing size 16 shoes, Dan and Mike as they got older came to realize that the big and tall stores they frequented lacked a variety of socks with fun patterns and colors, as well as quality socks that didn’t fall down at the hem — which further spurred their interest in the sock industry. What gave them the final push to start Tall Order was a yearning to give back to the causes close to their hearts. “We always knew in the back of our minds [that] we wanted to do something to pay it forward,” says Dan. “That’s what our dad taught us but we didn’t really know what the vehicle for that would be.”

What the twins want to pay forward is the support they received from organizations like Tuesday’s Children, who came to their aid after 9/11 and made them feel like they weren’t alone in their grief. Tuesday’s Children provides support to individuals impacted by terrorism, military conflict and mass violence, working to build resilience in 3,051 children who lost a parent in 9/11. Ten percent of Tall Order’s proceeds go to Tuesday’s Children.

The store also partners with the Feal Good Foundation. “Run by a man named John Feal, who was a 9/11 first responder, their mission is to help 9/11 rescue workers who continue to suffer from 9/11 related illnesses,” explains Mike. 100 percent of sales of the Feal Good Sock, featuring images of policemen, firemen and hospital workers, go to the Feal Good Foundation.

In Their Father’s Eyes

The brothers say they wish their father could see how far they’ve come. Mike says Andrew Friedman was not only a “role model, coach and mentor” — who always gave his sons bear hugs and the best life advice — he also “meant the world to everyone around him,” always reaching out to the local community and coaching kids in inter-mural sporting teams. Just two weeks prior to 9/11, Andrew secured a job at Car Futures on the 92nd floor of the north tower.

“Our mom said the only thing I’m questioning is you’re going to be working on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center,” says Dan. “And our dad basically shrugged her off. He would always say that the only thing he ever had to worry about was her, because she cornered the market on worrying about everything else.”

Dan and Mike describe Lisa as a supermom. She survived ovarian cancer and went on to conceive them, held the family together post 9/11 and took their father’s place in teaching them how to shave and secure a tie. Dan says their mom is very much part of the business, helping them with every aspect of the website, and also “a lot of business development, working on setting up new partnerships, new charitable programs.”

The trio have worked together to grow and expand Tall Order over the past five years — from branching out into regular size socks to overcoming supply chain challenges and keeping afloat throughout COVID, despite missing pop-up and charitable markets they attended all over the country to tell their story. Dan says they also plan to extend their range to all top drawer items like underwear and t-shirts in the future.

The Friedmans know they really have something good going, continuously rising like the two T’s representing the twin towers on their logo. “But we know the work is not done yet,” says Dan. “We have a lot ahead of us but it’s great to do this as a family together.”