Fort Payne is a city in DeKalb County, Alabama, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 12,938. The city is the county seat of DeKalb County. It bills itself as the "Official Sock Capital of the World."
In the late 1880s, Fort Payne experienced explosive growth as investors and workers from New England and the North flooded into the region to exploit coal and iron deposits discovered a few years earlier. This period is called the "Boom Days", or simply as the "Boom".
The iron and coal deposits turned out to be much smaller than expected. Many of the Boom promoters left the region, and Fort Payne experienced a period of economic decline.
That downturn shifted in 1907, when the W.B. Davis Hosiery Mill began operations. This was the beginning of decades of hosiery manufacture in Fort Payne. By the beginning of the 21st century, the hosiery industry in Fort Payne employed over 7,000 people in more than 100 mills. It produced more than half of the socks made in the United States.
Beginning in the 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement lowered tariffs on textile products imported into the United States, resulting in large increases in sock imports. By 2005, hosiery mill employment in Fort Payne had declined to around 5,500, and several mills had closed. Recently, the building was renovated and converted to a showplace for artisans and antiques. A "Destination" where artist, craftmen and antiquers gather, it houses an eclectic selection of creative and beautiful designs.