The company was founded by brothers David and Kenny Khym, two Korean natives from a family of five children who immigrated to the United States from Incheon in 1977. In 1981, David used $10,000 in savings and a $5,000 line of credit to establish a retail clothing store in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. He hired Kenny to work at the store, and in 1989 they relocated to Jamaica, Queens after their landlord for the Brownsville location raised their rent.
The Khyms had trouble keeping the baggy urban fashions popular at the Jamaica location in stock, so in 1991 they established a wholesale company called Wicked Fashions to import clothes from Pakistan. David Khym named the new clothing label Southpole in honor of a team of Korean explorers who had recently become the first from that country to reach the South Pole. Southpole succeeded by providing styles similar to those of other popular urban labels such as FUBU, but at a much lower cost. In 1996, Kenny left in order to found his own business, Against All Odds, a chain of mall-based retail stores focusing on hip-hop fashion.
Today, Southpole clothes are imported from manufacturers in Pakistan, China, India, and Vietnam, then sold through national retailers such as J.C. Penney and Sears. Southpole generated more than $350 million in sales in 2005.